When Psalm 85:10 states that “righteousness and peace kiss each other,” the psalmist is personifying two of God’s attributes and how they work together.
Psalm 85 was written by the sons of Korah and recalls God’s restoration of Israel. Verses 1–3 demonstrate how God had restored Israel in the past and turned away His wrath. Remembering God’s mercy in restoring Israel, the psalmist petitions the Lord to restore them yet again (Psalm 85:4). Knowing of God’s mercy and unfailing love, the psalmist rhetorically asks if the Lord will remain angry forever (Psalm 85:5–7). Based on God’s faithful salvation, the psalmist is confident that He will not continue in His wrath.
God promises “peace to his people, his faithful servants,” but urges them to stay away from folly, for the Lord will save those who fear Him (Psalm 85:8–9). At this point, the psalmist turns to personification:
“Love and faithfulness meet together;
righteousness and peace kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10).
Love and faithfulness “meet” with each other, and righteousness and peace “kiss” each other. Other translations say that righteousness and peace “will embrace” (CSB) or “will unite” (CEV). The idea is that the Lord’s attributes of righteousness and peace would harmonize to provide comfort to Israel.
The attributes of righteousness and peace are linked in Isaiah 32:17 as well: “The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.”
A kiss was a common form of greeting in ancient times, and still is in some cultures. The word picture painted in Psalm 85:10 is one of two friends greeting each other as if they had been separated a long time. Righteousness and peace have been estranged, but now they are friends again. The righteousness of God was opposed to peace on earth, as long as Israel remained in a sinful, unrepentant state. But now they are united, and the result is joy, a friendly embrace, and delightful harmony.
The personification in Psalm 85 is continued in verse 11:
“Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
and righteousness looks down from heaven.”
Here we see that faithfulness is described as springing up “from the earth,” and righteousness as looking down “from heaven.” The mention of heaven and earth suggests that more is being unified than just the attributes of God. Heaven and earth are uniting, resulting in peace and blessing for God’s people. The description foreshadows the angels’ song in Luke 2:14:
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Using the imagery of a harvest, the psalmist is assured that God will answer Israel’s prayer for restoration:
“The Lord will indeed give what is good,
and our land will yield its harvest.
Righteousness goes before him
and prepares the way for his steps” (Psalm 85:12–13).
Despite the wrongdoing done by the nation, God would extend grace to the Israelites. Psalm 85 teaches that God’s grace is greater than our sin. God would bring peace to Israel once again, through His righteousness, peace, faithfulness, and love coming together.
The ultimate fulfillment of love and faithfulness “meeting together” and of righteousness and peace “kissing” is found in Jesus Christ’s work to reconcile the world to God. It is through Jesus that we experience peace with God and forgiveness of sins (Romans 5:1). Because of His love and mercy, we can have eternal life through His death and resurrection (Romans 10:9–11). Just as God didn’t deal with Israel as they deserved in the Old Testament, so He has offered us His unmerited grace in spite of what we’ve done. In Jesus, we are declared righteous, not because of who we are or what we’ve done, but because of who He is (Ephesians 2:8–9). The “kiss” of righteousness and peace brings us peace with God.