Howard Wallace's home page

September 13, 2009
Psalm 19

Reading the psalms set in the lectionary each week one soon gets the impression that there are favourite psalms that crop up from time to time. Psalm 19 is one of those. It was also set for Lent 3 this year and I would refer you to that for some general comments on the psalm and suggestions regarding its use in worship.

I will not repeat what was said earlier in the year but it is helpful in this new context, especially set alongside both the Old Testament reading from Proverbs 1 and the Gospel reading from Mark 8:27-38, to see how we might reflect further on the psalm.

The reading from Proverbs speaks about wisdom crying out in the street, seeking an audience, only to be met with a belligerent ignorance, scoffing and fierce resistance. When the consequences of not seeking wisdom comes upon those who resist it, then wisdom itself (or ‘herself’ in the text) will in turn be silent. Such is the consequence of disdaining wisdom (Prov 1:32). But those who listen to wisdom will be secure (v. 33).

Psalm 19 speaks of two sources of the wisdom that has its start in the ‘fear of the Lord’ (Prov 1:7). One is the sort of wisdom we gain from the world around us, through scientific, social, historical, cultural, linguistic etc observation and analysis. It is wisdom that comes from gaining knowledge and investigating the implications of that knowledge. The second source of wisdom is in the terms of the psalm, the ‘law’ or torah of the Lord. In Christian terms we might talk about Christian discipleship and following the way of Jesus Christ. Both sources of wisdom, the world around us and the traditions and practices of our faith lead to the glory of God, or in the words of Proverbs, the fear of the Lord which is the awe and worship of God in all God’s glory.

But this is all coupled with the Gospel reading with its haunting question: ‘who do you say that I am?’ (Mark 8:29) It goes on then after hearing Peter’s clear acclamation ‘you are the Messiah’ to spell out the depth of that confession in terms of taking up one’s own cross in following Jesus who must undergo great suffering (vv. 31, 34-38). In Christian terms the wisdom we might speak about involves a life commitment of discipleship, of owning the way of Jesus as a way of suffering with and for the world. That way is the wisdom of God by which all other wisdom, worldly or that of faith must be assessed. It is also the wisdom by which we must understand the security that is associated with wisdom in Proverbs, wisdom that has its origin in the fear of the Lord.

Suggestions for the use of the psalm in worship can be found in the comments for Lent 3.

Old Testament Reading: Proverbs 1:20-33

Return to OT Lectionary Reading