Psalm 85 – Righteousness and peace will kiss

LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people; you pardoned all their sin.
You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.
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, so that your people may rejoice in you?
Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for she will speak peace to her people,
to her faithful, to those who turn to her in their hearts.
Surely God’s salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before the land, and will make a path for its steps.
Psalm 85: (NRSV, edited)
2nd Sunday in Advent, Year B
Proper 10, Year B. Sunday between July 10 and July 16
Proper 12, Year C. Sunday between July 24 and July 30
Proper 14, Year A. Sunday between August 7 and August 13

If you just read the first three verses, you’d think the troubles were over. The Lord restored, pardoned, turned from his hot anger. All past tense. Whew! Glad that’s done with.

Yet in the next few verses we find we are not out of the woods.

"Restore us again..." "Show us your love..." "Will you be angry with us forever?"

That is the rub. When we have been brought low, we cannot help but attribute some of the fault to the Lord, even if we can see perfectly well how it happened, and by whose hands. Sometimes we have enemies, sometimes we do it to ourselves, and sometimes we get ground up by forces so much bigger than us, invading armies, economic systems, hurricanes, earthquakes, flood, fire, plague.

The next words are a little puzzling. "Let me hear what God the Lord will speak," is a declaration, because the person offering this psalm presumes to know what the Lord will say. "Peace" is what the pray-er wants to hear.

Perhaps she or he has heard the Lord before, and knows peace as God’s best word.

Perhaps this is a clever strategy to remind God of God's promises, and to bring forth God's "better angels." "Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation." For I know that your love will bring us through. I know how much you want to speak peace. You will give what is good, and make it all better!

Sometimes people worry about attempts to manipulate God. Yet an awful lot of Biblical prayers overtly ask God, directly plea, and more indirectly appeal to God's own history of loving creation to remind God why I need help right now!

There are dangers to testing God - if we are they one who gives the grade. But in prayer, we do best to be as honest as we know how. Why should we not want righteousness to look down from the sky and faithfulness to spring up from the ground? have we yet seen too much of righteousness joining peace to reign upon the earth?

Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.

Palma Il Giovane (Jacopo Negretti), Justice and Peace (oil on canvas); Galleria e Museo Estense, Modena, Italy. Public domain.


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