Psalm 89

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Psalm 89
I Will Sing of the Steadfast Love of the LORD
A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite

Psalm 89
Remembering the Covenant with David, and Sorrow for Lost Blessings
A Contemplation of Ethan the Ezrahite

Psalm 89
The LORD's Covenant with David, and Israel's Afflictions.
A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite

Many psalms that begin with complaint and prayer end with joy and praise, but this begins with joy and praise and ends with sad complaints and petitions; for the psalmist first recounts God’s former favours, and then with the consideration of them aggravates the present grievances.

Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714

A Contemplation of Ethan the Ezrahite or A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite: there are a number of men named Ethan mentioned in the Old Testament. Although Bible translations link the title of Psalm 89 to 1 Kings 4:31, a passage about king Solomon.

God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite and the sons of Mahol- Heman, Calcol, and Darda. His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations.
1 Kings 4:29-31 NLT

Of Ethan the Ezrahite: perhaps the same person as Jeduthun, who was a musician in David’s reign; was noted for his wisdom in Solomon’s days, and probably survived till the troubles of Rehoboam’s period. If this be the man, he must have written this Psalm in his old age, when troubles were coming thick and heavy upon the dynasty of David and the land of Judah; this is not at all improbable, and there is much in the Psalm which looks that way.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

Also, Psalm 89 closes Book Three of the Psalter.

Ethan begins his song singing of God’s faithfulness to all generations,

I will sing of the Lord's unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness. Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.
Psalm 89:1-2 NLT

The beginning verses of Psalm 89 are a great reminder of how our Lord Jesus taught us to pray,

In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV

If we begin our prayers with a reminder of God’s faithfulness, it puts our hearts and our minds upon what is true. Have you ever stumbled and wondered how to start or where to start? When your mind is filled with worry and chaos? As Jesus taught us, sing of God’s faithfulness first; remember the Lord’s promises; recall the things He has done.

“I will sing of the Lord’s unfailing love forever!”

"I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: 'Your seed I will establish forever and build up your throne to all generations.'"
Psalm 89:3-4 NKJV

"When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
2 Samuel 7:12-13 NKJV

Ethan sings of God’s covenant with David; that David’s line would sit on the throne established by God forever. If Ethan was still alive and saw Solomon’s days waning and the kingdom crumbling, he would have leaned upon these verses and this promise of an everlasting kingdom. Solomon would sit on David’s throne; Solomon would build the house of the Lord.

But Solomon was only a man. These verses sing of Jesus, although Ethan would not have known His Name. The people of Israel knew He was coming.

Selah. A musical moment of silence. A promise so wonderful it is worthy of a moment of pause.

Psalm 89:5-18 sings of the power and majesty of our God. The wording is beautiful poetry, using imagery of things that existed around the people of Israel during ancient times.

Verse 10 says, “You have broken Rahab in pieces, as one who is slain; You have scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm.” Rahab was sometimes the name given to Egypt. The Old Testament speaks of God’s power over this ancient kingdom. Egypt was a world superpower until they refused to heed the words of God. Rahab was also an ancient sea serpent of Canaanite mythology, and the serpent is well known to Believers in Genesis 3. What a beautiful piece of imagery to use in writing this instructive psalm.

Yes, our protection comes from the Lord, and he, the Holy One of Israel, has given us our king.
Psalm 89:18 NLT

For our shield belongs to the Lord, and our king to the Holy One of Israel.
Psalm 89:18 NKJV

Ethan continues on to thank the Lord for His chosen king, David. The psalm sings of God’s provision and protection over the chosen leader of His people. The song also hints at the relationship between David and God, and verses 19-37 are God’s words, His promises to strengthen and shield David and his line in the years to come.

Long ago you spoke in a vision to your faithful people. You said, "I have raised up a warrior. I have selected him from the common people to be king.
Psalm 89:19 NLT

Then You spoke in a vision to Your holy one, and said: "I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people.
Psalm 89:19 NKJV

Bible scholars believe the “holy one” or the one who God gave “the vision” to was probably Nathan, the prophet.

I have found my servant David. I have anointed him with my holy oil. I will steady him with my hand; with my powerful arm I will make him strong.
Psalm 89:20-21 NLT

God goes on to speak about how He will protect and guide and defend His chosen servant, David. David was “of the people,” a shepherd, the youngest and least of Jesse’s sons, yet God exalted him.

My faithfulness and unfailing love will be with him, and by my authority he will grow in power. I will extend his rule over the sea, his dominion over the rivers. And he will call out to me, 'You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.' I will make him my firstborn son, the mightiest king on earth.
Psalm 89:24-28 NLT

God speaks of His son and anointed one, David. But truly He speaks of our Redeemer, Jesus, God’s true Son and our Savior.

David after his anointing, was persecuted, but none could gain advantage against him. Yet all this was a faint shadow of the Redeemer’s sufferings, deliverance, glory, and authority, in whom alone these predictions and promises are fully brought to pass.

Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
Then Jesus said to them, 
"When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."
John 8:28-29 NKJV

It’s beautiful and comforting and inspiring that sprinkled through the Old Testament even are pictures of Jesus. David may have tried to rule over the seas, but he did not and could not. There is only One who has done so and only One who will ever do so.

Ethan goes on to reiterate the promises God made with the line of David in verses 30-37. That, despite many prideful and evil kings in David’s family tree, God never turned His back on His people. God did allow judgment to fall upon His people because of these kings and their choices, that when the people turned their backs on God, He did respond. But He never renounced His promises, and He always saved them.

I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever."
2 Samuel 7:14-16 NKJV

In verse 38, Ethan’s words turn toward questioning God and His promises. That God had turned His back on the promises He made to David and David’s house. Could this be true?

But now you have rejected him and cast him off. You are angry with your anointed king. You have renounced your covenant with him; you have thrown his crown in the dust.
Psalm 89:38-39 NLT

The tone here shifts. The author was confident in God and His promises. But not now. Scholars are unsure of the reason or the time period the author wrote this. But something bad has happened.

In verse 45, Ethan pauses (Selah/Interlude). Ethan is a wise man; he knows that God did not cast off His children. Ethan knows that God would not forget His promises, he had just spent many verses prior speaking of those promises. He knows God’s unfailing love and faithfulness; he did not need to remind God.

Does it ever feel like God has forgotten though? We know God’s love and faithfulness are never-ending, but we are human, and it is easy to doubt. There are many times throughout history when God’s people lost hope, even in modern history, when the Jewish people could have felt that God turned His back upon them. When we feel this way, we must speak of His faithfulness to remind ourselves and to encourage our brothers and sisters around us. That is called hope, and we always have hope in our Lord.

O LORD, how long will this go on?
Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your anger burn like fire?
Remember how short my life is, how empty and futile this human existence!
No one can live forever; all will die.
No one can escape the power of the grave.
Psalm 89:46-48 NLT

How long, Lord? When will You return? When will You serve justice? When will You redeem us?

Some commentators point out these verses as needing the Good News. Jesus is present throughout the Old Testament; He is talked about; He is held in high honor. The people long for His arrival. But they didn’t know when or how, and it was probably easy to doubt.

Thank You, Father, that we live after the time of Jesus. We know who He was and is. We know His promises; God walked on this earth as a man. He showed us how to live; He told us what to expect in this life and the one to come. He is faithful. Praise the Lord that we know the Good News.

Ethan and the people of his time did not know, they waited. But as they waited, they suffered.

But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 NKJV

Ethan goes on to plead with the Lord to remember His promises, to David and to His people. Then, this beautiful, LONG song ends this way,

Blessed be the LORD forevermore! Amen and amen. Psalm 89:52 NKJV

Praise the LORD forever! Amen and amen! Psalm 89:52 NLT

May the LORD be praised forever. Amen and amen. Psalm 89:52 HCSB

Blessed be the Lord for evermore. He ends where he began; he has sailed round the world and reached port again. Let us bless God before we pray, and while we pray, and when we have done praying, for He always deserves it of us.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

Father in heaven, thank you for this beautiful psalm. Thank you that we can come to you and cry out to you when we don’t understand, when we feel like you have abandoned us, when we feel alone. Thank you that it’s during those times that you are present and wrap your arms around us. Give us strength and joy and peace today. Amen and amen.

Heidi xoxo

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