Psalm 89 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
This psalm, the last in Book III of the Psalter, is a little harder to characterize than the others. Although it is still primarily a psalm of lament, it is much brighter in perspective than the previous psalm, which is the darkest prayer in all the psalter. In addition to the complaint/lament mentioned in the latter part of the psalm, Psalm 89 offers some praise to God throughout for his faithfulness to his anointed one, the Son of David. Additionally, in the superscription, we are told that it is a maskil, which means it is a song of wisdom, or that it was written by a wise or enlightened man. There are thirteen such maskils found throughout the psalter in Psalms 32, 42, 44-45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88-89, and 142. This maskil was actually written by a brother of the man who wrote the previous psalm—Psalm 88 was written by Heman the Ezrahite, whereas this psalm was written by Ethan the Ezrahite. Both of these men, like Solomon, were well known not only for their songs but also for their great wisdom (see 1 Kings 4:29-31). So this psalm strikes a number of notes including that of lament/complaint (vv.38-45, 49-51), a search for wisdom (vv.46-48), a song of praise (vv.1-2; 5-18, 52) and a prophecy concerning the Christ to come (vv.3-4, 19-37).
The first verse is probably much more familiar to many of you than the rest of the psalm, for it was turned into a praise song back in the 1930’s and became very popular in the seventies and eighties. Unfortunately, though, like in many other praise choruses, this one verse was divorced from the context of the psalm, which misses the point of the psalmist altogether. Ethan is not in a jubilant mood when he is singing these words. He’s confused; he’s upset, and he’s longing for God to act on behalf of His people and His king who are being mocked. Notice the connection between vv.1-2 where Ethan is vowing that he will continue to sing of God’s steadfast love even when he doesn’t see it and v.49 where he says, “Lord, where is your steadfast love of old, which by your faithfulness you swore to David?” The substance of his petition is found in the following verses (vv.50-51) when he says, “Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked, and how I bear in my heart the insults of many nations, with which your enemies mock, O Lord, with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed.”
In his day, God’s people were being insulted and Israel’s king was being mocked by the wicked. So Ethan is reminding the Lord of the covenants that he made with his people through Abraham, Moses and David to bless His people, to protect them and to exalt their king and kingdom in this world. After the time of Solomon, all the kings in Israel were wicked, and most of the kings in Judea were also. Even those who sought righteousness and justice fell far short of the mark, and at times the Lord humbled his kings and their people. This was one of those times, so the psalmist is asking for the Lord to prove his faithfulness and his steadfast love to His people, even when His people have proved unfaithful and unloving to Him.
After spending much time praising God for his great power and might, for his holiness, righteousness and justice, he begins to praise God for his faithfulness to the true Son of David that He will not allow him to be outwitted by his enemies or to be crushed by his foes, but that God will always manifest his faithfulness to him and keep his covenant of love with him. And then, Ethan prays that the Lord will exalt his king, the son of David and remember his covenant with his people removing their shame.
Once again, this psalm should remind us not to put our trust in men or to expect a leader in government to be perfect in godliness. Our hope is in the Lord and our trust is in the coming of the Lord Jesus to establish righteousness and justice forever in his kingdom. Until then, we cry out with the psalmist, saying, “How long, O Lord?” Until then, we continue to praise His name in faith for his steadfast love and faithfulness, for the Lord will keep his promise to us concerning his son. He will not allow his people and his Son to be mocked much longer, for his steadfast love endures forever. Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen!