THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION (12) – The Davidic Covenant: The Davidic Psalm Tradition I (Psalms 1–72)

Joni Cheng

Psalms 1 to 72 comprises Book I and II of the Psalms. Book I includes mostly the lament Psalms by David, while Book II includes additional themes of psalms such as thanksgiving and praises, contributed by David as well as other psalmists, i.e. Sons of Korah (Ps 42:45-48).

In the Old Testament, Psalms constituted the masterwork of prayers (CCC 2596). One of the most popular and commonly recited Psalms is Psalm 23 where David expresses his confidence and trust in a prayer to the LORD who is like a shepherd caring for His sheep. “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Ps 23:1). David expressed his dependence on the LORD, in all situations, in good or in bad, that he needed not fear because of the LORD. This echoes our trust in Jesus Christ who is “the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant” (Her 13:20). It is only those who trust in Him who will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Jesus Christ is where our faith and hope lie in the New Testament and at present times, that Christian prayer becomes “a covenant relationship between God and man in Christ” (CCC 2564).

The Psalms also mirror God’s marvellous deeds and reflections on  human experiences (CCC 2588). For example, in Psalm 8, David praised the LORD’s majestic name in all the earth because the LORD took him, loved him and crowned him with glory and honour. Just as St Therese of Lisieux had described, prayer is “a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy” (CCC 2558). David, who received such human dignity from His Divine Majesty could not hide his joy and praises through this Psalm. Hence, Psalms are different prayers which can be prayed at all times and conditions, for “a psalm is a blessing on the lips of the people” as St Ambrose said (CCC 2589) and they are also “essential and permanent elements of the prayer of the Church” (CCC 2597).

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