1. For the lead musician, for the Korahites, a psalm
2. You favored, Lord, your land; you turned the fortunes of Jacob.
3. You forgave the crimes of your people, covered all their sin.
4. You gathered in all your wrath, made restoration from your hot fury.
5. Turn, O God of our salvation, and break through your indignation at us!
6. Will you forever rage at us, draw out your anger generation after generation?
7. Will you not give us life again, that your people may rejoice in you?
8. Show us, O Lord, your covenant-loyalty, and give us your salvation.
9. I must listen – what would God the Lord speak?
He would speak shalom to his people and to those true to him –
so may they not turn back to stupidity!
10. Yes, his salvation is near to those who fear him, that Glory may dwell in our land.
11. Covenant-loyalty and truth meet; righteousness and shalom kiss.
12. Truth sprouts from the earth, and righteousness peers from the sky.
13. Indeed the Lord will give what is good, and our land will give its yield.
14. Righteousness will go before him, that he may set his steps on the path!
Many psalms appeal to our visual imagination, but none offers a more vivid picture than this one. Covenant-loyalty, truth, righteousness, and shalom are here embodied attributes – divine and human, heavenly and earthly – all actively engaged in the work of restorative living. All must be fully enacted on earth, and enabled from heaven, if we are to turn firmly and forever away from the “stupidity” (v. 9) that has made us humans a deadly threat to God’s earth and all its inhabitants.
John August Swanson offers one picture of restorative living, with people, animals, plants, earth, and sky bound together in the dynamic interaction that the psalmists call tsedeq, “righteousness” (vv. 12, 14). Tsedeq is an essentially relational term – not just playing by the rules, but living creatively in order to further the wellbeing, the shalom, of our fellow creatures, human and nonhuman. In contemporary English, “sustainability” might be the word that best captures the psalmist’s intent, to denote the kind of creaturely living that invites God to enter into our world and walk with us the difficult path ahead.
Ellen F. Davis is Amos Ragan Kearns Distinguished Professor of Bible and Practical Theology at Duke Divinity School.
Copyright 2003 by John August Swanson
Serigraph, 24” x 28.75”