Reflections on Psalm 21

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by Joseph Tuttle, Benedictine College

St. Augustine believed that there were multiple voices that could be found to be speaking in the Psalms. In his Expositions on the Psalms, Augustine says that Psalm 21 is about Christ, even though it has David attributed as its author. The imagery found within this psalm is that of the Resurrection and speaks of Christ’s glorified body as well as the Second Coming of Christ and the judgment that He will bring. The psalm gives glory to God and warns of the coming judgment.

St. Augustine points out that the verse “For You have presented Him with the blessings of sweetness” (Ps. 21:4a), is clearly referencing Christ’s Resurrection. Similarly, “Length of days for ever and ever” (Ps. 21:4b), can refer to Christ’s glorified Body, which will never die or be corrupted.

During His Passion, Christ received a crown made of thorns: “And the soldiers plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe; they came up to him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ and struck him with their hands.” (John 19:2-3) After His Passion and Death, however, the Father has rewarded the Son: “You have set a crown of precious stone on His Head.” (Ps. 21:3b) Now, Christ is seen for Who He truly is, King of Heaven and Earth, of all peoples, Jews and Gentiles alike.

“You shall make Him glad in joy together with Your countenance” (Ps. 21:6) To me, this seems to be a possible reference to the Trinity, that is, at least a reference to the Father and the Son. The Father loves the Son, and the Son of course in return loves the Father, and the love they share is the Holy Spirit. Thus, it can be said that the Father would make Him (the Son) glad with His (the Father’s) countenance.

“For the King hopes in the Lord. And in the mercy of the Most High He shall not be moved.” (Ps. 21:7) The first half of Psalm 21 ends with mercy. This part particularly seems to refer to David. We must be like King David and hope in God’s infinite mercy.

The concluding half of Psalm 21 gives a stern warning saying that God will bring down His justice and judgment on all of the King’s enemies. This means that God will bring justice upon His enemies and the enemies of the Church as well. “Their fruit shall You destroy out of the earth. And their seed from the sons of men.” (Ps. 21:10) Not only will God destroy the wicked, but He will also destroy all of their works and labors as well. This, could refer to the Second Coming of Christ, when He will judge the nations as to whether or not they have followed His teachings. Since Psalm 21 speaks of both God’s mercy and justice, it is right to say that God is both 100% merciful and 100% just. And since everyone is a sinner, we must flee to God’s mercy and beg Him for it.

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