Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Psalm 85:8-13 righteousness and peace kiss each other

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, May 10, 2019

8 I will hear what God the LORD will say.
  He promises peace to his people, his saints—
  but let them not return to folly.

Peace from the Lord God means forgiveness and everything that comes with it. In reverse order, these things include eternal life, the welcome into heaven on Judgment Day, a body restored to its intended condition before the fall, the resurrection from the dead, and blessings throughout this lifetime. The people of God are the true saints, not merely those special few who seem to have led marvelously faithful lives. Notice that the warning, “Let them not return to folly,” is for all the saints, which means that every Christian is capable of falling once again into the disgrace of unbelief. But by listening to what the Lord says and taking it to heart, we remain in him, as he invites us to do: “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” (John 15:4).

9 Surely his salvation is near those who fear him,
  that his glory may dwell in our land.
10 Mercy and faithfulness meet together;
  righteousness and peace kiss each other.

In verse 10, four marvelous gifts from God are depicted like old friends. The first two, mercy and faithfulness, “meet together.” Where one is, the other one will also be. They are drawn together. So where there is faithfulness to God’s doctrine and decrees, there will be Christian mercy which offers forgiveness just as God does, according to the prayer of Jesus: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12 EHV).

And since God has been merciful, faithfulness to the law of God and all of the doctrines of the Scriptures will follow. This is what John rejoiced about: “It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about how you continue to walk in the truth” (3 John 3). This is also what Jesus taught in the Great Commission: “Go and gather disciples of all nations.” He then supplied the means for this work of gathering disciples with the Means of Grace: “by baptizing and by teaching.” And what was to be taught? “All the instructions I have given you” (Matthew 28:19-20 EHV).

In the same way, where there is righteousness, there is peace. But these are even more closely connected, and so they “kiss each other.” Where we are covered by the righteousness of Christ, we have true peace. We know lasting peace when we understand that we have the righteousness of God through Christ.

11 Faithfulness springs up from the earth,
  and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 Surely the LORD will give what is good,
  and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
  and prepares the way for his steps.

As the Son of Korah finishes his song, he reminds us that this business of being made righteous by God is not something we admire now and then like a knickknack on a shelf. It is even more than a way of life. It is living itself. As God said to his prophet when the temple needed to be rebuilt: “Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord, and work” (Haggai 2:4). Faithfulness is depicted as springing up like a crop from the soil. Righteousness is like the moon and stars that wheel above and tell us what day it is and what festival is coming next. Good things are not discovered by man, they are given by God, and only then will the land yield its harvest. Finally, righteousness “goes” and “prepares.” But these are not actions that the Son of Korah urges on us. Certainly, we have work to do in the world, and God will be with us as we do it. But the real meaning of verse 13 will be clear if we are careful with the grammar. Who is it in verse 13 who is “him” and whose steps are “his”? It is the Lord, still the subject of the thought since verse 12. Therefore this Psalm could be seen as a prophecy about John the Baptist and the arrival of the Messiah in his earliest days: “Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way!” This is what every one of us does with our labor in God’s service, preparing the way for the gospel of salvation with everyone we meet.

Only a sinner will be frightened of God’s steps, like Adam and his wife cowering in the Garden (Genesis 3:8-10), or like fallen Israel frightened by any old windblown leaf that rustles nearby (Leviticus 26:36), or like Satan and his fools, terrified of the Lord’s arrival when he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross in the corridors and gutters of hell (Colossians 2:15).

But for the Christian, the sound of the Lord’s step brings joy and the desire to follow. “Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16). Whatever sinful path the world follows, the Christian still follows after Christ: “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever” (Micah 4:5). This is not a burden, but a joy. For even though it is the Lord’s command (“His command is that you walk in love,” 2 John 6), it is not something that burdens us. “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:3-4). We live our faith, rejoice in the righteousness that God gives, and we follow our Lord wherever he leads. This is the life of love; the happy career of the one who is redeemed, and who has been given what is good.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

Browse Devotion Archive