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Bible Commentaries

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Psalms 89

Verse 1


This is a glorious Song indeed, in celebration of the blessings of redemption. God the Father's covenant-mercy in Christ is most devoutly acknowledged, and his faithfulness and truth dwelt upon, with a joy unspeakable and full of glory.

Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

Psalms 89:1

Ethan, as the mouth of the church, here sets forth a noble example to the people. He determines to celebrate the praises of Jehovah, and particularly as set forth and displayed in his covenant-love, in the sure mercies of David, even redemption by Christ. Isaiah 55:3 ; Acts 13:34 .

Verses 2-4

Nothing can be more beautiful or interesting than the transition which is here made from Ethan to Jehovah himself. The sacred writer had determined to make known God's mercies; but in so doing, the Lord himself is introduced as proclaiming them. Reader, pause, and recollect, who the speaker is in these verses; and then attend to the most blessed and gracious declarations contained in them. Mark what the Lord God saith: Mercy shall be built up forever. And how? In Christ: for He is the first-born in the womb of mercy, the promised mercy, which carne in with the fall, when it was said, the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head; Genesis 3:15 . And hence, when Zacharias sang concerning Christ's approach, he called him by this very name, the Mercy promised; Luke 1:72 . Reader, indulge the delightful thought, for it is blessed. Christ is indeed the mercy, built up by Jehovah forever. For in him shall men be blessed; and out of him there is not a single mercy for the fallen race of Adam. Precious, precious Jesus! when I consider what a mercy thou art to thy people, and thy Father's mercy also, to all the ends of the earth, how doth my soul rejoice in the consolation! Mercy shall be built up forever. It is blessed to observe how, in reference to this, in all ages of the church, the Holy Ghost comforted the people with an assurance that Jehovah would build the tabernacle of David, which was fallen down; that is, our poor ruined nature, and restore the desolations of many generations. Amos 9:11 ; Isaiah 61:4 ; Revelation 21:3 . Jehovah, having thus made proclamation that the holy mountain of his will and pleasure, next proceeds to inform the church how the eternal edifice of mercy is established: I have made a covenant with my chosen. Here the church is referred to Jehovah's covenant-purpose of redemption, founded in his own everlasting love, and assured to the church in the council of peace between the persons of the Godhead before the world began. Hence all those glorious scriptures, in which Jehovah is represented as transacting the eternal purposes of redemption with his dear Son, Isaiah 49:1-12 ; Psalms 72:7; Psalms 72:7 ; Titus 1:2 ; and hence all those promises made to David, as typical of Christ, with which David's history so much abounds. 2 Samuel 7:1-13 .

Verse 5

How beautiful again is this transition to the church. It is as if the church had said, Is Jehovah so gracious, so abundant in mercy, and truth? then let the heavens above declare thy wonders, and let thy saints below repeat the song of redemption throughout the earth. And agreeably to this, we find angels celebrating redemption, and both at the birth of Christ, and at the return of Christ after redemption-work was finished, shouting their hallelujahs. Revelation 5:9 ; Luke 2:13-14 ; Psalms 24:7-8 .

Verses 6-14

These verses contain a blessed hymn of praise. Jehovah's name, and his perfections, are gratefully celebrated. His sovereignty, grace, power, love, and goodness, are beautifully set forth, and most thankfully acknowledged. The destruction of Israel's enemies, in the ruin of Rahab (meaning Pharaoh) is particularly mentioned with praise. And as this was typical of Christ's victory over Satan and all the enemies of the church, so believers find great consolation in the assured interest they have in Christ and his finished salvation. Hence the prophet, ages before it was accomplished, looking back to the event of Egypt's destruction, sang aloud of the victories of Jesus. Art thou not it which hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon? Art thou not it which hast dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over? Therefore the redeemed, of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads, etc. Isaiah 51:9-11 . I only detain the Reader with one short observation more upon these sweet verses, just to remark, that Tabor and Hermon, which are here said, in a figurative manner, to rejoice in Jehovah's name, are much spoken of in the Old Testament scriptures, and perhaps with peculiar reference to the New. Those hills, the one to the east, and the other to the west, in Canaan, were much frequented by the saints of God. David speaks of the sacred hill of Hermon, and compares brotherly-love to the dew of it, Psalms 133:3; Psalms 133:3 . And Tabor is yet more eminent, as being the memorable spot of Christ's transfiguration, where God the Father proclaimed his perfect love and approbation of Jesus as his dear Son. Well might this hymn, therefore, in allusion to those glorious events, call even the holy hills to rejoice in Jehovah's name. Matthew 17:1-5 .

Verses 15-16

A new subject is here opened. The sacred writer, having celebrated the praises of Jehovah in what had gone before, now speaks of the happiness of his people. Moses had long before observed, that there was no people like Israel; none who had privileges so great and distinguished as they had, in a covenant God to look up to, and to be happy in forever: and here the Psalmist points out in what that happiness consists. Observe: He doth not say, Blessed is the people that hear only, but they that know the joyful sound. Probably he alluded to the calling of the people up to the assemblies of divine worship, the new moon feasts, and especially the jubilee trumpet on the great day of release. And although this trumpet of the jubilee was never sounded but once in every fiftieth year, and consequently was not familiar from frequency, yet not a poor captive in Israel's camp, that longed for the year of release, but perfectly knew the sound, the moment it reached his ear, on the morning of the day of deliverance. Reader, what is the joyful sound of salvation by Jesus, but the same? Oh, what a joyful sound indeed is it to that precious soul, convinced of sin and his utterly lost estate by nature and by practice, that thirsts for Jesus more than the hart for the water brooks! And, Reader, do remark the blessed effects. All such re deemed souls shall walk under divine light, and in the divine life. Jesus's name, his righteousness, his favor, his love, his visits, shall be their daily, hourly enjoyments. All their spiritual joy and happiness are in him, the Lord their righteousness; not in themselves nor in their highest attainments.

Verses 17-18

These verses come in, as assigning the great cause of all the blessedness described in the foregoing verses. It is all centered in the person, and founded on the complete work, of the glorious Head of his church. There, where God the Father hath placed all his glory, there the people who know the joyful sound have placed all their dependence. Surely in the Lord have I righteousness and strength, is what God proclaimed should be the solemn declaration of the redeemed. And then it follows, In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified and shall glory. Isaiah 45:24-25 .

Verses 19-29

Nothing, I venture to believe, hath tended more to obscure the glories of the Lord Jesus, and to hide from the view of an ordinary reader the many blessed things which the book of Psalms is continually holding forth, concerning the person and kingdom of Jesus, under the name of David, than the confounding what is said of Christ with the thoughts of David, king of Israel. David was an eminent type of Christ, it is true; but the name of David, as meaning Christ, was used by the prophets ages after David was dead and buried. See Jeremiah 30:9 ; Ezekiel 34:23-24 ; Hosea 3:5 . Hence Peter the apostle, in his sermon, on the memorable day of Pentecost, endeavored to call off the attention of the Jews wholly from David, to fix it on Christ. In this passage (the 19th verse) particularly, it would be doing the greatest violence to the scripture to suffer the smallest idea of David, king of Israel, to cross the mind, while attending to the sublime truths here recorded. What vision, or what holy One, could these words mean, but Him who was set up from everlasting, and who alone was found worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof? Proverbs 8:23 ; Revelation 5:1-9 . And was not Christ in his human nature, as the Christ of God, chosen out of the people? Is it not blessed to consider that individual Person, that holy Thing, so called, Luke 1:35 ; that body which the Father gave him for the express purpose of salvation, Hebrews 10:5 ; the one, the very individual one chosen out of the people? To behold the Father's choice, and the Spirit's anointing of him, our great Representative, suited for the purposes of our salvation, and accomplishing our redemption by his blood, and righteousness? And, in this point of view, how blessed are all those covenant-engagements and promises of a faithful God, and how eternally secure doth it make all our assurances of righteousness and everlasting happiness in him! Reader, if we read these scriptures with reference to Christ and our interest in him, by virtue of his merit in all he did and in all he suffered as the Surety and Representative of his people; we shall, through the Spirit's teaching, enter into the full enjoyment of the blessings here enumerated, and faith will find a sufficient warrant and authority in the Father's testimony concerning redemption.

Verses 30-32

It is all along considered, in the covenant-engagements of Jehovah, that the seed of Christ will manifest frequent rebellions. I knew, saith Jehovah, speaking of Israel, that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb. Isaiah 48:8 . And therefore, in the covenant, God hath made provision for corrections. Hence chastisements, afflictions, sicknesses, troubles, and the like. Thou wast a God (saith the Psalmist) that forgavest them, though thou took vengeance of their inventions. Psalms 99:8 . And the reason is obvious; the purchase of salvation cost no less a price than the blood of his Son. So inestimable a blessing, and so dearly bought, is not to be trifled with.

Verses 33-37

What a blessed nevertheless this is, (verse 33) and how sweetly doth it come in here, to give relief to a poor sin-beaten, tempted, and fallen soul! Though poor and wretched, and wanderers from the Lord, as the best of Christ's children are in themselves, yet in Jesus are they still viewed, and in him, the Beloved, they are accepted. God the Father hath an eye to his covenant engagements, to his word, to his oath, to his own free everlasting love, and to the ransom which he hath received for their redemption from the hands of their blessed Surety. My soul, think of these things; give thyself wholly to the meditation of them. There is everlasting efficacy, everlasting worth and virtue in the blood of the Lamb; and his blood and righteousness plead more for thee than all thy infirmities cry against thee. Oh, precious Jesus! Oh, gracious God and Father in Christ!

Verses 38-51

Here is a new train of thoughts, arising out of the view of God's covenant love in redemption, celebrated before. The degeneracy of Israel, and the captivity of the people (probably with an eye to the Babylonish oppression) is here, by the Spirit of prophecy, dwelt upon. And if it doth not refer to that particular period of the church, yet it plainly refers to a season when the waters of the sanctuary ran low. The sacred writer pleads hard for deliverance; first, by claiming relationship and covenant-interest; then by adverting to the triumphs of the enemies; next, by reminding the Lord of the length of the affliction, the transitory state of all things here below, the shortness and unsatisfying nature of life, and the very poor condition of fallen sinful man upon earth: and he closes all with an allusion to the insults offered by the enemy to the person and, work of Jesus. Reader, pleadings in prayer are the most interesting parts of prayer, when offered up with confidence in Christ.

Verse 52

The Psalmist cannot conclude, however trying the personal exercises of the soul may be, without taking confidence in divine faithfulness, and proclaiming Jehovah's glory in the contemplation of it. At all events, the Lord shall be blessed forevermore. As if he had said, What signifies all discouragements within me, or around me; without, though fightings; and within, though fears; yet the Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice. God my Father is faithful, Jesus liveth, his blood and righteousness are the same, and the Holy Ghost sets to his seal that God is true. Hence I will put a double Amen to it; so it is, and so it must and ever shall be, Amen. Jehovah is blessed forever and ever; and let all the people say, Amen.


MY soul, did Ethan; determine to sing of the covenant-mercies of the Lord, and to make this the song of his rejoicing forever: and wilt thou suffer thine harp to hang upon the willows? Wilt thou not take it down, and proclaim the same covenant faithfulness of Jehovah to all generations? Hear what the Lord God himself hath said concerning it. - Mercy is by Jehovah himself built up forever: yea, the sure mercies of David. And is not Christ this mercy? Are not all mercies, that are real mercies, founded in him, and flowing wholly from him? Is it not Jesus that gives sweetness, value, enjoyment, and continuance to every mercy? And do not all blessings truly derive their very, property as blessings, from Jesus? Oh! blessed consideration! Mercy is built forever. Jehovah hath made a covenant with his chosen; and hence in the word and oath of Jehovah, all blessings, temporal, spiritual, and eternal, are secured. Hallelujah.

And hast thou, my soul, heard and known this joyful sound? Art thou walking in the light of the divine countenance? Art thou rejoicing in Jesus all the day: and in his righteousness art thou making thy boast? Is this holy One, this almighty One, this chosen One of God, thy chosen? And dost thou say of him, this is He whom my soul loveth? Lord, do thou choose our heritage for us!

Holy Father! my soul desires to bow down before thy footstool, under a deep sense of sin. In how many ways, and in how many and various paths of transgression, have I forsaken thy laws, and walked not in thy judgments! Lord, I accept the punishment of my iniquity, and bless thee for the precious nevertheless in thy covenant-engagements to Jesus, whereby thou hast said, that thou wilt not lie unto David. For his sake, Lord, help me to rest upon the full assurance of all thy covenant promises, that his seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before thee. May my soul exultingly rejoice in the Lord, and for the triumphs of Christ, cry out in the same language with thy servant, Blessed be the Lord forevermore. Amen, and Amen.

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Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 89". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.