Show us your unfailing love, LORD,
and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what God the LORD says;
he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—
but let them not turn to folly.
Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other.
Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The LORD will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps.
It is easy to read the Psalms and miss out on what they are truly saying. To be honest, it is quite easy to read anything and miss out on what it is communicating. But missing out on other texts doesn’t cost you like it does with scripture. Especially when we skim over passages without discovering their weight, we run the risk of misconstruing and manipulating them into feel good statements about ourselves and become blind to the reality about who we are and who God is. And that is dangerous because we are very apt to deceive ourselves about who we are because that is an easier way to cope with things. Facebook is just one example of how we put up one reality of ourselves but live out a different one almost entirely, we want so desperately to communicate that we are good and have others affirm this.
On the surface this passage may seem to articulate a simple lesson that God works to give us peace when we turn our lives over to him. That, of course, is a beautiful promise and one I hope to be true. But I hear a couple of other things along side this that should give us pause. First, the author of this psalm creates a link between peace and fear. Often we want to separate these things from each other, to believe that they are mutually exclusive. But we are summoned to posture ourselves towards this being in a different way, to behold God with wonder and awe and reverence, and when we encounter just even the slightest bit what this all means, we will begin to experience a sense of peace. So we are being called to find peace by the way of fear. How odd does this really seem?
The other thing we learn about peace is that it is tied deeply to justice. Often when we read “righteousness” in scripture we can be guilty of thinking of this individually or in terms of piety. But the scope of the Hebrew understanding of righteousness is so much more rich and nuanced than this. A shortcut to approaching this definition is simply to say “justice”, but justice in the sense of the whole cosmos being right. It is like imagining Eden has been restored and our relation to ourselves, to others, to God and to all creation is reconciled and permeated by love. For true peace (shalom) to be a reality, we must long for justice for the world, not simply that we will feel comforted as individuals. God is on a mission to bring peace, but a peace that is so much more about justice and the world being put back to rights. What that means for us is that we are called to be people who help join God in this wholistic sense of justice and equity; that we desire it for ourselves but also in the lives of others and for all of creation. Is this hard for us to grasp? Why is it so easy to reduce the concept of peace to be just about ourselves?
Lord, correct us and help us to see the beauty of the work of salvation. Redirect us to a more robust sense of justice and peace, and lead us to participate in your ongoing work. Amen.