Once at a marriage retreat my husband and I took a personality test and scored extremely opposite of each other. Our test results were so disparate that the leader commented incredulously, “How did you ever meet? When were you ever in the same room together?” He claimed that in all his years of marriage counseling he had never met a couple so dissimilar. It’s true. I would never have met my husband if it weren’t for my Dad. My dad was my husband’s Spanish professor in college. My father often invited students to our house to meet our family and share a home-cooked meal. One day he brought home my future husband. We have been a couple for 34 years.
In verses 7-13 of Psalm 85 some unusual pairings are mentioned. These duos not only meet but they also are described as having the closeness of kissing each other. Not people kissing, but the attributes of Mercy, Truth, Righteousness, and Peace. As I read, I see how these spiritual couples are not only paired atypically, but they are also very intimately linked.
The Psalmist sets up these intriguing reflections with his expressed desire to understand God’s ways and strategies.
7. Show us Your mercy and loving-kindness, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation.
8. I will listen with expectancy to what God the Lord will say, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints—those who are in right standing with Him—but let them not turn to self-confident folly.
9. Surely His salvation is near to those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. It (His salvation) is ready to be appropriated so that the manifest presence of God, His glory, may tabernacle and abide in our land.
10. Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Is what the Psalmist writes about possible? Is it possible for Truth to meet closely with Mercy? Truth is a matter of “just the facts.” Mercy involves compassion and forgiveness in spite of facts. What about Righteousness? Is it possible for something or someone who always behaves rightly to be surrounded and even embraced by Peace? I am more familiar with Righteousness standing apart in settings of injustice and Peace is the last result likely to occur. (I’ve wished for Peace to reign, but injustice keeps the world in an uproar.) In my world, it would make more sense to say Truth and Righteousness are a team and Mercy and Peace will pull together.
We are not in my world. We are in God’s world. In His world there is an inescapable truth about our sinful condition. We are distanced from Him because He is truly Righteous and cannot tolerate sin, so a price must be paid to negate our sin and bring us back into kissing distance with our Creator. In God’s planned world of complete Righteousness, sin has no result but to evoke uproar and death. Righteousness and sin are the deadliest of enemies. They are complete opposites. However, in the Bible we learn God loves us in spite of our sin.
So, how did God handle humankind’s sinful dilemma? I know from reading my Bible that God did not compromise His Righteousness, but instead He paid the price. (To work at paying our own price by doing good deeds only adds self-confident folly and additional error to our list of sins. We cannot earn our place of right relationship to God. Just one “oops” would put us out of the realm of complete acceptable Righteousness to God.)
Many years ago in a barn, a grand meeting took place. It was the meeting of all meetings. Mercy and Truth met in the warm wriggling body of a baby. Righteousness and Peace kissed even as a mother kissed her newborn son. In this convening was the price paid for our sin sent to earth. It was the ultimate gift given to us by a loving, but Righteous God. Our sin-price was paid when God sent His son, Jesus Christ, the one perfect sacrifice. (Remember, God is God. If He wants to make part of Himself into a tangible man, yet remain God, He can do this.)
This determination of God to pair with us, His creation, is remarkably peculiar. There is no other god-being that aspires such a feat. In this action God displays His gold medal Olympic abilities concerning relationship.
Many scholars of this world would have me believe there is no God or no God who cares for me. Is it because they cannot conceive of such a feat? Because someone cannot conceive of something, does this make a matter untrue? Look at how often throughout time scholars have been wrong about a matter? For the sake of argument, I will list a few common errant examples. Scientific beliefs of the past include, a flat earth, the earth as the center of the universe, the land of California being an island, ice being the substance of which all else is made, the human body being composed of the balance of four humors, and my particular favorite (in this drought of South Texas), rain following the plow or civilization.
Set human error aside and look at truth. In the writing of this Psalm and the teachings of the Bible, peculiar pairing did occur. This Thanksgiving consider thanking God for peculiar pairings. I know I will. Reflect with me on this matter and look at the final verses in the chapter.
Verse 11 (The facts) Truth will spring up from the earth, and Righteousness shall look down from heaven.
Verse 12 (More facts, even promises) Yes, the Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. (I believe we can look at the word “land” metaphorically, too. Something God gives, that glorifies His good and yields increase, could be substituted.)
How will this good happen in our fallen world?
Verse 13 (The recipe for good to happen) Righteousness shall go before Him and shall make His footsteps a way in which to walk.
Real good, occasions valued in the realm of heavenly merit, happen when we follow or walk in the ways of God. (Don’t mistake this verse as only holding a promise for earthly possessions. All possessions fade away, but God’s good and purposes are forever!)
“O, God, once again you explode our minds with exquisite unthinkable pairings. Mercy and Truth; Righteousness and Peace. Thank You for Your eternal affection and interest in us. Why do you love us so? We have muddled, broken, trampled, ignored, and held on to our own self-confident follies. Turn our hands loose of our clutches and replace in them the warm living wood of your cross. Make our feet step into the footprints of Jesus so we find our way safely back home to You. Amen.”
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