Reputation matters. We know that our reputation matters in business because without a good reputation we will find it very difficult to keep a job. We know our reputation matters as a Christian because we represent Jesus to the world and to one another. But people are not the only ones for whom reputation matters. Have you ever considered that certain Psalms have a reputation?
Psalm 23, for example, has the reputation of being the most popular and well known. If you asked the average person on the street if they knew any of the Psalms in the Bible, even if they said they didn’t, there is, at least in the south, a reasonable chance that if you started reciting, “The Lord is my shepherd…” you would get a look of recognition.
Then, there are the imprecatory Psalms. These are the Psalms that ask God to exercise judgment and condemnation against others – the mean Psalms, if you will. In Psalm 69, for instance, David laments his situation and then asks God to blind his enemies, and as if that weren’t enough, he requests that God’s burning anger and judgment fall upon them! In Psalm 109, David asks of the Lord that he would make his enemy’s children “fatherless, and his wife a widow”!
Not every Psalm has a reputation, of course. There are Psalms that go virtually unnoticed and others that have a reputation that exists only in certain circles. Psalm 19 is one of those that has a reputation among scholars, if not as much outside the academy.
The reputation Psalm 19 has is that it was never originally a single Psalm, but was two separate poems that were stuck together at a later date and passed off as a single work (vv. 1-6 and vv. 7-11 being glued together with an added conclusion in vv. 12-14). Granted, as reputations go, this is not a bad one, but it has meant that interpreters approach it with a wary eye. Should it be treated as a whole? Does it have any real unity? You see, reputation effects interpretation.
Whether or not Psalm 19 was originally 2 poems, this Psalm has a remarkable unity. It moves from revelation in the world to revelation in the Word and shows that both demand a personal response. The first part ends with a reflection on the supremacy, glory and life-giving power of the sun, which provides an appropriate introduction and transition to the second part that describes the supremacy, glory and life-giving power of God’s Word. In this way, Psalm 19 ought to have an evangelistic reputation. David has moved from the world around us to the world within us, from the heavens to our hearts, from rebellion to repentance.
When it comes to reputations, some are made and others earned. As for Psalm 19, reconsidering its reputation helps us see that what’s most important is not what lies behind the text, but what lies within the text.