Jesus taught his disciples to pray. But there’s a very real sense in which the psalms taught Jesus to pray. In this series, we’re going to sit with Jesus at the feet of the Bible’s lament psalms to see what they can teach us about prayer.
Why the laments? One of my students once observed that reading the laments made her feel like the Holy Spirit had been reading her diary. Generations of the faithful have testified to these psalms’ peculiar ability to help us express our most private and sometimes painful thoughts. Yet, the laments also teach us that, even when our prayers are full of anger or anguish, they are still “praise in a minor key.”
Study #7: Sealed With a Kiss
Read Psalm 85
Righteousness and peace will kiss each other. (v. 10b, NRSV)
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine a couple in conflict getting back together. Perhaps their fights are dramatic and explosive. Maybe they bicker like the constant drip of a leaky faucet. Or sometimes it just that they’ve drifted quietly apart. But no matter what the symptoms of their estrangement, it’s obvious that they’re not about to kiss and make up.
Righteousness and peace might seem like that kind of a couple.
It certainly must have seemed that way to my great uncle, Army Chaplain, Ralph Bielema. He was among the troops that came upon the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald in April of 1945. Peace was getting easier to imagine at that point in the war. But righteousness—or justice, as the Hebrew word is sometimes translated—seemed harder and harder to fathom. In the letter he wrote to his sister after that harrowing time, my normally gentle uncle longed for the last judgment. Someone, he cried, must be made to pay for the atrocities they’d discovered there. Peace may have been within the world’s grasp, but justice seemed impossibly distant.
The author of Psalm 85 is straining his eyes toward the day when we peace and justice will reunite and seal their love with a kiss. It is impossible for us as humans to imagine how this will happen. Yet, in God’s time, we have faith that it will. We live in confidence that God “will wipe away every tear” (Rev. 7:17). In the meantime, our job is to join in the work God is already doing to bring this bickering couple back together.
Prayer: Help us, O God, to work and wait for both justice and peace.