Reflections of the Psalms – Psalms 89

Posted on: September 3rd, 2023

At first glance, this psalm seems to be a song of praise to God and the covenant relationship that He established with Israel. However, at verse 39, the praise turns to distress and a plea for understanding, because the promise that God had made with Israel had “seemingly” been broken by the Lord.

The fact that the psalm contains both praise and pleas make the first verse even more significant. In verse 1 the Psalmist wrote, “I will sing of the loving kindness of the LORD forever; to all generations I will make known Your faithfulness with my mouth.” It is easy to sing praises to the Lord when things are going well. When a trial is over and the good, which came from the experience, is apparent, a person can acknowledge God’s wisdom. However, when the distress from trials or suffering is at its peak, it is much easier to question rather than praise. Although distress and pleas were on the mind of the Psalmist, praise of God still took priority.

In verse 3 and 4, the covenant made through David was repeated along with the promise that his throne was firm through all generations. It almost seems like the Psalmist was reminding the Lord of His promise. Then, from verses 5 through 18, the writer describes the power, goodness and righteousness of God.

In verse 15-16 the Psalmist wrote, “How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all the day, and by Your righteousness they are exalted.” For Christians, these verses carry special. God’s plan has been revealed! The great gulf of sin has been bridged through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Too many Christians seem to go through life like they are carrying a great burden, but Jesus promised that a Christian’s burden would be light.

Of all people, Christians should certainly have learned to rejoice in the Lord!

In verses 19 through 37, the Psalmist described the love which God showed to David. David was the king that God loved. In fact, the destruction of Judah by the Assyrians was withheld due to the love which God had for David when he was king. The Psalmist repeated God’s promise that his line and throne would endure forever. In fact, even if David’s descendants did not follow the Lord’s laws, God had still promised to protect the line and throne of David.

The first part of Psalm 89 was praise to God and a declaration of how his love was demonstrated through the promise made with David. All of that was written like a man preparing to make a petition before a judge. First, the evidence was shown of God’s love, power and righteousness. Then, the promise made to Israel through David was presented. All pointed to what should be a continuing time of prosperity, peace and strength for Israel.

However, beginning with verse 38, the scene in the psalm shifted dramatically from the praise to the complaint, or petition, of the Psalmist. Verses 38 through 46 pictured an Israel that was weak, helpless and plundered by its enemies. What should have been was not the reality that Israel faced and the Psalmist raised his questions to God, “How long, O LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?”

Any knowledgeable Christian could have answered the pleas of the Psalmist, but for him, the path was not clear, and God’s intent and plan was a mystery. The only thing he could determine was that God had seemingly gone back on his covenant. Yet, the Psalmist also knew that could not happen. What was the answer?

The answer rests in the fact that any promise of God is conditional. God was not pleased with Israel after the reign of David. The leaders and people kept drifting from God to idols – they committed spiritual adultery. For that reason, Israel was punished. The northern kingdom was completely destroyed and the southern kingdom, Judah, was destroyed and the people were taken into captivity by the Babylonians. In spite of that, God’s covenant, his promises and plan had NOT been forgotten. In the “fullness of time” God’s plan and promises were made known through Jesus Christ. God was true to David. The plea, “How long?” was answered in a stable in the village of Bethlehem.

Today, when problems, evil men or powers seem to block the work of Christians, the same plea goes up, “How long O Lord?”

The answer lies in the Good News. Do not fear or doubt. God is all powerful, he is faithful and just. Evil will lose and the faithful children in Christ Jesus will have the victory. The Christians final words should be the same as the psalm, “Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen”

James Shelburn