Commentary by Dr Noel Donnelly.
Psalm 15 Commentary 3rd Easter A.
Psalm 15 starts off by claiming that God is the singer’s “portion” and “cup”. The background to this is two-fold: firstly the “portion” refers in the Book of Joshua to the portion of land given to the 12 tribes when the Promised Land was divvied up “by lot”. This lottery was understood to be what God intended. Your tribal territory was thereby understood as God-given. My portion can be for us our home.
Secondly, “my cup” was understood as my condition in life, my special situation that God has given me to drink. My cup can be my personal circumstances.
Portion and cup are in God’s hands.
Those two points may be more acutely appreciated when, as some scholars argue, the singer of the psalm is a woman, a refugee who feels surrounded by God in her new secure situation. Perhaps we can get into her shoes, (if she had any!) when we sing this psalm. The psalm is very positive and recognises with joy that God is always present, through life and even beyond the grave.
Our liturgy selects 8 verses from the 11 verses of the complete psalm and divides these up into 4 stanzas for singing. The response is “Show us, Lord, the path of life!”
Our psalm makes a bridge between the reading from the sermon of Peter in Acts, where, on the feast of Pentecost, he quotes this very psalm in support for his proclamation of the resurrection. Our psalm leads into the Gospel where Jesus appears on the road to Emmaus, showing that God “did not leave his soul among the dead”, as the psalm prophesied.
Our psalm sings about “the fullness of joy in God’s presence, happiness at God’s right hand for ever”. It emphasises our joy in this time of Eastertide, so we can sing it with a smile and happy heart!
Psalm setting 1:(c) Noel Donnelly recorded by Grace Buckley
Psalm setting 2: (c) Gerry Fitzpatrick recorded by The St Mungo Singers