Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.…
This is a lovely and highly imaginative picture of the reconciliation and reunion of God and man. The poet psalmist, who seems to have belonged to the times immediately after the return from the exile, in strong faith sees before him a vision of a perfectly harmonious co-operation and relation between God and man. He is not prophesying directly of Messianic times.
1. The heavenly twin sisters, and the earthly pair that corresponds. "Mercy and truth are met together" — that is one personification; "Righteousness and peace have kissed each other" is another. It is difficult to say whether these four great qualities are to be regarded as all belonging to God, or as all belonging to man, or as all common both to God and man. I am disposed to think of the first pair as sisters from the heavens, and the second pair as the earthly sisters that correspond with them. "Mercy and truth are met together" means this: That these two qualities are found braided and linked inseparably in all that God does with mankind. Mercy is love that stoops, love that departs from the strict lines of desert and retribution. And truth blends with mercy. That is to say, truth in a somewhat narrower than its widest sense, meaning mainly God's fidelity to every obligation under which He has come. God's faithfulness to promise, God's fidelity to His past, God's fidelity in His actions, to His own character, which is meant by that great Word, "He sware by Himself." Love is thus lifted up above the suspicion of being arbitrary, or of ever changing or fluctuating. In the second two, "Righteousness and peace have kissed each other," we have the picture of what happens upon earth when mercy and truth that come down from heaven are accepted and recognized. To put away metaphor, here are two thoughts.
(1) That in men's experience and life righteousness and peace cannot be rent apart. The only secret of tranquillity is to be good.
(2) Righteousness and her sister, Peace, only come in the measure in which the mercy and the truth of God are received into thankful hearts.
2. God responding to man's truth. "Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven." Where a man's heart has welcomed the mercy and the truth of God, there shall spring up in that heart, not only the righteousness and peace, of which the previous verse is speaking, but specifically a faithfulness not all unlike the faithfulness which it grasps. Righteousness looks down, not in its judicial aspect merely, but as the perfect moral purity that belongs to the Divine nature. No good, no beauty of character, no meek rapture of faith, no aspiration Godwards, is ever wasted and lost, for His eye rests upon it.
3. Man responding to God's gift. "Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good, and our land shall yield her increase." Earthly fruitfulness is only possible by the reception of heavenly gifts. The earth yields her increase by laying hold of the good which the Lord gives, and by reason of that received good quickening all the germs.
4. God teaching man to walk in His footsteps. "Righteousness shall go before Him and set us in the way of His steps." The psalmist here draws tighter than ever the bond between God and man. Man may walk in God's ways — not only in the ways that please Him, but in the ways that are like Him, and the likeness can only be a likeness in moral quality.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.