Psalm 37: God loves justice

God will make your just dealings as the noon day… God loves justice.’ (6, 28)

This is a fairly long (40 verses) reflection on people who are essentially good or evil. It encourages us towards the Clean-living Claude/ia end, not just to avoid wrath but because such values are associated with wisdom — an important theme in the psalms — and hence justice. (v.30)

An equally strong contender for that opening key phrase celebrating justice, quoted above, occurs in verse 37:

Mark those who are honest; observe the upright; for there is a future for the peaceable.

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Poetic moods in the Psalter range from despairing and penitent to skipping with joy. Sometimes several moods mix in any one song, making the choice of a suitably supportive musical style challenging. PFAS suggests the Taizé chorus Wait for the Lord, while NCH takes a more up-beat approach. The TEP refrain is bound to win accolades in this review, since it sings of “uttering wisdom and justice.” (30)

The psalmist speaks of justice (and positively about righteousness) and says not to bother if the wicked appear to flourish, themes picked up by a couple of classical settings of interest:

  • Orlando di Lassus: in Latin for five voices, presenting verses 35-36 (Tweet seen recently: “The wicked flourish; now you see them, now you don’t”);
  • Anton Bruckner: Os justi, which just quotes verses 30 and 31, more powerful verses essentially about justice:
    • The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom and their tongue speaks right; the law of God is in their heart and their footsteps do not falter.
  • William Byrd: in English for only three voices and thus more attainable for small singing groups, a setting of verse 25 alone which is about the other side of the coin:

I have been young but now am old, but never have I seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

Regrettably, young and old, including children of good people and of all walks of life, are too often begging for bread in tragic circumstances recently. We can only pray that both sides of the coin, fading wickedness, thriving ‘righteousness’ and justice, may be true of those who are causing their pain.

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