The vast majority of commentators and scholars attribute this psalm to a post-exilic writing, but that seems hardly to be a given. Verse 1 is most often used as the basis of that assumption, which in most translations reads “Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the captivity of Jacob.” But the ESV translates it as “…you restored the fortunes of Jacob.” Even if the former translation is taken as correct, the sentence structure makes such a conclusion suspect in the first place.
Secondly, even if it does refer to a restoration from captivity, that does not preclude an earlier occurrence of some sort of captivity. As Barnes points out, it likely refers to bondage in Egypt in addition to other instances – which could include any number of such times written about in the Book of Judges, for example. Also, the next few verses indicate that the psalmist is praying for the Lord to restore their fortunes again, and to no longer be angry with them – indicating that their fortunes are once again not so great in the present:
Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
and put away your indignation toward us!
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?
The plea the psalmist makes for God to revive his people probably means more than to rejuvenate them – probably to strengthen and make them powerful again (rather than the powerlessness that they feel and are experiencing at present). The remainder of the psalm expresses confidence that the Lord will do just that, and suggests that there are many saints – many of those who are of a penitent heart ready to serve. The psalmist prays for those people not to return to their folly:
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak,
for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints;
but let them not turn back to folly.
Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him,
that glory may dwell in our land
The lesson in this psalm for us today is that when we are in desperate times, we need to remember that God cares for us, and that he will deliver the righteous. But our patience for God acting in His time, rather than in our own, must be strengthened along with our faith.
Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
and righteousness looks down from the sky.
Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.