Psalm 85

Our longings define who we are and are a lifeline through difficult times. Psalm 85 is composed of three time-frames: the past when God forgave and favored Israel (verses 2-4); a current estrangement from God (verses 5-8); and the longed-for future of enduring closeness to God, enabling stability, prosperity, and fulfillment of purpose (verses 9-14).

The very middle words of the Psalm provide the break from the cycle of salvation and trouble: “Let me hear what the El Adonai will speak- for God will speak peace to [God’s] people and devotees that they not return to folly” (verse 9). The willingness to actively listen to God will enable the longed-for transformation. And then the vision of a better world where God’s qualities are present on earth as if living beings (see artworks below): “Kindness and truth have met; justice and peace have kissed” (verse 11).

Justice is a process that entails accountability; peace is a state of equanimity: “No justice, no peace.” In the vision of the future the two are in harmony. Three times in the final four verses the word tzedek, justice or righteousness, is declared. A world of justice is a world of enduring peace, the ultimate longing.

This learning is dedicated to Jackie Wolf, a consistent student of Psalms and a pursuer of peace.

Below Psalm Chapter 85

Der Kuß von Gerechtigkeit und Friede, Antwerp, c. 1580

The Kiss of Peace and Justice by Laurent de La Hyre, 1654

Justice and Peace by Tiepolo, 18th century