Psalm 85, 28 July 2019

An atmosphere of hope and thanksgiving permeates this song from the Korahites, singers in the temple and court. It opens with a reflection on the past forgiveness and favour on the land; it progresses to present revival; and then, in beautifully ringing poetic terms, imagines the future wherein:

Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. (10, 11)

All sorts of benefits thus accrue, a foretaste of the fruit of the Spirit in yet-to-be-written Galatians. The psalmist seeks a renewal of peace and goodness. Justice, which throughout the Psalter is seen as a cornerstone of the original creation plan, is part of the covenant:

‘Justice goes before God, and peace is a road for God’s feet.’ (13)

Previous posts such as that in 2017 remarked upon the prominence of land, sky, pathways and almost sacred sites in this song, themes still resonating with the awareness of NAIDOC week just concluded in Australia.


The earlier posts also described some wonderful early music setting of this song, an in particular one by Lassus. In more modern sources:

  • Everett in his notes in TEP draws attention to those important images of righteousness and peace quoted above; however he chooses verse 7, the  prayer for mercy, as his refrain.
  • New Century uses the same verse, but with a more lilting refrain in 6/8. Choose your own tone for the verses.
  • No 45 in TiS has an easy response, simple chords, interesting harmonies for SATB in the double tone for the verses. It does not quite cover the lectionary readings.
  • PFAS 85B is a very simple Taizé chorus Dona nobis, not the rather more melodious one in TiS 713. Here, the simple chant is adorned with a lilting rendition of the verses in a cantor’s descant over the refrain ostinato: “Dona nobis pacem”

This last setting is a beautiful but easy offering. Like the previous item from TiS, it does not cover all verses. However, it is not only nice new ground for most, but will also call for minimal rehearsal at a time when SWUC singers are busy with an ecumenical sing-fest on Sunday afternoon in aid of refugee support.


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