Psalm 125 assures us that trust in God provides a well grounded, solid, and secure situation, like the mountains around Jerusalem, the holy place.
‘So God stands around the people’. (v.2)
On the other hand:
3 The sceptre of the wicked shall not rest on the land allotted to the just, so that the righteous may not stretch out their hands to do wrong. 4 Do good, O God, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts.
The psalmist promises a strong foundation against the tempests of life. He or she is a little evasive about how all this is to be done. Works, not faith? Intentions, not performance? Yield not to temptation? Prayer and fasting? Is there an ‘allotted land’ these days so that our ‘hands do no wrong’?
Other songs in this book remind us to connect with biblical writings, the precepts and underlying concepts of justice, love and equity. Psalm 99, for instance, says that from the outset, creation and its creatures were intended to be founded in a system of equity — hardly evident in the Jerusalem of today, nor in Australia.
The psalmist is content with laying down promise and principle. Clearly, there is much work to be done, so we should not dally too long on the theology of an allegorical song from thousands of years ago. Cultures have changed. The mountains — and the challenges — are still the same. The addition of a little music assists in pondering what it might mean for each of us.
Refrains in The Emergent Psalter and PFAS 125A present a prayer for peace and justice, a cause that is quite as valid as that of equity. The refrain in PFAS by Bernadette Farrell is worth attention. Sung together with a tone for the verses, music (quite close in harmonic structure to Pachelbel’s Canon) and message are both strong.