‘Show goodness to those of true of heart.’ (4)
Psalm 125 is a song of ascent, and therefore typically short and hopeful. The premise is that those who trust in God will stand firm like Mount Zion. Divine love encircles like the hills surrounding Jerusalem, protection and inspiration around your holy place.
Psalm 45 reminded us that the sceptre or hallmark of divine rule is that of equity. Here is the other side of the coin: “The sceptre of the wicked shall never rest upon the land allotted to the just … so that the just shall not stretch out their hands to do wrong.” (3) This again suggests that those seeking goodness will enjoy protection, like Jerusalem’s hills, from the deleterious influences of unjust society, culture or leadership.
The refrain in New Century Hymnal uses the rather unconvincing ‘Show your goodness, O God to those who are good’. (4) This may ill suits those with egalitarian leanings, especially when used as a lone statement without the next verse: ‘As for those who turn aside to crooked ways, God will lead them away with the evildoers.’
This blog, too, has consistently observed the golden threads of justice and equity flowing through the Psalter. Any sense of exceptionalism is viewed warily. Certainly, though, those who are open to equitable love are more amenable to wise guidance in moral choices. Around both verses hangs a whiff of self-fulfilling prophesy. In sum, however, the psalm is clearly encouraging ascent to holiness.
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.