The Covenantal Psalter

In The Structure of Biblical Authority Meredith Kline wrote, “The covenant is the Psalter’s sphere of existence” (p. 62).  What does that mean? Is this a case where the theology shark is at work? (The theology shark is when one principle or theme of theology swallows everything else – to the detriment of the whole system.)  I don’t think this is an overstatement by Kline, especially since he only spends two pages on the topic (Longman, along with others, also makes this observation, that the psalms have a covenantal aspect to them). Here are Kline’s own words.

“The psalms of praise, whether magnifying the majesty of Yahweh’s person or the wonder of his ways in creation or redemption, were a part of Israel’s tributary obligations; they were the spiritual sacrifices of the lips offered to the Great King. As vehicles of private and public devotion they were a continual resounding of Israel’s ‘Amen’ of covenant ratification.”

The psalms, Kline continues, were confessional responses of God’s people who have heard the awesome deeds of the King as the prologue of the covenant treaty mentioned. “The Psalter served broadly as a cultic instrument in the maintenance of a proper covenantal relationship with Yahweh.”

The Psalter is a jewel of many colors – this is one of the beautiful colors of the psalms, that it is a covenantal hymnbook, so to speak, of and to the great Suzerain and Redeemer, Yahweh.  In that broad sense, the psalms are indeed covenantal, though the term “covenant” (berit) is only found in a small handful of the psalms.

shane lems

sunnyside wa