Righteousness and peace kiss — Psalm 85

Psalms of the Sons of Korah

Can righteousness and peace actually kiss? Yes, because Ancient Hebrew philosophy is not like modern Western philosophy. In the book of Proverbs Wisdom is a lady, philosophical ideas are personified, wisdom, righteousness and peace are treated as people in order to understand them rather than the idealistic abstract quality of Western thought. It is not just down to the use of poetic language, of course righteousness and peace can kiss, Righteousness and Peace are in a relationship. In the Bible a lot is about relationships, not just between people or people and God.

A man looks down on his wristwatch, waiting.
Photo by Ju00c9SHOOTS on Pexels.com

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

Psalms 42, 44–49, 84, 85, 87 and 88 are attributed to the Sons of Korah. Korah, was a cousin of Moses and Arron who led a revolt against Moses: Korah died in the rebellion. His three sons were named as singers in the Tabernacle and their offspring in the Temple. The sons of Korah who wrote these psalms are descended from Korah’s sons, not necessarily the sons themselves.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.

85 Lord, you were favourable to your land;
    you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
You forgave the iniquity of your people;
    you covered all their sin. Selah
You withdrew all your wrath;
    you turned from your hot anger.
Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
    and put away your indignation towards us!
Will you be angry with us for ever?
    Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
Will you not revive us again,
    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 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.
10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
    righteousness and peace kiss each other.
11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
    and righteousness looks down from the sky.
12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
    and our land will yield its increase.
13 Righteousness will go before him
    and make his footsteps a way.

Psalm 85 ESV UK

Three psalms, 47, 49 and 85 have the same Hebrew title, given here in English as, “To the choirmaster. A Psalm of the Sons of Korah.” They also have the same structure, The subjects are introduced and then developed in the same order. Psalm 85 is made up of two of these structures in verses 1 – 6 and again in verses 9 – 12.

The reason for looking at the structure is not to change the meaning of the psalm, but to emphasise the meaning that is already there. Here’ the psalm again with verses moved to reveal its poetic structure:

  • Lord, you were favourable to your land;
        you restored the fortunes of Jacob.
    • Restore us again, O God of our salvation,
          and put away your indignation towards us!
  • You forgave the iniquity of your people;
        you covered all their sin. Selah
    • Will you be angry with us for ever?
          Will you prolong your anger to all generations?
  • You withdrew all your wrath;
        you turned from your hot anger.
    • Will you not revive us again,
          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 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.
    • 11 Faithfulness springs up from the ground,
          and righteousness looks down from the sky.
  • 10 Steadfast love and faithfulness meet;
        righteousness and peace kiss each other.
    • 12 Yes, the Lord will give what is good,
          and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness will go before him
    and make his footsteps a way.

There is a tension in this psalm, God has restored the nation to its homeland after the Babylonian exile, but it is not complete. The struggles of the returning exiles and the opposition they faced in shown in the book of Nehemiah. Why is God’s full restoration delayed? The blessings that God has given in verses 1, 2 and 3 are contrasted with the people’s frustration in verses 4, 5 and 6, “Will you not revive us again?” they ask God. Verse 7, “Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.” sums up the first part of the psalm.

Verse 8 starts the second half, which is God’s reply. God is near and helping, God will give what is good, including good harvests. The universe is in harmony in relationship, even the philosophical concepts. God is not indignant and angry as the people supposed, God is patient with the people.

There is a parallel to this psalm in the New Testament. The Christians were expecting the sudden return of Jesus to Earth and were wondering why it had not happened yet? Non-Christians were even taunting them about it. Peter answered like this: “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” The fulfilment of God’s promises is dependent on God’s patience. He is wanting all to be in relationship with him, even the persecutors of his people. God’s will shall be done. Jesus will return and God in love is in control of when that happens.


< Psalm 84 | Psalm 85 | Psalm 86 >
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