Today we bring our series on Psalms to a close. There are many more themes we find woven through the psalms, but I feel these 8 have given a good grounding of how the Israelites perceived God and themselves in light of their relationship with Yahweh: the Covenant God.
Simon has been bringing us sections of Psalm 89 throughout our service. It is a long song starting with praise and thanksgiving. Then does an about turn into a heartbreaking lament, voicing the desolation of God’s people who find themselves abandoned in exile.
So far, all the Psalms we have looked at in this series were written by David. Today’s psalm was written about David, or more specifically, about the covenant God made with David. This psalm of lament mourns the downfall of the Davidic dynasty:
38 But you have rejected, you have spurned, you have been very angry with your anointed one.
Historians believe Ethan the Ezrahite—the author—was referring to the time Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and took the first shipment of exiles, which would have included Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego. Context.
This lament borders on accusation, condemning God of wrongdoing. However, as I said earlier, it is in complete contrast to the previous 37 verses full of praise for God’s love and faithfulness. Ethan begins:
1 I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. 2 I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.Psalm 89:1-2
So where does all this joy and celebration come from? What inspired these 36 verses (almost 3/4) declaring God’s love and faithfulness? The 1500 years of Israel’s history experiencing relationship with Yahweh, the Covenant God. The Psalmist, along with every other Israelite, were well aware:
- As slaves calling out in Egypt, God heard their cry and delivered them with great power and authority from the false gods and mighty ruler of Egypt.
- In the desert, God provided them with water from a rock and bread from heaven… for forty years… in a show of power and authority over creation.
- Entering the Promised Land he established them with power and authority over all barriers confronting them—natural and man-made.
- Every time they were overrun by an enemy in their new home, God rescued them by raising up a leader, filling him/her with the power and authority of His Spirit.
Not only had God been faithful to his children, right from the beginning when he entered an everlasting agreement with their patriarch, Abraham, He had also been faithful to David, His anointed king, with whom he established an everlasting, personal covenant. God would sustain, protect, and remain with David and his faithful descendants forever: there would always be a Davidic king on the throne.
Until there wasn’t.
As the generations passed, David’s descendants became increasingly unfaithful to God. He sent his prophets to warn them and call them to turn from their errant ways. But they didn’t listen. Rather, they hardened their hearts.
Just like we have just raced over a brief history of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites, there is also a long track record of Israel’s rebellion.
- As soon as they had received the gift of freedom from slavery they grumbled, declaring they’d be better off back in Egypt as slaves to Pharoah.
- On the doorstep of receiving the gift of the Promised Land, they complained they’d be better off wandering the desert.
- Instead of demonstrating the gift of living in relationship with the Almighty, Sovereign, Creator God, they decided they’d be better off with foreign, false gods.
- When threatened, rather than trusting the gift of God’s covenantal protection, the kings of Israel and Judah, sold themselves to well-resourced earthly kings.
It seems every step of the way, when the Israelites had to choose, they chose “other” than God. In his mercy and grace, God allowed them to suffer the consequences of their choices in the hopes they would return to him. And more often than not, they did… for about five seconds. Then they went back to ignoring him. Again and again, God would send a word of warning via discipline and/or his prophets, and each time these faithful messengers were ignored, beaten and/or killed.
Sadly, David’s descendants were no different. Rather than following the example of their founder, they followed the path of their neighbours choosing to trust “cherry picked” elements of the Davidic covenant instead of the covenant maker. Sadly for them, like all covenants, there are promises and consequences. Here’s what God actually said to David:
“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’”
So, just like every other generation of God’s rebellious children, Judah was also disciplined and exiled from the Holy Land.
Seriously, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. Adam and Eve were evicted from Eden for their disobedience. Israel was barred from entering the Promised Land for forty years because of their disobedience. God allowed his people to fall into the hands of the enemy during the time of Judges for their disobedience. Throughout history we read He sanctioned droughts, plagues and floods because of disobedience.
However, He didn’t do these things because He’s vindictive and likes to see people suffer. On the contrary, we read in Hebrews 12:7-11:
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. He did and does these things because he wants to remind people of who He is, what He has promised and His desire to have genuine relationship with them.Hebrews 12:7-11
God disciplines and treats as children, those whom he loves.
Back to the Psalm
And like a disciplined child, the psalmist accuses God:
38 But you have rejected, you have spurned, you have been very angry with your anointed one. 39 You have renounced the covenant with your servant and have defiled his crown in the dust. 40 You have broken through all his walls and reduced his strongholds to ruins. 41 All who pass by have plundered him; he has become the scorn of his neighbours. 42 You have exalted the right hand of his foes; you have made all his enemies rejoice. 43 Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword and have not supported him in battle. 44 You have put an end to his splendour and cast his throne to the ground. 45 You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with a mantle of shame.Psalm 89:38-45
A frightened child will hide. An ignored, untrusting child is quiet. This child is vocal, and honest, and loud, and emotional, and is lashing out at his parent because he knows his Father is The Good Shepherd, the Great King enthroned in heaven. This child can wail and scream because he knows he is heard, and more importantly, because he is safe. For 1500 years, his father has proven himself to be loving and faithful.
Proof in the Pudding:
Here’s what Ethan and all the Israelites knew:
Adam and Eve:
- God said to Adam, “I’m giving you 1 law, the consequence of breaking the law is death.”
- Adam and Eve broke the law and experienced separation from God.
- Before they were banished from Eden, God promised a way to reconcile humanity to himself.
The Promised Land:
- God said to his people, “We have a covenant agreement, break it you will be evicted.”
- The people broke the covenant and were evicted
- Before they were exiled, God promised he would bring them back.
- I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him
- They did wrong and were punished and evicted.
- Before they were evicted, God made a promise through the Prophet Isaiah, Isaiah 9:6 He would restore David’s throne.
And because Yahweh had fulfilled all his other promises, Ethan knew God would do this too.
What has all of this ancient history got to do with us? I’m glad you asked.
We have read, we have heard, we have seen, and we know, what the Lord had promised, the lord will Do. Full stop. End of story. We don’t need to add anything to this and we surely to goodness don’t want to take anything away from it. This is the simple, life-altering, earth-shaking, eternal truth about our God.
We too are in a covenant agreement with God which also contains promises: both blessings and consequences. But its more than that, we too are in a relationship with the Living God who is faithful. Even when we’re not. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:11-13:
11 Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him (covenant agreement); 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him (blessing). If we disown him, he will also disown us (consequence); 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (God’s honest truth)2 Timothy 2:11-13
With the privilege of looking back at history through the lens of Christ, we can see that every one of God’s promises have been fulfilled. Christ is the Yes and Amen to every single declaration our God has made from the opening pages of Genesis to the closing verses of Revelation. He is faithful!
Every day, every minute of every day, our God is daring us to believe, to have faith in Him so that he can demonstrate his power, his love and his faithfulness to us. In just over a week, we will celebrate the most wonderful, fulfilled promise of all, the promise spoken through the prophet Isaiah,
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Here the word son refers to a royal son, a son of David.
Not only did this give Ethan the Ezrahite hope and confidence to write the first 36 verses of his psalm, it enables us to stand alongside him and echo the closing verse of his song:
52 Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen.Psalm 89:52