Lectionary Year A
October 6, 2002
Psalm 19

Step IV: Context

A. Primitive Christianity

(JFC) The "creation of the world" is mentioned frequently in the New Testament, e.g., Romans 1:20. These pre-scientific people were, often with superstition, interested in the created order, perhaps, most especially the sun and the moon and the stars. Of course, the Word of God interested them, as well; see especially the prologue of John's Gospel and Romans 10:18. The rewards for the obedient/faithful gets mentioned in James 1:25. Revelation 16:7 asserts, as does Psalm 19:8-10, that God's "judgments are true and just!"

B. Old Testament and Judaism

(JFC) Certainly the Creation saga in Genesis' first chapters celebrates God's great handiwork, as do the first seven verses of our text at hand. Isaiah 41:20 extols God's creativeness to persuade all observers of the universe that God did it. The other major topic in this (19th) Psalm is the Law, which is mentioned prominently in most every book of the Old Testament. The Book of Deuteronomy (especially 4:44) is a prime example, as is Psalm 119 (especially verses 18, 44, 97 and 165) and Jeremiah 31:33, as well. God's Law's reviving mortals' souls is maintained also in Lamentations 1:11, 16 and 19, Proverbs 25:13 and Ruth 4:15, according to BDB. God's testimony also makes wise the simple in Proverbs 19:4 and 16. And, the late first/second century CE Odes of Solomon 16:6-20 praise God for creation's beauty and Ode 30 describes the "living spring of the Lord" as "more refreshing is its water than honey, and the honeycomb of the bees is not to be compared with it." Picturesque language in poetry persists for centuries.

C. Hellenistic World

(JFC) These philosophers from Greek backgrounds might resonate with such vocabulary as mentions speech, knowledge, words, Law, wisdom, even something that is said to be able to make the simpleminded wise and truth and righteousness. They would readily appreciate anything that could decrease the lesser intellectuals and increase the more so in their highly valued society. They could also enjoy reading such charming poetry as this Psalm presents, especially, perhaps, those metaphoric images in verse 11.

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