Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 89

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Verses 1-4


Psalm 88 and Psalm 89 belong together. Together they form the closing part of the third book of Psalms. Both writers of these psalms, Heman (Psalm 88) and Ethan (Psalm 89) are Ezrahites (Psalms 88:1; Psalms 89:1). They both wrote only one psalm under their names. They also both wrote a teaching in view of the maskilim, that is, a teaching on the ways of God in the end times to gain insight into them.

The first psalm of the third book of Psalms, Psalm 73, indicates that the psalmist did not understand the ways of God (Psalms 73:16) with the people. The solution is that only in the sanctuary do we learn the ways of God (Psalms 73:17). Now the third book of Psalms is pre-eminently the book of sanctuary, it is the ‘Leviticus book’ of Psalms.

In Psalms 74-87 we see prophetically the experiences and spiritual exercises of the faithful remnant, both of the two and of the ten tribes. They will undergo a terrible suffering, a suffering that will result in their purification.

Psalm 88 and Psalm 89 then summarize these ways of God together in a two maskil-psalm.

The hallmark of Psalm 89 is trust in God on the basis of His promises. This trust speaks all the more because outward circumstances give no basis for the fulfillment of those promises. This means that their fulfillment is based on grace. That grace takes shape in Christ, in Whom all the promises of God are yes and amen (2 Corinthians 1:20). He will fulfill them, yes, He is the fulfillment.

Psalm 89 consists of two parts:
1. Psalms 89:1-Haggai : contain a description of the covenant.
2. Psalms 89:38-Colossians : describe the connection between the covenant and suffering.
The teaching of Psalm 89 is that suffering does not contradict God’s faithfulness to His covenant. On the contrary, this psalm is a thanksgiving for the faithfulness of God right through suffering!

Psalms 89:1 is the title and Psalms 89:52 the conclusion of the psalm and the conclusion of the third book of Psalms.

God’s Lovingkindness and Faithfulness

For “a maskil” see at Psalm 32:1.

The psalm is “of Ethan the Ezrahite”. It is the only psalm of him under this name in Psalms. Ethan is an understanding, a Levite, and a singer (1 Kings 4:31; 1 Chronicles 15:17; 1 Chronicles 15:19). In 1 Chronicles 6 we find Heman, Asaph, and Ethan side by side (1 Chronicles 6:34-2 Corinthians :). All three are Levites: Heman of Kohath, Asaph of Gersom, and Ethan of Merari.

The psalmist, in whom we hear the spirit of the remnant speaking, is deeply impressed by “the lovingkindness of the LORD” (Psalms 89:1). This refers, as Psalms 89:3-Numbers : show, to the LORD’s lovingkindness toward David in making him king over His people. Even greater expressions of lovingkindness are attached to the great Son of David, through Whom God’s lovingkindness flows to all the world. Of this lovingkindness, he says, he will sing “forever”.

Inseparable from these expressions of lovingkindness is God’s “faithfulness”. God will faithfully fulfil all the promises He has made to David and the Son of David. He has recorded these in a covenant that He has made with David. These covenant promises Ethan will “make known” “to all generations” with his “mouth”. He will make them into a psalm that can be sung to the glory of God throughout all generations.

This psalm is about the lovingkindness, chesed, which is the covenant faithfulness of the LORD toward the faithful remnant. Psalm 88 is about the suffering of the remnant and the suffering of Christ. Psalm 89 makes it clear that God can only give His blessing through His covenant by the way of suffering. Christ had to suffer, the blood of the new covenant had to be poured out, to prove the lovingkindness of God.

Such are the ways of God. The foundation of God’s blessings is the suffering of Christ. Receiving these blessings is through the suffering of believers, in this case the remnant of Israel. For us too, it applies that “if indeed we suffer with [Him] so that we may also be glorified with [Him]” (Romans 8:17).

What matters is that the LORD is to be trusted or reliable concerning His covenant. He is eternally mindful of the covenant He made with Abraham (Psalms 105:8-1 Samuel :). It is noteworthy in this context that the name Ethan means: enduring, steadfast. God’s covenant is enduring. Not for nothing does the LORD give the guarantee further on in the psalm: “Nor deal falsely in My faithfulness” (Psalms 89:33). The word ‘faithful’, which is ‘reliable’, occurs seven times in this psalm. This is unique and endorses the importance of this word as the theme of this psalm.

Ethan speaks with great assurance – “I have said” – of “lovingkindness” and “Your faithfulness”. They are unshakable attributes of God. He has said to God: “Your lovingkindness will be built up forever” (Psalms 89:2). His lovingkindness toward David is presented as a house that will be “built up forever”. The LORD Himself builds this house for David (2 Samuel 7:11). Therefore, it is a house with a permanence without end date, imperishable, eternal. His lovingkindness endures forever.

As for God’s faithfulness, the same applies, for “in the heavens You will establish Your faithfulness”. Just as the heavenly bodies are fixed and continuous in the sky, so His faithfulness is fixed. Nothing changes in His faithfulness, just as the sun, the moon, and the stars do not change their positions. Everything that happens on earth, where so many changes, cannot diminish His faithfulness in the least (Jeremiah 33:20-Ecclesiastes :).

Then Ethan tells what God’s lovingkindness and faithfulness refer to: to “a covenant” that God has made “with My chosen” (Psalms 89:3; cf. Psalms 78:70-Sirach :). God gave to David unconditional and eternal covenant promises (2 Samuel 7:11-Nehemiah :; Isaiah 55:3). Those promises are firm and sure. God even ratified His covenant with the swearing of an oath.

It is a covenant of which God alone takes all obligations upon Himself. David is God’s chosen one (1 Chronicles 28:4). Regardless of any conditions, God has sworn to His servant David: “I will establish your seed forever” (Psalms 89:4; cf. 2 Samuel 7:12-1 Chronicles :).

There is talk of the covenant of God with Abraham, with Israel, and with David. The covenant was also made with David, the man after God’s heart. This is emphasized in this psalm. In 2 Samuel 7 we find the background to this psalm (2 Samuel 7:8-Esther :). David is the anointed chosen by God (Psalms 89:3; Psalms 89:20). Yet this anointed is rejected and despised by God Himself (Psalms 89:38).

In this he is a type of the One who is more than David, the Son of David Who is also the Lord of David. He is the Chosen, the Anointed, the Christ. But ... the Christ had to suffer this and so enter His glory (Luke 24:26). The difference is that David was rejected – by his son Absalom seizing power and driving him out – because of his own sins, while Christ was rejected because of the sins of others. His suffering is substitutional for the remnant (Isaiah 53:1-2 Kings :).

God solemnly promises that a descendant of David will always sit on the throne. He will build his “throne to all generations” (cf. Luke 1:31-Micah :). He will not fail in this, even if it sometimes appears so, as we read later in the psalm. God’s promise is just as unchanging as His lovingkindness and His faithfulness. Who this God is Who can make such unconditional promises, is impressively presented in the following verses.

Verses 5-8

Who Is Like God?

God, Who assures David of an eternal throne, is Himself seated on the throne from which He governs the universe. He is the Object of the praise of heaven, which by the mouth of the inhabitants of heaven praises His wonders (Psalms 89:5; cf. Luke 2:13-2 Chronicles :). His “faithfulness” is praised “in the assembly of the holy ones”, where we can think of the assembly of God’s people, i.e., the remnant, on earth. In Psalms 89:1 the LORD is made great by the psalmist. From Psalms 89:5 we see the response of heaven, which also starts to praise the LORD.

In the question “who in the skies is comparable to the LORD?” (Psalms 89:6), contains the answer. Of course there is no one who can measure up to Him, not in wisdom and understanding and not in strength. This also applies to the question of “who among the sons of the mighty is like the LORD”, which are the angelic princes. Of course, no one is like Him.

The reality is that God is “greatly feared in the council of the holy ones” (Psalms 89:7). His power, His holiness, His righteousness, it fills everyone with great awe, even the angels, who far exceed man in strength. Angels stand and go at His command (cf. 1 Kings 22:19-Song of Solomon :). He is “awesome above all those who are around Him”. He is surrounded by countless angels, but is not part of a circle of which He is said to be the principal. He is exalted far above the angels (Hebrews 1:5-1 Chronicles :). He is the Creator and they are but creatures, the work of His hands, ministering spirits whom He may send forth (Hebrews 1:14).

Deeply impressed by God’s great exaltation, Ethan cries out: “O LORD God of hosts, who is like You?” (Psalms 89:8). He calls God the “God of hosts” because God is above all earthly and heavenly hosts. All the powers, whether good or bad, are subject to Him, and He commands them (cf. 1 Kings 22:20-Isaiah :). No host can go its own way.

God is the “mighty LORD”. No one is equal to Him in power, no one can be compared to Him (Isaiah 40:25). He is the “LORD”, the God of the covenant with David. He is not a God of arbitrariness, but of faithfulness. His faithfulness “surrounds” Him; it is part of His nature and is evident in His actions. He is completely trustworthy in His promises. All His actions result from His faithfulness. He is mighty, He is faithful. This means that whatever He has promised in His covenant, He is also able to fulfil. His omnipotence and faithfulness are evident from the following passage.

Verses 9-14

Proofs of God’s Omnipotence

God has proved in the past what He is capable of, whatever the circumstances. He “rules the swelling of the sea”, and “when its waves rise” He “stills them” (Psalms 89:9; Psalms 107:29). There is scarcely anything from which God’s power and dominion over all things is more evident than in His authority over the sea and the waves. As powerless as man is in the face of a storm, a hurricane, or a tsunami, He rules over them with mastery and calm (Job 38:8-1 Kings :). The Lord Jesus also has that authority, which proves that He is God (Mark 4:39).

The overconfident brimming sea is a picture of the God-hating nations over which He also rules (Isaiah 17:12-1 Chronicles :). An example of His reign over the overconfidence of the sea is that He “crushed Rahab like one who is slain” (Psalms 89:10). He, emphatically, He and no one else, did that. Rahab stands for Egypt, but then presented in such a way as to reveal the evil power behind it (Isaiah 30:7; Isaiah 51:9-2 Samuel :; cf. Revelation 13:1-Job :). What He has done with Egypt, He has done with all His enemies. He scattered them with His strong arm.

“The heavens” are His, also “the earth” is His (Psalms 89:11). This is so first, because He created the heavens and the earth, He has right to the heavens and the earth as the Creator (Psalms 24:1-Exodus :). However, the created heavens are defiled by the presence of evil powers and the earth by the Fall. One day the heavens will be cleansed from the presence of these evil powers, and the earth will also be subject to God. This can happen because the Creator has also become the Redeemer. He, as the Redeemer, will again take possession of creation (Revelation 5:1-2 Samuel :; Revelation 10:2).

Heaven, of course, belongs to Him; there He dwells. Of the earth, this does not seem to be the case at the moment, given the sin that reigns there. Yet faith says affirmatively: “The earth is Yours.” “The world and all that it contains” is His because He has “founded them” (cf. Psalms 24:1-Exodus :).

His dominion concerns “the north and the south”, for they were created by Him (Psalms 89:12). The north is what is hidden or dark, where it is cold. The south is what is in the light, where it is warm. Nothing is hidden from Him, for He has made everything. “He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him” (Daniel 2:22). Where it is light, it is because of His presence.

The mountains “Tabor and Hermon” rise above the landscape. They are in their splendor and grandeur as it were the mouth of the earth that opens to sing joyfully to God’s Name. The Tabor is a mountain west of the Jordan, and the Hermon east of it. This means that God created all the earth, in four directions, and that by the conspicuous appearance of Tabor and Hermon, the creation, as it were, rejoices in the Name of the LORD.

All that He has created reveals His omnipotence, His supreme power. He has “a strong arm” (Psalms 89:13). His “hand is mighty”. With His hand He works what He wills. His “right hand is exalted”. What He does is beyond the thinking and the power of man. God works out His plans in situations where everything is hopeless for mankind.

The “foundation of Your throne”, the throne on which He sits and from which He governs all and reigns over all, are “righteousness and justice” (Psalms 89:14). He deals in perfect justice with everything and everyone and does justice to everything and everyone. Thereby “lovingkindness and truth” go before Him. They are, as it were, His heralds who proclaim that He is coming with His blessing. They hold out the prospect of His revelation as love and light (1 John 4:8; 1 John 4:161 John 1:5). The way He goes on earth and all His works bear the stamp of Who He is in lovingkindness and faithfulness.

In this world there is a saying: power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolute. This is why the French philosopher Montesquieu devised the ‘trias politica’. The trias politica – the theory of three powers or the separation of powers – is a theory of the constitution in which the state is divided into three bodies which monitor each other’s functioning. This is not how it is with God. He has absolute power, He is the Almighty (Psalms 89:13) and He combines that with absolute justice, lovingkindness and faithfulness (Psalms 89:14).

Verses 15-18

The People of That God

The description of God’s exaltation is followed by the happy praise of the people who know that God as their LORD (Psalms 89:15). This people knows “the joyful sound” of the trumpet (cf. Numbers 23:21). This is reminiscent of the Feast of the blowing of the Trumpets, which is celebrated when it is new moon (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1). This feast points to the restoration of the relationship between God and His people. Here the emphasis is on the blowing of the trumpet as the starting signal to sing praises to the LORD (Psalms 89:16) and to walk confidently in the light of His presence (Psalms 89:17-Job :).

In Israel the month always begins with new moon. On the fifteenth of the month, the beginning of the Feast of Booths, it is full moon. Then the moon, which receives its light from the sun, reflects the light of the sun. On the first day there is nothing to see of this. This indicates in picture that the testimony of Israel has been obscured. At the same time, this is also the turning point toward the time when the moon will begin to shine again. In spiritual terms, Israel will have a full moon – that is, the beginning of the Feast of Booths – when the church is caught up. The light that Israel will once again receive comes from God. God will deliver His people from their enemies (Psalms 81:4).

When they are delivered from their enemies, they will again “walk in the light of Your countenance”. They do not even have to wait until their enemies are defeated, for they can already rejoice in the LORD by faith. We too can already know that we are more than conquerors in Him Who loves us. This means that they live in His favor and in the awareness of His attention, that He looks after them again. God, Who had to hide His face from them for so long, has turned back to them in grace.

This walking in the light causes joy: “In Your name they rejoice all the day” (Psalms 89:16). A people who have such a King are filled with great joy. Their joy concerns Him; they are grateful to Him for the change He has wrought in their need. They find their happiness in Him, in Who He is, in His government and protection. This is so “all the day”. This refers to the period of the millennial realm of peace. God, their King, is always the same. Therefore their joy is always present. This joy can also be always present with us (Philippians 4:4).

He has lifted them up from the dust. They are no longer the tail of the nations, but God has exalted them by His “righteousness” and made them the head of the nations (Proverbs 14:34). They certainly owe their exalted position to His grace. But it is grace based on righteousness, for the Lord Jesus did the necessary work for it on the cross of Calvary.

They glorify God for what He has done to and for them (Psalms 89:17). They attribute everything to Him. He is “the glory of their strength”. What they are, they are through Him. Of that strength nothing can be seen now, but they know and say in faith: “By Your favor our horn” – the horn is a picture of strength – “is exalted.” He will give them their exalted position of dominion as proof of His good pleasure in them. They have not earned it, but He gives it by grace.

They realize that they are protected by their King, which is the Messiah (Psalms 89:18). He is their “shield” which “belongs to the LORD”, He has given Him to them as their shield. They call Him “our king” Whom they have received from “the Holy One of Israel”. This again refers above all to the Lord Jesus. He has been given by God to His people as King. He will reign on behalf of God, “the Holy One of Israel”, and then do so in perfect accordance with God’s holiness.

“The Holy One of Israel” is the title of God in the book of Isaiah. Isaiah uses that title twenty-five times for the God Who appeared to him as the thrice Holy God (Isaiah 6:1). Israel has taunted and tested and limited Him each time (Psalms 78:40-Mark :). Yet this same God will protect them.

Verses 19-29

The Covenant With David

We have seen two things so far: first, that God, the Holy One of Israel, is King (Psalms 89:18), and second, that God made a covenant with David, His chosen one (Psalms 89:3-Numbers :). These two things are now further clarified.

Ethan reminds God of what He said about the covenant with David. The first announcement of this He made “in vision” (Psalms 89:19). Nothing else is known about this vision. It may have to do with what Samuel says to Saul, that he will no longer be king and God has chosen David as a man after His heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Samuel may be saying this to Saul because God has made it clear to him somehow, perhaps in a vision. Or that when David was anointed, God made it clear to Samuel in a vision that David was the one to anoint (1 Samuel 16:6-1 Chronicles :).

The psalmist speaks to God of David as “Your holy one” [Darby Translation], who is the “exalted one chosen from the people”. First the LORD called Himself “the Holy One of Israel” (Psalms 89:18), He Who sanctified Himself for the sake of Israel (cf. John 17:19). And now the LORD speaks through the psalmist of David as “Your holy one”, that is, He has set apart David, He has anointed him (Psalms 89:20), to be king (cf. John 17:17).

God calls David “one who is mighty”. He is not mighty in and of himself, but because God has provided him with “help” (cf. Genesis 49:24). God has given him the strength to be mighty. David’s might is his care for the sheep, which he protected from the lion and the bear. He himself says of this: “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear” (1 Samuel 17:34-Haggai :).

This shepherd boy, who by God’s help is mighty, is by God “one chosen from the people”. The election of David is entirely God’s business. David’s humble origins and simple profession make it all the more clear that God has exalted him and given him that high position (2 Samuel 7:8; Psalms 78:70-Baruch :).

God has chosen David. At the same time, God has searched for someone to serve Him as a servant (Psalms 89:20; Acts 13:22). He found him in David, whom He calls “My servant”. David is not only a servant when he becomes king, but he is already a servant when he is feeding and tending sheep. In that work he has shown qualities that are of special value to God in ruling as His representative over His people.

We hear the joy in the voice of God when He says: “With My holy oil I have anointed him.” Ethan called David “Your holy one” (Psalms 89:18) and God anointed David with “My holy oil”. He did so by the hand of Samuel (1 Samuel 16:13). Everything at the calling of David bears the mark of holiness.

God finds great joy in David. David is called the anointed one and “My servant”. In both he is a type of Christ, the Anointed Who is pre-eminently called the Servant of the LORD. The Servant of the LORD (Isaiah 52:13) is the Anointed of the LORD (Isaiah 61:1). Of the Lord Jesus it is written that God anointed Him – He is the Christ, meaning the Anointed – with the oil of joy above His fellows (Psalms 45:6-Judges :).

Anointing is done with a view to a service to be performed. Through the anointing a person is initiated into it. The anointing speaks for us of the Holy Spirit, with Whom every believer is anointed (1 John 2:20). By the Spirit we can be a joy to God’s heart. This is so, if we allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit. With the Lord Jesus this was always and perfectly the case on earth. That is why He has always been a joy to God’s heart.

God promises that in his service to Him, He will establish David by His hand (Psalms 89:21). He guarantees the success of his service because He will protect and defend him. With His hand He is always with him. David will be able to perform his service because God’s arm “will strengthen him”. Here again God’s “hand” and God’s “arm” are mentioned (cf. Psalms 89:13).

God, Who is the Almighty God, empowers David. Thus all the attributes of God mentioned earlier in this psalm are now used in the service of David. God’s hand and arm are as firmly attached to him as his own hand and arm are to his body. Everything happens through Him. He works out His covenant and makes it a reality. Therefore failure is out of the question.

David is the forerunner of Him Who is both the Son and Lord of David, the Christ of God, the Chosen One, the Servant of the LORD, Who had to go through suffering in order to be glorified afterwards (Philippians 2:5-1 Kings :).

Because the LORD is his shield, there is no hostile power that will be able to pressure David or overwhelm him (Psalms 89:22). In fact, going up against David is going up against the Almighty. And who will be able go up against the Almighty with any chance of success? The very assumption shows great folly. Also, there is no “son of wickedness” who will “afflict him”. God will see to it that David does not fall into his hands.

The God Who crushed Rahab in the past (Psalms 89:10) will show His great power before the eyes of His chosen king by “crushing his adversaries before him” (Psalms 89:23). He need not fear any opponent, for God will take care of him. Even “those who hate him” God will “strike” with deadly plagues. No one will have a chance to do God’s anointed king any harm because God protects him with His power.

The protection of God consists of His “faithfulness” and His “lovingkindness” (Psalms 89:24). These attributes of God, which we have considered at length at Psalms 89:14, are, so to speak, the protectors of His covenant. They will be with him, his chosen king. In His faithfulness He will preserve David from harm and in His lovingkindness He will guide him. The horn, which symbolizes the power of the king, will be lifted up by David “in My name” (cf. Psalms 89:17). His power lies in the Name of God, which is all that God is and has said.

Everything in and about the king refers to God, the God Who rules over the swelling of the sea (Psalms 89:9). Therefore, a vast territory is subject to his rule. Because God rules his hand, he will “set his hand on the sea” and “his right hand on the rivers” (Psalms 89:25). This indicates his general rule, which will have its full fulfillment in the unlimited rule of the Messiah – that is, the Christ, Who is both Lord and Son of David.

God proves His preference for David not only by giving him a large territory to rule over it. Above all, He brought David into a personal relationship with Himself (Psalms 89:26). The relationship between David and God is that of a son to his father (cf. 2 Samuel 7:14). This is true in a perfect sense of the Lord Jesus (Hebrews 1:5).

That David will cry out to God “You are my Father” means that he acknowledges God as the origin of his kingship. In this sense God is also the Father of His people, He is their origin (Deuteronomy 32:6). David could not say “Abba, Father”, which the New Testament believer can say through the Holy Spirit dwelling in him (Romans 8:15-Nehemiah :; Galatians 4:5-Joshua :). The Holy Spirit works in David, but does not dwell in him. The Holy Spirit did work on the earth in the Old Testament, but did not yet dwell on it. He came to dwell on earth only after the Lord Jesus returned to God after His work on the cross (John 7:37-Malachi :; John 14:16-Esther :John 15:26; John 16:13-2 Chronicles :).

David also calls God “my God, and the rock of my salvation”. In his personal relationship with God, “my God”, he knows Him as “the rock of my salvation”. David is secure in the cleft of the rock, the rock that is smitten; the rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4). By this he expresses that his God is his only confidence and hope in all times. God is the unshakable rock that will bring him to the full salvation.

God’s grace goes even further. David is made by God His “firstborn” (Psalms 89:27) and thus heir. David is not the firstborn son of Jesse. He is the youngest son. ‘Firstborn’ therefore does not indicate the order of birth, but a place of honor above others. God makes him “the highest of the kings of the earth”. Both names again apply especially to the Lord Jesus, the King of kings (cf. Colossians 1:15; Colossians 1:18; Romans 8:29; Revelation 1:5).

Nothing can end God’s lovingkindness as a result of His faithfulness to His covenant for David (Psalms 89:28). He will “keep” His lovingkindness for him “forever”. God made His covenant with David not on the basis of the law, but on the basis of the blood of the new covenant shed by the Mediator. That new covenant “shall be confirmed to him”. Nothing can make Him unfaithful to that covenant. He will, without fail, fulfill everything He has committed Himself to in that covenant.

God “will establish his descendants forever” (Psalms 89:29). Here we may think especially of the Lord Jesus, the Son of David. God has Him in mind. The Messiah will sit on “his throne” in the realm of peace. His government will be “as the days of heaven”. In His government He will bring heaven to earth, making the days on earth like the days of heaven (cf. Deuteronomy 11:21; Isaiah 66:22).

Verses 30-37

If … Then … But

The covenant with David, that is, the old covenant, means that his sons cannot “forsake” God’s “law” with impunity (Psalms 89:30). The law is the expression of God’s will for their entire social and religious life. If they forsake the law, they do not walk in God’s “judgments” that He has given for certain aspects of their lives.

Nor can they “violate” [literally: “profane”] His “statutes”, His rules for dealing with Him and with one another, without consequences (Psalms 89:31). If they forsake or profane them, that is, see them as ordinary, human statutes that they can willfully ignore, they will be punished. Likewise, the failure to keep God’s “commandments” will bring God’s punishment upon them. His commandments are an express expression of His will.

If David’s descendants do not heed all these different manifestations of God’s will, He will “punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes” (Psalms 89:32; cf. Isaiah 10:5). God has done this by having the Assyrians and the Babylonians remove respectively the ten tribes and the two tribes from the land. He used these nations to punish and strike His people with the rod.

In spite of this, He did not “break off” His “lovingkindness from” David (Psalms 89:33). It is impossible that He will fail in His faithfulness to His covenant. God has not made a final end of His disobedient people. He is not embarrassed by their unfaithfulness. God always preserves for the fulfillment of His covenant a remnant according to the election of grace (Romans 9:27-Joel :; Romans 11:5).

This grace is possible because Christ, as Mediator of the new covenant, took upon Himself the curse of the first or old covenant. God could not, of course, act contrary to the content of the covenant, that is, God had to punish the sin and failure of the people. Yet if God were to achieve His purpose, Christ had to bear the people’s punishment, or the covenant would be nullified.

In strong terms, God declares the firmness of His covenant (Psalms 89:34). He calls it “My covenant”. He has made it and guaranteed its fulfillment. Therefore He will “not violate” [literally: “not profane”] it by not acting upon it. What has come from His lips are not thoughtless statements, as is often the case with us. He does not change what He has said, He does not alter the conditions, but keeps His original agreement.

What He has said, He has sworn (Psalms 89:35). It is the most powerful way of promising something, which with Him at the same time implies absolute fulfillment in the right time and manner. He has sworn “by My holiness”. He does not profane His covenant, as He said in Psalms 89:34, because it is contrary to His holiness. He is perfectly holy, perfectly set apart from evil and sin.

God says all this in this way in order to convince His weak, often doubting people that He is fulfilling His promises. As an additional confirmation, He says: “I will not lie to David” (cf. Hebrews 6:17-Job :). It is impossible for God to lie, for He cannot lie (Titus 1:2; Numbers 23:19). Lying is completely foreign to His nature.

He has said that David’s descendants shall endure forever, therefore they will remain forever (Psalms 89:36). There will always be someone from his descendants sitting on his throne. This is none other than the Messiah, the Son of David and also the Son of God. His throne “as the sun before Me” means that God always sees that throne. Here is a government that perfectly and continuously answers to His holiness. Therefore, that throne is as fixed “as the sun” is fixed in the sky.

The reign of the Messiah “shall be established forever like the moon” (Psalms 89:37). The moon is connected to the sun; it derives its light from the sun. The sun stands firm, the moon endures forever. Both symbolize the reign of light in the realm of peace (Genesis 1:14-Nehemiah :). Both the position and the duration of the reign are unchanging. The kingdom of Messiah is an eternal kingdom (Daniel 2:44).

The moon is “the witness in the sky”. This witness “is faithful”. The moon has changes in her appearance. She goes in a cycle from new moon to full moon and from full moon to new moon. Although there are changes, there is no surprise. It is a faithful image that returns every month. In this way God points to His faithfulness, which always remains, even though it is more noticeable to man at one moment than at another.

Verses 38-45

Cast Off and Rejected

The current situation is at odds with the firmness and fulfillment of the covenant and is reminiscent of new moon. It is night, without the light of the moon. David, the chosen king, has been cast off and rejected by God (Psalms 89:38). David is rejected through his own fault. His descendants, the people of Israel, have also been cast off by their own sins. Christ, the Lord and the Son of David, was also cast off and rejected. However, this is not because of His own fault, but because He has become the guilt offering (Isaiah 53:10). This made it possible for God to show lovingkindness to David and his descendants.

We are in the time immediately preceding the fulfillment of the promise, the time of the great tribulation. God has become wroth with His people and the descendants of His anointed king because they have become unfaithful to Him. In the opinion of the believing remnant, God has broken the old covenant with His servant (Psalms 89:39). God has “profaned his crown in the dust”, his crown of royal dignity. There is nothing left of the former greatness and honor.

The city of God, the city of David, has become a ruin (Psalms 89:40). The city has become freely accessible by the breaches in the walls. The defenses are down, the fortifications are in ruins. Ethan attributes it to the actions of God.

With the removal of protection, the city of David has been plundered by those “who pass along the way” (Psalms 89:41). Nor is there any respect left for the city. To “his neighbors”, the neighboring peoples, “he has become a reproach”.

God has not only given the adversaries access to the city, but also “exalted the right hand of his adversaries” (Psalms 89:42). He has given them the strength for it and given them power over His people. Thereby He has “made all his enemies rejoice”, but in the sense of gloating.

In contrast, He has turned the sword of His people against themselves (Psalms 89:43). He has withheld His power from them and thereby “made them not stand in the battle”. They are defeated, perished, scattered, carried off or fled.

He has made the splendor of the king to cease, there is nothing left of it (Psalms 89:44). All the splendor that marked his kingship is gone. Of his dominion nothing remains either, for He has “cast his throne to the ground”. There is nothing left to rule, because the people have been scattered over the surrounding countries or taken into exile.

The glorious reign of David and of his first successor, his son Solomon, lasted but a short time. Because of Solomon’s unfaithfulness, God “shortened the days of his youth”, that is, of the kingdom of Israel (Psalms 89:45). Things went from bad to worse. God was unable to prolong the days of prosperity and youthful beauty. He has had to give His throne to the nations and “covered” His people “with shame”.

Verses 46-51

How long?

The remnant again asks “how long” that situation is to last (Psalms 89:46; Psalms 13:1-Exodus :). Now it is a question of desperation regarding the circumstances. They experience God hiding Himself from them. Will He do so “forever” (cf. Psalms 77:7-1 Samuel :)? At the same time, the question “how long” is also a question in which the hope that the suffering will come to an end is resounding. But for how long will God’s “wrath burn like fire?”

The question is how long God’s faithfulness to His covenant, how long His lovingkindness, remains invisible. The psalmist puts his trust in the LORD, but the need is great. If the time is not shortened, none of the remnant will remain alive (cf. Matthew 24:22). What then about the LORD’s lovingkindness and faithfulness?

The first reason for the questions is the high need (Psalms 89:46-Galatians :). The second reason is that lovingkindness and faithfulness of the LORD are at stake (Psalms 89:49), the covenant that He has spoken on oath. Finally, the third reason is the reproach that will come upon the remnant and with it upon the honor of the Name of God and of His Christ, His Anointed (Psalms 89:50-Colossians :). This is why the Lord Jesus teaches the remnant to pray: “Hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

They ask God to remember what their “span of life is” (Psalms 89:47). If He still wants to fulfill something of His covenant, let Him do so quickly, or their lives will be over. “For what vanity You have created all the sons of men”, if He is going to let them live for such a short time and then also make it so difficult for them? Eventually, every human being dies (Psalms 89:48). Nobody escapes it because nobody can “deliver his soul from the power of Sheol”.

Then comes the question to the “Lord”, Adonai, where His “former lovingkindnesses” are (Psalms 89:49). Where have they gone? Yet He “swore to David” in His “faithfulness”. But there is nothing of it now. Has God forgotten that He swore by His faithfulness?

Another aspect that brings the remnant before God is the reproach that His servants suffer (Psalms 89:50). Is the Lord thinking about that? “All the many peoples” reproach them. They do not shake off the reproach, but carry it around in their hearts. All the reproach touches them deeply and remains as long as there is no outcome, no answer, no fulfillment of the covenant.

Finally, they point out to the LORD that the enemies are not their enemies, but His, “Your enemies” (Psalms 89:51). His enemies also do not primarily reproach their doings, but “the footsteps of Your anointed”. God’s anointed is David and above him the Messiah.

The enemies of Christ have reproach and mocked Him as ‘the King of the Jews’. They have reproach the way of God that He has gone with the Messiah. That God’s King was born as a Baby into a carpenter’s family and lived His life in humiliation is cause for unbelief to reproach Him. All mockers will see Him again to their dismay, then as Judge.

Verse 52

Amen and Amen

Even though Ethan talks about God not showing Himself, he believes that God is there and will fulfill all His promises. That is why he says: “Blessed be the LORD forever.” The LORD is enthroned on the praises of Israel (Psalms 22:3). Victory is achieved when we begin to praise the LORD (2 Chronicles 20:21-Song of Solomon :), so too here in the third book of Psalms. Ethan underscores his praise with a confident “amen and amen”. It is sure and certain.

The psalmist in Psalm 73, the first psalm of the third book of Psalms, goes into the sanctuary (Psalms 73:17), where the LORD is praised forever. He does that also and especially in times of trial, in times of difficulty here in the last psalm of this third book. Faith that is purified answers with “amen and amen” and magnifies the Name of the LORD.

Thus faith triumphs over circumstances. Through the darkness, the believer sees the light of hope. This hope is the trust in Him Who will fulfil His covenant promises, even though everything seems to prevent this fulfilment.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 89". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-89.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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