Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Psalm 20 — The King and the Community Can Trust the Lord with Their Desires

When you see others in affliction, comfort them by praying with them in the words of Psalm 20.
Athanasius, On the Interpretation of the Psalms

Several sources point out that this is a royal psalm, invoking blessing on the king during Israel's time of trouble. How many times have we asked God to give us wise rulers, to inspire them to right action, and to bless the outcome of their decisions? I don't know about you, but in my church we do it every Sunday. 

John Paul II points out how this psalm connects us with Christ who is, of course, the ultimate king. His actions and judgments we can trust unreservedly.

King David, David Jarvis (some rights reserved)
The Messiah as Ultimate King
... chariots and horses (cf. v. 8) are mentioned and seem to be advancing on the horizon; however, the king and his people put their trust in the Lord who marches with the weak, the oppressed, those who are victims of the arrogant conquerors.

It is easy to understand how Christian tradition transformed this Psalm into a hymn to Christ the King, the “consecrated one” par excellence, “the Messiah” (cf. v. 7). He comes into the world without armies, but with the strength of the Spirit. He launches the definitive attack against evil and guile, against arrogance and pride, against lies and egoism. The words Christ addressed to Pilate, emblem of sovereign earthly power, reverberate in our ears: “I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice” (Jn 18: 37).

2. In reviewing the structure of this Psalm, we notice that it reveals in filigree a liturgical celebration being held in the Temple of Jerusalem. It depicts the assembly of the sons of Israel who pray for the king, head of the nation. Indeed, it opens with a fleeting reference to a sacrificial rite, one of the many sacrifices and holocausts offered by the king to the “God of Jacob” (Ps 20 [19]: 2), who does not abandon “his anointed” (v. 7), but protects and supports him.

The prayer is deeply marked by the conviction that the Lord is the source of security: he goes to meet the confident desire of the king and of the entire community, bound by the terms of the covenant. The threat of war hangs in the air, with all the fears and risks to which it gives rise. The Word of God does not appear as an abstract message, but rather a voice that adapts to humanity’s miseries, great and small. It is for this that the Psalm uses military language and reflects the oppressive climate of war in Israel (cf. v. 6), thus adapting to the feelings of men in difficulty.

John Paul II, General Audience, Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Sources are here and an index of psalm posts is here.

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