The Steadfast Love of the Lord (Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26)
In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote
“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Despite the limited number of certainties Franklin possessed, we ought to strive for more confidence. If we take our cues from Scripture, we find that we can be confident in who God is and what He says.
Last week we considered the enjoyment of God’s blessings. Specifically, Psalm 126 called us to re-live and reclaim the joy of our salvation. Hopefully, you experienced more joy as you reflected upon Psalm 126 during the preaching and throughout the week.
That is how the Psalms work their way into our hearts. First, we must understand the content. Then we can relate to the emotional state reflected by the content. Goal = intellectual and emotional agreement.
Psalm 89 expresses a sincere tension between the promises of God and the experiences of the original audience which seemed to contradict those promises. Our tendency is to doubt the things we cannot see and base all of our security on our present circumstances.
This psalm is another call to trust God despite our circumstances. It teaches us to hope for success when everything seems to be pointing toward certain failure.
The tension resolves in the New Testament, but our faith can be just as fickle at times. We still focus so much upon our frustrations that the promises of God lose their power. We lean on our own understanding and lose all trust (Prov. 3:5).
In a sentence, this psalm teaches that We can be confident in the Word of God because of the character of God. Specifically, we can be confident in the promises of God, because of the steadfast love of God.
Read Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Title: A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite What is a maskil? In short, we don’t know. It is derived from the verb “to make wise” or “have success/skill”. But the thirteen psalms that bear this description aren’t teaching psalms. Many think it’s a musical term that recognizes the skill of the composer/poet/musician…
Ethan the Ezrahite? Ethan only authored Psalm 89. But he is probably also known as Jeduthun, who founded one of three choirs (1 Chr. 15:19; 2 Chr. 5:12) and wrote Psalms 39, 62, and 77. He was recognized for his wisdom (1 Kgs. 4:31). If so, this psalm was likely written by the choir he founded, since Ethan lived during the reign of King Solomon, several centuries before the exile.
The Promise of Steadfast Love (1-4)
1-2 Two forever activities:
- Sing of God’s steadfast love.
- Declare his faithfulness.
God’s love and faithfulness belong together. They “go before” Him (14). These are the characteristics of a covenant making and covenant keeping God. Because God is always loving and faithful, we will sing and declare His praise forever.
Confidence in God’s character carries us through trial and despair. Reflecting upon the attributes of God inevitably impacts our emotions. Instead of “Name it and claim it theology” it’s more like “Know Him and become like Him theology.”
3-4 Two forever promises:
- Offspring established.
- A Throne.
These promises received initial and partial fulfillment under the reign of David. But their fullness was established in David’s greater Son, King Jesus. More than two centuries after David’s reign, Isaiah prophesied that another King, sitting on David’s throne, would bear the weight of the government upon his shoulders and reign forevermore (Isa. 9:6-7). That is the very promise the Angel Gabriel gave to Mary (Lk. 1:31-33).
But, at that time (and this!), these are the precise promises of God that seem to have failed. The exile jeopardized the line of David and destroyed his throne. Today, we often interpret the delay of Christ’s return as an admission of failure. The remedy is to sing God’s promises when their fulfillment seems bleak.
When we are declining and on the brink of giving in, we should look beyond our circumstances and confidently declare God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Remember, God’s promises will never fail!
The promise of steadfast love is exhibited by…
The Presence of Steadfast Love (19-26)
19-21 God chose David from among the people (1 Sam. 16:1; 2 Sam. 7:12-17). He helped him and strengthened him in his might. He exalted and anointed him as king. He promised to remain with him and sustain him.
God promised to bless David as King of Israel. He led him as he carried out his political and religious responsibilities. He ensured that David possessed favor among the people. He gave him superior military strength.
God prepared David for the task. He matured while unknown. As a young shepherd, David was equipped for the king’s task. Jesus matured prior to his earthly ministry. “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Lk. 2:52).
This is true of everyone God has called to lead others. God has given our church elders and a deacon who serve you well. Each of them were being prepared for their task before they began officer training. Their willingness to serve without the title was part of the evidence that God had called and equipped them for leadership.
Let us all be content to serve the Lord in the capacity that he presently has us, and be ready for greater responsibility if and when we are called upon. Let us depend upon the anointing of the Holy Spirit in order to faithfully carry out the task we’re assigned. Whomever God calls and anoints to a certain task, he will ensure that he is properly equipped and strengthened for it. We need not be filled with fear of inadequacy, because none of us are adequate apart from the Spirit’s help.
But if God has called some to lead, then he has called others to joyful submission under that leadership. We cannot speak of authority without also talking about submission. Of course, some will actively oppose the leadership that God has established.
22-23 He will not be outwitted by the enemy nor humbled by the wicked. God will crush them and strike them down. David exhibited uncommon confidence in God’s ability to protect him from his enemies. He was not preoccupied by their threats or discouraged by their presence because he knew God was with him.
Too many leaders become driven by people-pleasing. They compromise their standards and/or passions in order to address every complaint that is raised against them. But complaints oftentimes come from an ungodly source. If God has promised to deal with our enemies, we should feel the freedom to relinquish the need to appease them ourselves.
24-26 Both of the attributes that we will sing about and declare to all generations (1-2) were with David. What does it mean that his horn will be exalted? He will rise in authority through God’s name. His kingdom will expand to the borders of the Promised Land. It is as if this future David is stretching out to grab the sea in his left hand and the river in his right hand. Of course, the expansion of this kingdom ultimately, and for eternity, extends throughout the New Heavens and New Earth.
He will call God, “My Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.” This reflects David’s personal intimacy with God (2 Sam. 7:14). And yet, David is never recorded as calling God his Father. This is the Messianic language of Psalm 2:7 and anticipates more than sixty occasions in the Gospels where we find Jesus referring to God as his Father.
If the presence of God’s steadfast love is exhibited through the life of David, how much more is that the case in the life of Jesus? I encourage you to grab a copy of Love Came Down at Christmas by Sinclair Ferguson. It’s an Advent Devotional on Christ’s embodiment of the love described in 1 Cor. 13. Jesus didn’t simply experience God’s steadfast love, He is a perfect representation of God’s steadfast love.
Maybe you feel like the promise of God’s steadfast love has failed in your life. Maybe you question God’s love for you. If you think your sin has cut you off from experiencing God’s love, you’re right. Sin separates mankind from a perfectly holy God.
But the love of God is most clearly seen in the way He bridges that separation through his Son.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
God, from the depths of his own love, gave his only Son to the world. When every earthly circumstance was pointing toward certain failure on the cross, Jesus was propitiating the wrath of his Father on behalf of everyone who believes in him. Because Jesus endured the unmitigated wrath of God, you and I can know the steadfast love of God now, and for all eternity.