Psalms 89

Perplexity about God's Promises


A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

1 I will sing about the Lord's faithful love forever;[a] with my mouth I will proclaim Your faithfulness to all generations.
2 For I will declare, "Faithful love is built up forever; You establish Your faithfulness in the heavens."
3 [The Lord said,] "I have made a covenant with My chosen one; I have sworn an oath to David My servant:
4 'I will establish your offspring forever and build up your throne for all generations.' "[b] Selah
5 Lord, the heavens praise Your wonders- Your faithfulness also- in the assembly of the holy ones.
6 For who in the skies can compare with the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings[c] is like the Lord?
7 God is greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, more awe-inspiring than[d] all who surround Him.[e]
8 Lord God of Hosts, who is strong like You, Lord?[f] Your faithfulness surrounds You.
9 You rule the raging sea; when its waves surge, You still them.[g]
10 You crushed Rahab[h] [i] like one who is slain; You scattered Your enemies with Your powerful arm.
11 The heavens are Yours; the earth also is Yours.[j] The world and everything in it-You founded them.
12 North and south-You created them. Tabor and Hermon shout for joy at Your name.
13 You have a mighty arm; Your hand is powerful; Your right hand is lifted high.[k]
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;[l] faithful love and truth[m] go before You.
15 Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Lord, they walk in the light of Your presence.
16 They rejoice in Your name all day long, and they are exalted by Your righteousness.
17 For You are their magnificent strength; by Your favor our horn is exalted.
18 Surely our shield[n] [o] belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.
19 You once spoke in a vision to Your loyal ones and said: "I have granted help to a warrior; I have exalted one chosen[p] from the people.
20 I have found David My servant; I have anointed him with My sacred oil.[q]
21 My hand will always be with him, and My arm will strengthen him.
22 The enemy will not afflict[r] him; no wicked man will oppress him.
23 I will crush his foes before him and strike those who hate him.
24 My faithfulness and love will be with him, and through My name his horn will be exalted.[s]
25 I will extend his power to the sea and his right hand to the rivers.[t]
26 He will call to Me, 'You are my Father,[u] my God, the rock of my salvation.'[v]
27 I will also make him My firstborn,[w] greatest of the kings of the earth.
28 I will always preserve My faithful love for him, and My covenant with him will endure.
29 I will establish his line forever, his throne as long as heaven lasts.[x] [y]
30 If his sons forsake My instruction and do not live by My ordinances,
31 if they dishonor My statutes and do not keep My commandments,
32 then I will call their rebellion to account with the rod, their sin with blows.[z]
33 But I will not withdraw My faithful love from him or betray My faithfulness.
34 I will not violate My covenant or change what My lips have said.[aa]
35 Once and for all I have sworn an oath by My holiness;[ab] I will not lie to David.
36 His offspring will continue forever, his throne like the sun before Me,
37 like the moon, established forever, a faithful witness in the sky."[ac] Selah
38 But You have spurned and rejected him; You have become enraged with Your anointed.
39 You have repudiated the covenant with Your servant; You have completely dishonored his crown.[ad] [ae]
40 You have broken down all his walls; You have reduced his fortified cities to ruins.
41 All who pass by plunder him;[af] he has become a joke to his neighbors.
42 You have lifted high the right hand of his foes; You have made all his enemies rejoice.
43 You have also turned back his sharp sword and have not let him stand in battle.
44 You have made his splendor[ag] cease and have overturned his throne.
45 You have shortened the days of his youth; You have covered him with shame.[ah] Selah
46 How long, Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your anger keep burning like fire?[ai]
47 Remember how short my life is.[aj] Have You created everyone for nothing?
48 What man can live and never see death? Who can save himself from the power of Sheol? Selah
49 Lord, where are the former acts of Your faithful love that You swore to David in Your faithfulness?
50 Remember, Lord, the ridicule against Your servants- in my heart I carry [abuse] from all the peoples-
51 how Your enemies have ridiculed, Lord, how they have ridiculed every step of Your anointed.
52 May the Lord be praised forever. Amen and amen. BOOK IV (Psalms 90-106)

Psalms 89 Commentary

Chapter 89

God's mercy and truth, and his covenant. (1-4) The glory and perfection of God. (5-14) The happiness of those in communion with him. (15-18) God's covenant with David, as a type of Christ. (19-37) A calamitous state lamented, Prayer for redress. (38-52)

Verses 1-4 Though our expectations may be disappointed, yet God's promises are established in the heavens, in his eternal counsels; they are out of the reach of opposers in hell and earth. And faith in the boundless mercy and everlasting truth of God, may bring comfort even in the deepest trials.

Verses 5-14 The more God's works are known, the more they are admired. And to praise the Lord, is to acknowledge him to be such a one that there is none like him. Surely then we should feel and express reverence when we worship God. But how little of this appears in our congregations, and how much cause have we to humble ourselves on this account! That almighty power which smote Egypt, will scatter the enemies of the church, while all who trust in God's mercy will rejoice in his name; for mercy and truth direct all he does. His counsels from eternity, and their consequences to eternity, are all justice and judgment.

Verses 15-18 Happy are those who so know the joyful sound of the gospel as to obey it; who experience its power upon their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives. Though believers are nothing in themselves, yet having all in Christ Jesus, they may rejoice in his name. May the Lord enable us to do so. The joy of the Lord is the strength of his people; whereas unbelief dispirits ourselves and discourages others. Though it steals upon us under a semblance of humility, yet it is the very essence of pride. Christ is the Holy One of Israel; and in him was that peculiar people more blessed than in any other blessing.

Verses 19-37 The Lord anointed David with the holy oil, not only as an emblem of the graces and gifts he received, but as a type of Christ, the King Priest, and Prophet, anointed with the Holy Ghost without measure. David after his anointing, was persecuted, but none could gain advantage against him. Yet all this was a faint shadow of the Redeemer's sufferings, deliverance, glory, and authority, in whom alone these predictions and promises are fully brought to pass. He is the mighty God. This is the Redeemer appointed for us, who alone is able to complete the work of our salvation. Let us seek an interest in these blessings, by the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. As the Lord corrected the posterity of David for their transgressions, so his people shall be corrected for their sins. Yet it is but a rod, not a sword; it is to correct, not to destroy. It is a rod in the hand of God, who is wise, and knows what he does; gracious, and will do what is best. It is a rod which they shall never feel, but when there is need. As the sun and moon remain in heaven, whatever changes there seem to be in them, and again appear in due season; so the covenant of grace made in Christ, whatever alteration seems to come to it, should not be questioned.

Verses 38-52 Sometimes it is not easy to reconcile God's providences with his promises, yet we are sure that God's works fulfil his word. When the great Anointed One, Christ himself, was upon the cross, God seemed to have cast him off, yet did not make void his covenant, for that was established for ever. The honour of the house of David was lost. Thrones and crowns are often laid in the dust; but there is a crown of glory reserved for Christ's spiritual seed, which fadeth not away. From all this complaint learn what work sin makes with families, noble families, with families in which religion has appeared. They plead with God for mercy. God's unchangeableness and faithfulness assure us that He will not cast off those whom he has chosen and covenanted with. They were reproached for serving him. The scoffers of the latter days, in like manner, reproach the footsteps of the Messiah when ( 2 Peter. 3:3 2 Peter. 3:4 ) records of the Lord's dealings with the family of David, show us his dealings with his church, and with believers. Their afflictions and distresses may be grievous, but he will not finally cast them off. Self-deceivers abuse this doctrine, and others by a careless walk bring themselves into darkness and distress; yet let the true believer rely on it for encouragement in the path of duty, and in bearing the cross. The psalm ends with praise, even after this sad complaint. Those who give God thanks for what he has done, may give him thanks for what he will do. God will follow those with his mercies, who follow him with praises.

Footnotes 37

Chapter Summary

Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite. Who this Ethan was is not certain. Kimchi takes him to be the same with Ethan the wise man, a grandson of Judah, 1 Kings 4:31. But seeing he lived some hundreds of years before the times of David, it is not likely that he should be the writer of this psalm; for David is made mention of in it, which could not be, unless it can be thought to be by a spirit of prophecy; which indeed is the opinion of Doctor Lightfoot {k}, who takes this Ethan to be the penman of this psalm; and who "from the promise, Genesis 15:1 sings joyfully the deliverance (of Israel); that the raging of the Red sea should be ruled, Psalm 89:9, and Rahab, or Egypt, should be broken in pieces, Psalm 89:10, and that the people should hear the joyful sound of the law, Psalm 89:15, and as for the name of David in it, this, he says, might be done prophetically; as Samuel is thought to be named by Moses, Psalm 99:6, which psalm is held to be made by him; or else might be put into it, in later times, by some divine penman, endued with the same gift of prophecy, who might improve the ground work of this psalm laid by Ethan, and set it to an higher key; namely, that whereas he treated only of bodily deliverance from Egypt, it is wound up so high as to reach the spiritual delivery by Christ; and therefore David is often named, from whence he should come."

There was another Ethan, a singer, in David's time; and it is more probable that he is the person, who might live to the times of Rehoboam, and see the decline of David's family, and the revolt of the ten tribes from it; or perhaps it was one of this name who lived in the times of the Babylonish captivity, and saw the low estate that David's family were come into; to which agrees the latter part of this psalm; and, in order to comfort the people of God, he wrote this psalm, showing that the covenant and promises of God, made with David, nevertheless stood firm, and would be accomplished: the title of the Septuagint version calls him Etham the Israelite; and the Arabic version Nathan the Israelite: the Targum makes him to be Abraham, paraphrasing it "a good understanding, which was said by the hand of Abraham, that came from the east."

But whoever was the penman of this psalm, it is "maschil," an instructive psalm, a psalm causing to understand; it treats concerning the covenant of grace, and the promises of it; and concerning the mercy and faithfulness of God, in making and keeping the same; and concerning the Messiah and his seed, his church and people; and the stability and duration of all these: many passages in it are applied to the Messiah by Jewish writers, ancient and modern; and Psalm 89:20 is manifestly referred to in Acts 13:22.

Psalms 89 Commentaries

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