PSALM 89 OVERVIEW.
We have now reached the majestic Covenant Psalm, which, according to the Jewish arrangement closes the third book of the Psalms. It is the utterance of a believer, in presence of great national disaster, pleading with his God, urging the grand argument of covenant engagements, and expecting deliverance and help, because of the faithfulness of Jehovah.
TITLE. -- Maschil. This is most fitly called a Maschil, for it is most instructive. No subject is more important or is so fully the key to all theology as that of the covenant. He who is taught by the Holy Spirit to be clear upon the covenant of grace will be a scribe well instructed in the things of the kingdom; he whose doctrinal theory is a mingle mangle of works and grace is scarcely fit to be teacher of babes. Of Ethan the Ezrahite: perhaps the same person as Jeduthun, who was a musician in David's reign; was noted for his wisdom in Solomon's days, and probably survived till the troubles of Rehoboam's period. If this be the man, he must have written this Psalm in his old age, when troubles were coming thick and heavy upon the dynasty of David and the land of Judah; this is not at all improbable, and there is much in the Psalm which looks that way.
DIVISIONS. -- The sacred poet commences by affirming his belief in the faithfulness of the Lord to his covenant with the house of David, and makes his first pause at Psalms 89:4 . He then praises and magnifies the name of the Lord for his power, justice, and mercy, Ps 89:5-14. This leads him to sing of the happiness of the people who have such a God to be their glory and defence, Psalms 89:15-18 . He rehearses the terms if the covenant at full length with evident delight, Psalms 89:19-37 , and then mournfully pours out his complaint and petition, Psalms 89:38-51 , closing the whole with a hearty benediction and a double Amen. May the Holy Spirit greatly bless to us the reading of this most precious Psalm of instruction.
Verse 1. I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. A devout resolve, and very commendable when a man is exercised with great trouble on account of an apparent departure of the Lord from his covenant and promise. Whatever we may observe abroad or experience in our own persons, we ought still to praise God for his mercies, since they most certainly remain the same, whether we can perceive them or not. Sense sings but now and then, but faith is an eternal songster. Whether others sing or not, believers must never give over; in them should be constancy of praise, since God's love to them cannot by any possibility have changed, however providence may seem to frown. We are not only to believe the Lord's goodness, but to rejoice in it evermore; it is the source of all our joy, and as it cannot be dried up, so the stream ought never to fail to flow, or cease to flash in sparkling crystal of song. We have not one, but many mercies to rejoice in, and should therefore multiply the expressions of our thankfulness. It is Jehovah who deigns to deal out to us our daily benefits, and he is the all sufficient and immutable God; therefore our rejoicing in him must never suffer diminution. By no means let his exchequer of glory be deprived of the continual revenue which we owe to it. Even time itself must not bound our praises -- they must leap into eternity; he blesses us with eternal mercies -- let us sing unto him forever.
With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. The utterances of the present will instruct future generations. What Ethan sung is now a text book for Christians, and will be so as long as this dispensation shall last. We ought to have an eye to posterity in all that we write, for we are the schoolmasters of succeeding ages. Ethan first spoke with his mouth that which he recorded with his pen -- a worthy example of using both means of communication; the mouth has a warmer manner than the pen, but the pen's speech lives longest, and is heard farther and wider. While reading this Psalm, such in the freshness of the style, that one seems to hear it gushing from the poet's mouth; he makes the letters live and talk, or, rather, sing to us. Note, that in this second sentence he speaks of faithfulness, which is the mercy of God's mercies -- the brightest jewel in the crown of goodness. The grace of an unfaithful God would be a poor subject for music, but unchangeable love and immutable promises demand everlasting songs. In times of trouble it is the divine faithfulness which the soul hangs upon; this is the bower anchor of the soul, its hold fast, and its stay. Because God is, and ever will be, faithful, we have a theme for song which will not be out of date for future generations; it will never be worn out, never be disproved, never be unnecessary, never be an idle subject, valueless to mankind. It will also be always desirable to make it known, for men are too apt to forget it, or to doubt it, when hard times press upon them. We cannot too much multiply testimonies to the Lord's faithful mercy -- if our own generation should not need them others will: sceptics are so ready to repeat old doubts and invent new ones that believers should be equally prompt to bring forth evidences both old and new. Whoever may neglect this duty, those who are highly favoured, as Ethan was, should not be backward.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. The present Psalm makes a pair with the preceding one. It is a spiritual Allegro to that Penseroso ... That Psalm was a dirge of Passion Tide, this Psalm is a carol of Christmas. --Christopher Wordsworth.
Whole Psalm. -- There are many passages in this Psalm which do clearly evidence that it is to be interpreted of Christ; yea, there are many things in this Psalm that can never be clearly, pertinently, and appositely applied to any but Jesus Christ. For a taste, see Ps 89:19 "I have laid help upon one that is mighty", mighty to pardon, reconcile, to justify, to save, to bring to glory; suitable to that of the Apostle, Hebrews 7:25 , "He is able to save to the uttermost" -- that is, to all ends and purposes, perfectly, completely, fully, continually, perpetually. Christ is a thorough Saviour, a mighty Saviour: Isaiah 63:1 , "Mighty to save." There needs none to come after him to finish the work which he hath begun: Psalms 89:19 , I have exalted one chosen out of the people, which is the very title given to our Lord Jesus: Isaiah 62:1 , "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect", or chosen one, "in whom my soul delighteth": Psalms 89:20 , I have fouled David my servant. Christ is very frequently called by that name, as being most dearly beloved of God, and most highly esteemed and valued by God, and as being typified by him both as king and prophet of his church: Psalms 89:20 , With my holy oil have I anointed him; suitable to that of Christ; Luke 4:18 , "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor"; and therefore we need not doubt of the excellency, authority, certainty, and sufficiency of the gospel: Psalms 89:27 , I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. Christ is the firstborn of every creature, and in all things hath the preeminence: Psalms 89:29 , His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. This is chiefly spoken of Christ and his kingdom. The aspectable heaven is corruptible, but the kingdom of heaven is eternal; and such shall be Christ's seed, throne and kingdom: Psalms 89:36 , His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. "Christ shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand", Isa 53:10. And his throne as the sun before me; that is, perpetual and glorious, as the Chaldee explains it, shall shine as the sun. Other kingdoms and thrones have their times and their turns, their rise and their ruins, but so hath not the kingdom and throne of Jesus Christ. Christ's dominion is "an everlasting dominion", which shall not pass away; "and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed", Daniel 7:13-14 . I might give further instances out of this Psalm, but enough is as good as a feast. New saith God, "I have made a covenant with him;" so then there is a covenant that God the Father hath made with Christ the Mediator; which covenant, the Father engages to the Son, shall stand fast, there shall be no cancelling or disannulling of it. God the Father hath not only made a covenant of grace with the saints in Christ, but he has also made a covenant of redemption, as we call it for distinction sake, with Jesus Christ himself: "My covenant shall stand fast with him;" that is, with Christ, as we have fully demonstrated. --Thomas Brooks.
Verse 1. This one short verse contains the summary, pith, and argument of the whole long Psalm; wherein observe The Song's Ditty, the lovingkindness and truth of the Lord, manifested unto the whole world generally, to David's house (that is, the church) especially. The Singer's Duty, magnifying the mercies of God always, even from one generation to another. And by all means; with his mouth, for that is expressed in this verse; with his mind, for that is implied in the next -- I have said, etc., that is, believed in my heart, and therefore spake it with my tongue, Psalms 116:10 . "For out of the heart's abundance the mouth speaketh", Matthew 12:34 . -- John Boys.
Verse 1. I will sing. It is to be observed that he does not say, I will speak of the goodness of the Lord; but, I will sing. The celebration of the divine goodness has joined with itself the joy and exultation of a pious mind, which cannot be poured forth better than in song. That pleasantness and exuberance of a happy spirit, which by singing is instilled into the ears of the listeners, has a certain wonderful power of moving the affections; so that not in vain were pious minds taught by the Holy Spirit to inculcate the wonderful work of God in songs composed for this purpose, to commit them to memory and to appoint them to be sung. --Musculus.
Verse 1. I will sing. The Psalmist has a very sad complaint to make of the deplorable condition of the family of David at this time, and yet he begins the Psalm with songs of praise; for we must in every thing, in every state, give thanks. We think when we are in trouble we get ease by complaining: but we do more, we get joy, by praising. Let our complaints therefore be turned into thanksgiving; and in these verses we find that which will be in matter of praise and thanksgiving for us in the worst of times, whether upon a personal or public account. --Matthew Henry.
Verse 1. Sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. S. Gregory the Great raises the question here as to how a perpetual singing of the mercies of God is compatible with unalloyed bliss in heaven, inasmuch as the thought of mercy connotes the memory of sin and sorrow, which needed mercy, whereas Isaiah saith that "the former troubles are forgotten", and "the former things shall not be remembered, nor come upon the heart" (Isa 65:16-17). And he replies that it will be like the memory of past sickness in time of health, without stain, without grief, and serving only to heighten the felicity of the redeemed, by the contrast with the past, and to increase their love and gratitude towards God. And so sings the Cluniac: (Bernard of Clairvaux.)
"Their breasts are filled with gladness,
Their mouths are tuned to praise,
What time, now safe for ever,
On former sins they gaze:
The fouler was the error,
The sadder was the fall,
The ampler are the praises
Of him who pardoned all."
Note, too, that he says, "with my mouth", not with that of any deputy; I will make known, not secretly or timidly, not in a whisper, but boldly preach, Thy faithfulness, or truth, not my own opinion, far less my own falsehood, but Thy Truth, which is, Thine Only begotten Son. --Gregory, Bernard, Hugo, and Augustine: quoted by Neale and Littledale.
Verse 1. Mercies. The word may be rendered graces, kindnesses, goodnesses, and designs the abundance of grace. --John Gill.
Verse 1. The mercies. His manifold and sundry mercies: as if he should say, we have tasted of more than one, yea, we have felt all his mercies; I will therefore praise the same for ever. I will sing his mercy for creating this universe, which is macrocosmos, a great world; and for making man, which is microcosmos, a little world.
- My song shall set forth his kindness, for that he gave me being.
- For adding to my being, life, which he denieth unto stones.
- To life, sense, which he denieth unto plants.
- To sense, speech and understanding, which he denieth unto brute beasts ...
I am exceeding much bound unto God for creating me when I was not; and for preserving me under his wings ever since I was: yet I am more bound to his mercy for redeeming me, for blessing me with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ his Son ( Ephesians 1:1-23 3:1-21), for his electing of me, for his calling of me, for his justifying of me, for his sanctifying of me. These graces are the riches of his goodness and glory, misericordioe in oeternum, everlasting mercies, as reaching from everlasting predestination to everlasting glorification. O Lord, I will always sing thy mercies in promising, and ever shew thy truth in performing thy promise made to David, thy chosen servant, concerning thy Son, my Saviour, saying, "Thy seed will I establish for ever." So the fathers expound our text: I will ever sing thy mercies, in vouchsafing to send thy Son to visit thy servants, sick to death in sin. First, I will ever sing of thy mercifulness, and then will ever be shewing thy faithfulness. Neque enim exhiberetur veritas in impletione promissorum nisi proecederet misericordia in remissione peccatorum. (For truth, in the fulfilment of the promises, would not be shown forth; unless mercy, in the forgiveness of sins, should precede it.) And what is God's mercy set up for ever, and his truth established in the heavens, but that which Isaiah terms, "the sure mercies of David": that is, as Paul construes Isaiah, the holy promise made to David and the promise made to David, is briefly this, "Thy seed will I establish for ever, and set up thy throne from generation to generation." --John Boys.
Verse 1. For ever. I know some join in oeternum to the noun misercordias, and not to the verb cantabo, making the sense to be this: I will always sing thy mercies which endure for ever. But always is referred as well, if not better, unto the verb, I will sing: as who would say, Lord, thy mercies are so manifest, and so manifold, so great in their number, and so good in their nature, that I will alway, so long as I have any being, sing praises unto thee Haply some will object, "All flesh is grass, and the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth", ( Isaiah 40:6-7 ). David being persecuted by Saul, said, "There is but a step between me and death", ( 1 Samuel 20:3 ). Nay, David, thy life is shorter than a stride, but "a span long", as thyself witnesseth, Psalms 39:5 . How can he then that begs his bread but for a day promise to spend his breath in magnifying the Lord for ever? Answer is made, that the prophet will not only commend the mercies of the Lord in word, but also commit them unto writing. Ut sciat hoec oetas, posteritasque legat (Eobanus Hessus.) (that this age may know, and that posterity may read.) As the tongue of the prophet is termed elsewhere "the pen of a writer"; so the writing of the Prophet is here termed his mouth, as Euthymeus upon the place ( Acts 4:25 ), Liber Psalmorum os David (The Book of Psalms is the mouth of David). He doth intend to note the mercies of God, and to set forth his truth in a book, the which he will leave behind him (as an instrument) to convey the same from generation to generations, from the generation of Jews to the generation of Christians. Or from the Old Testament to the New: for the blessed Apostles in their sermons usually cite sentences out of the Psalms. S. Peter telleth us that the gospel was preached unto the dead ( 1 Peter 4:6 ); so may we say, that the gospel is preached by the dead. For the most ancient fathers, and other judicious authors, who have spent their days in writing learned expositions and godly meditations upon the Holy Scriptures, although they be dead, yet they "sing all the mercies of the Lord, and shew the truth of his word from one generation to another." It is reported in our chronicles of Athelstan, parum oetati vixit, multum glorioe (he lived but little of time, but much of glory). So many zealous and industrious doctors have lived (in respect of their age) but a little, yet in respect of their acts, a great while, shining still in their works and writings, as lights of the world.
Or the prophet may be said to sing ever intentionally, though not actually. For as the wicked, if he could live alway, would sin alway, so the good man (if God should suffer him alway to breathe on earth) would sing alway the mercies of the Lord. -- John Boys.
Verse 1. With my mouth. The author has heard continual praises from a tongue half eaten away with cancer. What use, beloved reader, are you making of your tongue? -- Philip Bennett Power.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. --
- Mercies celebrated.
- When? -- "for ever."
- By whom? -- by those who are the subjects of them.
- Therefore they must live for ever to celebrate them.
- Faithfulness declared.
- To our own generation.
- To succeeding generations by its influence upon others.