Faithful and True

Psalm 89

Psalm ascribed to “Ethan the Ezrahite”, perhaps brother of “Heman the Ezrahite” author of previous Psalm. A contemporary of Solomon, noted for his wisdom (1 Ki. 4:31; 1 Ch. 2:6) could have observed decline in kingdom beginning with division during time of Rehoboam and Jeroboam.

“Wisdom does not exempt a man from grief and anguish, from temptation of faith and hard exercise of mind.” Dickson This psalm an example of struggle God’s people in all times have had trying to make sense of both the Bible and the newspaper. Given what God has said and what I see happening, how can I responsibly fit both together? Especially when it appears they clearly contradict each other!

Simple answer to complex question – start with God. Not the whole Bible, with God. What the Bible teaches about God, his character and attributes. In other words, where our text begins. Several things repeated throughout psalm.

forever (8x): 1, 2, 4, 28, 29, 36, 37, 46 – God is forever; not existing in the moment as we do

faithfulness (7x): 1, 2, 5, 8, 24, 33, 49 (truth) – God can be counted on, not to arbitrarily change, is dependable and certain; so also his promises; “amen” from same root

mercy/lovingkindness (7x): 1, 2, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49 – steadfast loyal love expressed for his people in terms of his covenants; see 1 John 4:10 “Herein is love…”, central component of New Covenant

From that beginning point of God’s being and character, then direct the “hard exercise of mind” to the difficulty at hand. And, btw, same issue of sorts faces us as did the psalmist: God made some promises, based on what we can see with eyes – what’s happening?? We do have advantage over psalmist but more on that later.

A. introduction v.1-4

praise: big and broad (1-2)

forever – given the subject, “steadfast love of the Lord”, eternity will not exhaust material for praise; especially when demonstrated in ways like is promised in v.3-4

all generations – what does psalmist mean? Is it “God’s faithfulness to all generations” he will proclaim? Will he “proclaim to all generations” God’s faithfulness? Yes and yes – does the first by what he wrote following; the second through inclusion in pages of Scripture; primary emphasis on first (see next verse)

in the heavens – since God’s works fill the heavens, his praise should fill them also and not just mute voice of nature

promise: big and broad (3-4)

made with solemn oath – once was day when “man’s word is as good as his bond”; true always with God

on occasion, God has sworn an oath – Heb. 6:17So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath”

guaranteed an eternal dynasty – David’s legacy will endure, both his offspring and throne, as long as the sun (36)

B. the covenant-Maker v.5-18

sovereign creator – who can be compared to the Lord? (5-13)

creative ability – power and knowledge used in creation same as brought to bear on covenant and its promises (5)

worth-ship – if anyone is to be trusted, has character to be trusted and believed it is God; more than any other being he deserves whatever he is pleased to require (6-7)

power – God doesn’t just possess all power, actively exercises his power as he governs all aspects of his creation (8-10)

side note: if God pleases, can overrule plans of rulers and armies like those in eastern Europe and N Korea to achieve his purpose

ownership – no one has any greater rights to all that exists than God does; definitely has right to make covenant (11-13)

righteous ruler – who could want anyting more? (14-18)

goodness: righteousness, justice, mercy, truth (14)

these characterize both God himself and his works – he does what is right, just, loving and true because he is those things in his nature

blessing (15) joy (16)

song goes “we have heard…”; psalm goes “blessed are [they] who know“; faith comes by hearing, blessing and joy comes by knowing God is your friend

strength and shield (17-18)

one who makes the covenant ensures beneficiaries are able to enjoy things promises

sum it up: two words – faithfulness and lovingkindness

faithful – Psalm 89:1, 2, 5, 8, 24, 33, 49 (truth)

lovingkindness (mercy, steadfast love) – Psalm 89:1, 2, 14, 24, 28, 33, 49

C. the covenant terms v.19-37

one-sided but with conditions: God set all terms, no negotiation, required obedience in return – don’t miss v.30-32

big and broad promises to chosen one

promises made to “David” parallel things ascribed to God – God the most high ‛elyôn of heavenly assembly (6, Psa. 82:6), David highest of earthly kings (27); God rules the sea (9-10), David similar (25)

who is the real “firstborn”? v.26-27

David the “lastborn” of Jesse, given position of honor typical of firstborn; seems like full promise too big for just David

reiterated that it is an everlasting covenant

forever: Psalm 89:4, 28, 29, 36, 37 this ruling dynasty will last as surely and long as sun and moon, will be as much a witness to God and his covenant as heavenly bodies are to his handiwork

as secure as character of God – v.33-35

secured loans have best terms – God has put up his holiness as collateral to guarantee his promise, his final word on the subject: spoken once for all

D. the problem v.38-51

from highest high to lowest low – what happened? exact opposite of what was promised

rejection <> favor — anger <> lovingkindness — humiliation <> honor — defeat <> victory

enemy exalted over David (his successors); kingdom experienced humiliating losses

following days of psalmist, conditions even worse: divided kingdom becomes no kingdom, exiled in Babylon

trend from human perspective: David unquestionably the high point, downhill ever since; Messianic hope didn’t pan out either, at least not yet

inability to keep the terms of the covenant; now what???

how long until there’s a change? (46)

psalmist’s language / accusation more like what a pagan would say – God, you promised one thing, then went and did another

but questions in v.46-48 demonstrate faith, dependence on God; may have like Job spoken strongly, but still maintained confidence in God even when he couldn’t understand God’s methods

where did the blessings go? (49)

rightly assumes blessings are somehow connected with covenant promises – no covenant, no expectation of good from God

still true in New Covenant – receive blessings, favor from God only by union with mediator of new covenant

did God’s people believe only positive promises?

accusation of God seem to imply didn’t take threat of consequences (30-33) seriously

can’t bring themselves to believe covenant with such large and long promises could ever not be kept

looked for someone who would keep conditions of covenant, receive blessings, rule once again from David’s throne

highly unlikely they would have understood v.38ff as applying to Ideal King, Messiah

E. the resolution v.52

promises God made are good ones, should be experienced by those in covenant community but…

first perfect covenant head Adam couldn’t keep terms

second particularly selected leader couldn’t keep them either; actually were more – Noah, Abraham, Moses

goes to show: even with “help” fallen man cannot satisfy God’s demands; if blessings depend on perfect obedience, situation is hopeless because mankind is helpless

over and over God reminded his people something better had to come

repetitive nature of sacrifices pointed people toward superior offering for sin – once for all that would truly forgive

even a 100% pure lamb could not fully atone for one sinful person; value just isn’t there (sorry PETA)

circumstances like David’s make plain a better person had to appear – if there’s any hope of lasting implementation of covenant, would require someone who could keep its terms

can’t give up on covenant and its complete fulfillment

saw partial satisfaction in David, will find full satisfaction in David’s Son

not only positive, also negative with this provision

David and immediate offspring suffered humiliation on their own account, because of their own sinfulness and failure to meet terms of God’s covenant; not so for Son of David-Son of God

his humiliation for the sake of others, actually accomplished something for them: a better priesthood, better sacrifice, better covenant

achieved by the one who truly is the Ideal – the Holy One of Israel who is our King

Jesus satisfied both requirements of covenant – he merited the promised blessings by his active obedience; suffered the promised curses by his passive obedience (made sin for us)

means he can dispense the blessings he merited to those for whom he suffered the curse

anyone wanting to receive God’s favor must look to the one he has favored, Lord Jesus, the one who since his ascension is ruling from his eternal throne

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