Psalm 85: Justice and Earth

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

Kanga on the keys?

The first Australians have been conscious of and connected to the land in much stronger and deeper ways than more recent arrivals can comprehend. Their livelihood was far more intimately bound up with their natural environment. Features in their traditional territorial landscapes have longstanding narrative and spiritual importance.

Somehow, this atmosphere permeates Psalm 85, declaring that “truth springs up from the earth”. (11) Justice is associated with the very heart of the creation, an idea that resonates with Psalm 99. The first verses speak of restoration and forgiveness but these blessings are anchored in a context:

… that God’s glory may dwell in our land. 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)

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Palestrina, Lassus and others employed such melifluous verses for five-part settings for the Offertory during Advent or other liturgical uses. Readers familiar with the BCP texts will recognise this chant from verses 7 and 8:

Ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam tuam, et salutare tuum da nobis. / Shew us thy mercy, O Lord: and grant us thy salvation.

Everett draws attention to those important images of righteousness and peace quoted above; however he chooses verse 7, a prayer for mercy, as his refrain.

No 45 in TiS would be a good choice; easy response, simple chords, interesting harmonies for SATB in the verses. However, it does not quite cover the lectionary readings and the inclusion of verses 1 and 2 is advisable to set the scene.

PFAS 86B is the lovely Taizé chorus Dona nobis pacem, adorned with a lilting rendition of the verse phrases in a cantor’s descant over the refrain ostinato. This is very effective. A local refrain is included below.

Verse 7 of Psalm 85 used as an antiphon by the author