A Corporate Prayer for Corporate Pardon (Psalm 85:1–13)

It’s hard to grow, improve, or mature without first being honest about the need for growth, the room for improvement, and the areas of immaturity.

Being realistic is important for those who want to progress and, as a church family, that is exactly what we desire. We want to become a congregation that is used by God to lead more and more people from darkness into light. We want to be a people so being filled with the Holy Spirit that wounded, battered, discouraged, and questioning Christians can come and find healing care and restorative grace. We want to be an assembly that God increasingly uses to build up soldiers for Christ, strong, wise, and equipped for battle and to deploy those troops into the fray with surging effectiveness. Any church family that longs to grow in these tasks needs to be honest about ways they are failing, falling short, or being disobedient, and where they desperately need God to intervene, forgive, and restore.


It’s hard to grow, improve, or mature without first being honest about the need for growth, the room for improvement, and the areas of immaturity. 

An individual in denial about their unhealthiness will remain unhealthy. A company ignorant of its losses will stay unprofitable. A government convinced of its virtue will be slow to change. A team that feels unbeatable won’t recruit fresh talent. A Christian who feels they’ve arrived at holiness will stop pursuing holiness. And a church that assumes its own effectiveness and significance will cease to be either.

Being honest about reality is important for those who want to grow. And, as a church family, we want to grow, don’t we? We want to become a place that’s more used by God to lead people from darkness into light and from hell to heaven. We want to be a place so filling with the Spirit that wounded, battered, discouraged, and questioning Christians can come and find healing and restoration. We want to be a place that God increasingly uses to build up soldiers for Christ, strong, wise, and equipped for battle and to deploy those troops into the fray with surging effectiveness.

If we want to grow in those ways then we need to be honest about our need for growth. From my point of view, this is easy to forget at Oakridge because of the many sweet things happening. New people coming, building projects, laughter in the foyer, baptisms in the tank, singing in the seats. There’s no doubt, God has a hand of blessing on this assembly. We dare not deny that and we must celebrate it.

But that doesn’t mean we ignore where we’re failing; where we’re falling short; where we’re being disobedient; and where we desperately need God to intervene. If we’re going to grow, improve, and mature, we must be honest about our need for growth, the room for improvement, and the areas of our immaturity and take them to God. And Psalm 85 is going to help us do that today. 

If you have a Bible, please turn there: Psalm 85. This psalm is another psalm of lament—an admission of failure by God’s people to their God. But, unlike some of the others, Psalm 85 is a corporate lament. It isn’t just one believer but many seeking pardon together for sins they’ve committed together and hoping for God’s restoration together. As a community, they want to improve and so, as a community, they need to be honest about their shortcomings. Listen to their prayer.


The family that groans together, grows together. A group that mourns their collective immaturity and weakness can move collectively toward maturity and strength. The people of God united in prayer for forgiveness are united in the reception of restoration. 

And Psalm 85 is certainly a family groaning together. “Jacob … your peopletheir sin. … Restore us, O God of our salvation … toward us … with us … revive us … your people … show us … grant us.” Together, national Israel is seeking pardon for their national sin. And they begin by recognizing that they’ve done this before.

[85:1–2a] In the past, God had been gracious to Israel, referred to here by their promised land and their patriarch, Jacob. They hadn’t deserved it, but God had returned them to prosperity and forgiven all their rebellion. [85:2b–3] 

This act of God covering sin and turning his just wrath away from the sinner is called propitiation. In the ultimate and final sense, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, accomplished this on the cross. [Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2; 4:10] Jesus is our total propitiation but, in Psalm 85, we see his work anticipated as God had turned all his wrath away from all Israel’s sin.

And with this past mercy in mind, the nation comes to God in the present looking for similar pardon, groaning under their collective rebellion. [85:4–5] Israel knows they’ve been perpetually sinful and are now wondering if God will be perpetually angry. 

[85:6–7] God’s sinful people come groaning before their gracious, forgiving, and faithfully loving God. And what are they looking for? In a word, restoration. They remember he’s done it before, [85:1b], and they need him to do it again, [85:4a, 6a]. “Bring us back to fellowship, God. Save us from your righteous anger. Deliver us from the guilt of our failures. Return Israel to yourself. Bring us back to joyful obedience. Turn us away from immaturity and make us the people we’re supposed to be, a people that reflect the character of the God we serve.” Do you hear this family groaning together?

Now, Oakridge is not Israel. We’re not a theocracy as they were and will be again. Israel had knowingly and willingly entered into a covenant with God. [Ex 24:3–8] Israel signed on the dotted line together, agreeing to live by the letter of the Law together. And they failed often together and had to repent often together, asking God to forgive their rebellion together and restore them to blessing together

If I commit a serious crime next week there are a few things I know will not happen: I will not be arrested by Australian police and I will not be given Australian legal aid. Why? Because I’m not Australian—I’m not under their laws and I don’t have access to their benefits.

The church is not Israel. The body of Christ in general, and Oakridge Bible Chapel in particular, has not broken the Mosaic covenant because we were never under the Mosaic covenant. We’re not promised what they’re promised and we’re not liable for that which they are liable. 

But that doesn’t mean we too can’t be a family that groans together. Has the church not been given resources to steward together, assignments to carry out together, and character to embody together?

Yes, we have. And there are areas in which Oakridge is failing, falling short, or being disobedient or negligent to those divine callings? Certainly. There are no perfect churches and if you think you’ve found one don’t join it because you’ll ruin it. Oakridge, for all the good that’s happening in our midst, is far from perfect. And if we want to be a church family that grows in our representation of Christ and our effectiveness for him, we need to be honest about those failures and, like Israel in Psalm 85, call to God together for pardon and restoration.

I want to get (perhaps uncomfortably) specific. And I preface these comments by acknowledging that these are merely my observations, a few areas of concern I have about us as I watch over, live in, and pray for this assembly. Again, many wonderful things are happening here, but I want more and I think you do too. We want to grow, improve, and mature for God’s glory and the sake of Christ. So, perhaps, these are some deficiencies we need to take to the Lord together.

Evangelism. We’ve been told to “make disciples of all nations” and to “be witnesses” to the person and work of Jesus Christ. While there’s a lot going on inside these walls, I’m sometimes worried we’re less concerned with what’s going on outside: people are going to hell without Christ. God is bringing the world to Oakville, are we bringing the word to Oakville? Are we burdened for the lost as we should be? Or, is this something at which we as a church family are failing?

Sin. In 1 Corinthians 5:6, Paul chastises the church for not dealing with sin in their midst: “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?” Sin spreads if ignored. We live in a culture that ignores sin, celebrates sin, and legislates sin. The church must not fade in its vigilance to deal with sin in the family for the sake of the family. I’m concerned sometimes that we may not take our sin seriously enough. That we’re taking our cues from the culture rather than Christ. If we are, we should be groaning to God.

Care for the saints. Here’s what the NT tells his church to do: “be devoted to one another, honour one another, live in harmony with one another, stop judging one another, teach one another, accept one another, serve one another, don’t bite and devour one another, bear with one another, carry one another’s burdens, be kind and compassionate to one another, forgive one another, submit to one another, don’t lie to one another, build one another up, pray for one another, confess your sins to one another, offer hospitality to one another, encourage one another, encourage one another, encourage one another, encourage one another, love one another, love one another, love one another, love one another, love one another, love one another.” I know that many have expressed the friendliness of this church family. Praise God. I also know there are brothers and sisters associated with this church who feel very little of any of that.

Evangelism, sin, and care for each other. These are just three areas of my concern, among others. But, again, I want to emphasize the kindness of God here. But we need to be honest at our shortcomings, our disobedience, our apathy, our lethargy, and our ignorance. God’s been kind to this assembly in the past, forgiven its failures and shortcomings; he’ll do it again if we go to him with humility.


Now, back to Psalm 85 where we’re seeing that the family that groans together, grows together. Israel had sinned and asked God for pardon. In verse 8, the psalm leader says, [85:8]. The nation has repented and “God will answer—he will grant peace and wisdom.”

And then in verse 9 the psalm turns back to the congregation, now full of hope in God’s character and blessings restored: [85:9]. God will deliver them from the consequences of their sin, most significantly his wrath, and he will dwell again in with them in the land he gave them. There’s restored fellowship for the people of God with their God.

[85:10–11] Israel personifies God’s character being showered upon them: love and truth, faithfulness and wholeness. They’re being reassembled by God and to resemble God. [85:12] One of the promised curses in the Mosaic law for national covenant-breaking was economic hardship. But now that they’ve confessed to God together, they know he’ll restore that prosperity. [2 Chron 7:14]

[85:13] God will not only restore Israel’s prosperity but he will lead them in the path he wants them to walk.

Israel groaned together under their corporate rebellion. But now, on the other side of confession, they celebrate the ways in which they’re going to grow by God’s power and for God’s glory. If they act reverently, seeking to be faithful participants of the covenant to which they obligated themselves, God will bring peace and wisdom, deliverance and love, faithfulness and blessing, prosperity and divine presence. In other words, they will become the people of God they are supposed to be.

And it’s the same for us. When we come to God together, aware of our imperfection, sin, and immaturity, and we ask God for pardon and restoration, he will honour that honest contrition. He will bless this work. He will bring the people he desires to fellowship and serve here. He will heal wounds, mature saints, save sinners, lead us, guide us, fill us, use us, guard us, and bless us. 

He will shape us into the type of church he wants us to be, something we don’t even see fully. It isn’t crazy to think that our hopes and dreams for this place pale in comparison to what God wants us to be, is it? But I know that we want to experience the presence of God in ways we haven’t yet ever experienced as a body. I know we want to be a people full of wisdom and faithfulness, grace and loyalty, peace and truth. We want to be a family that grows together and the only way we can do that fully is if we first groan together.

Before we pray together to these ends, I want to encourage us all this week to ask God three things. First, ask God to show you areas in which the church family to which you belong is deficient. Some of you already have a list ready to go … hang on, this is why I said “ask God,” because it’s a corrective for two extremes, some who see no wrong, others who see more than is there. Ask God to show you ways in which we, as a body, are falling short of what God calls us to be and do.

Second, ask God to forgive you your part in that deficiency. We’re a body. If we’re hurting as a whole, the parts are contributing to its pain.

Finally, ask God to show you a clear way to contribute to restoration. That may be coming to the elders and voicing a concern. It may be stepping in to serve in a new way. Ask God. 

Remember, the family that groans together, grows together. And we want to grow, don’t we? So let’s be honest about our areas of weakness, sin, and failure; take them to God and experience his blessing, blessing he has already showered up on us.

Our heavenly Father, you’ve been so kind to this church family in the past, providing for us, protecting us, guiding us, healing us, pruning us, and forgiving us—all of which we did not deserve but received with thanksgiving and worship.

And, with that in mind, we’re asking for your grace again because, yet again, we need it. It’s true that we don’t even know all of the ways that Oakridge has fallen short of what you want us to be, sinned against what you’ve called us to do, squandered your gifts, ignored your people, hurt your reputation, and naively and ignorantly sat in our own immaturity. Forgive us, we pray. Restore us to fellowship afresh and withdraw your anger, discipline, and disappointment from us. Enliven us with your love that we may fully respond with joy.

Our Father, we want to be used by you, to reflect you, to praise you, and to honour you. We want to show one another and this world your peace, your salvation, your glory, your love and faithfulness, your truth and goodness. Give us wisdom, we ask. Lead us in paths of righteousness. Keep us godly and away from foolishness, keep us following closely behind your Son, our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ. It’s in his name we ask these things, by the power of the Spirit that indwells us and unifies us. Amen.


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Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.

Josiah Boyd

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