Sunday, October 4, 2009

We know that the Law is holy and good

The Psalms view the Law of God in entirely positive terms. The theme of Torah, as an object of delight and desire reappears throughout the psalms, especially in those regularly designated Torah psalms, 1, 19 and 119.1 Psalm 19 describes the Torah in superlative terms of worth. The Torah is more desirable than gold, even refined gold, more desirable than honey, even abundant honey, or honey from the honey comb. The laws of God are special blessing of God to Israel, to be rejoiced in (147:19-20) . This pleasure in and desire for the Torah is repeated throughout Ps 119, where the Torah of YHWH is described as a plunder (119:162), more desirable than gain (119:36), to be pursued more than gold (119:127,71-72), to be panted for (119:131). The Torah is described in personal moral terms, integrity, reliability uprightness, cleanness, purity, truth.(19:1-9) YHWH’s torah is not a burden but a delight, wonders to be explored by the psalmist. This has caused difficulty for many modern interpreters. McCann is a fine example
"One commentator captures well the nature of the problem: "It's not difficult to see why someone might find Psalm 1 a quite insufferable Psalm about a quite insufferable fellow. There he sits, day and night, brooding and fretting over the law. What a pedant!" Such an approach to Psalm 1 stems from understanding the term torà from a Deuteronomic point of view; that is, torà refers to the laws, commandments, statutes, precepts, and ordinances of the Pentateuch. The righteous person is then understood to be a legalist, one who obeys a particular set of rules. From this point of view, if Psalm 1 is an introduction to the Psalter, then the Psalter does not sound too promising or inviting. “ 2
It must be acknowledged that the Hebrew Scriptures, as the Torah of God, contain far more than simply laws, the narrative of YHWH's work and way with Israel and the world are also on view. Yet the theology of the Psalms does not share a modern, Christian and specifically Protestant aversion to rules and law. The Psalmist does seem to be intensely concerned with avoiding even hidden sin (19:12-13), but does not view this as burdensome. The Psalter does not view the Torah as detached from YHWH's gracious action. “They [meditation] are the result of man's loving union with God”3 Rather, moral and ethical instruction are a desirable, delightful part of YHWH's grace; “grace me with your torah” (119:29).4 This call for YHWH's work to reveal, bring understanding and enable obedience to Torah permeates Ps 1195. It is YHWH's Torah, that he personally gives and teaches, his own ways that he shares, yet this is always mediated by his decrees, his judgements, his word.

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