Faith Rest: Claiming God’s Promise to David
2 Samuel 7:18–29; Psalm 89:1–18
Samuel Lesson #170
“Father, it’s so wonderful that we can come together to study Your Word. We still live in a nation that is free; however, there are forces that are rising up against us. There are worldviews that are being taught and have been taught for decades in in universities and in academia.
“Father we pray that that influence will be exposed, but we know that as the hearts of this nation are turned away from You, that it does not bring with it a good wind for our future. It will likely put us in a position, as believers, where we face greater opposition and cultural rejection over the coming years.
“We need to be prepared to stand firm in our faith. We need to know Your Word; we need to be able to apply Your Word, and we need to have our souls fortified with Your Word and as we walk with You and study Your Word, God the Holy Spirit strengthens and edifies us.
“Father, we pray tonight that as we are in Your Word, that we might be encouraged with what we study, be reminded of how we are to live the spiritual life, and how we are to walk with You. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles this evening to Psalm 89. We’ve been studying the Davidic Covenant; we studied the context of the giving of the covenant in 2 Samuel 7:18–29, and then we looked at the intertextual connections to the Abrahamic Covenant. By that we mean other places and references that go to the Abrahamic Covenant, either as those like the Abrahamic Covenant that set a precedence for the Davidic Covenant, and also in later passages:
- references in the Psalms;
- references in the prophets talking about the future fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, and
- references in the New Testament that Jesus fulfilled the Covenant as He is the son of David. The establishment of that kingdom and the establishment of the throne did not occur at the first coming of Jesus because He was rejected, the offer of the kingdom was rejected, and therefore postponed to the to the Second Coming.
Then we went back and looked at the last part of 2 Samuel 7 to look at David’s incredible response as he’s just blown away by the grace of God and the goodness of God in giving him the covenant.
One last passage that we ought to address is Psalm 89. Psalm 89 is a tremendous psalm that we have in the in the Old Testament. It is 52 verses long, and it is a meditation on the Davidic Covenant. More than that, it is actually a prayer for God to not forget the Davidic Covenant, for God to establish that Covenant and bring to completion that which He has promised.
So, in that sense, it is an example for us of the faith-rest drill. What we have in this Psalm 89 is actually a prayer by Ethan the Ezrahite. We’ll talk about him in just a minute. The focal point is that it seems to be written at a time when the Davidic dynasty seems to be in serious trouble, and so he is calling upon God to establish and strengthen the house of David and to fulfill the Covenant.
Now that brings up a certain problem as we look at this because we don’t really know when this took place, when this occurred. Nevertheless, we can still learn a lot from this passage. What is going on here is Ethan is claiming the promise of God, the promise of God to David. David has been promised certain things by God, and what we see in this extended psalm is an example of how to exercise the faith-rest drill. We’ll talk about that, define that for people in just a minute.
Slides 3 and 4
As we look at what the Bible teaches about the Davidic Covenant, we see that the Covenant itself as it is laid out in 2 Samuel 7:12–16, Psalm 89, and 1 Chronicles 17:11–14, identifies three basic components:
- that there will be an eternal house. David wanted to build God a house. God said, “No you don’t. I’m going to build you a house,” and by that He meant a dynasty, the Davidic dynasty.
- There’s the promise of an eternal kingdom. These are words you should pay attention to as you read through 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17, and Psalm 89. They should be highlighted. Those are the three terms on which everything related to this Covenant turns; and then
- is an eternal throne, a literal throne, a throne in Jerusalem.
If we are going to interpret the Bible literally and see there are these various systems of theology like amillennialism, which means they don’t believe in a literal millennium. “Millennia” comes from the Latin word milli meaning a thousand. It’s based on Revelation 20 talking about the thousand-year reign of Christ. That number 1,000 is used several times in that passage. All other numbers in Revelation appear to be literal, so that should be taken to be literal as well, and especially since it is repeated over and over again. So, Revelation 20 talks about a literal one-thousand-year reign, a one-thousand-year kingdom, one thousand years on the earth that come after the Tribulation period.
We are what is referred to as premillennialists. We believe that Jesus will return premillennial or before the Millennium. Amillennialists believe there’s no such thing as a literal kingdom, no such thing as a literal 1,000 years; it’s a spiritual kingdom. We are in the spiritual kingdom itself. And so that runs at the same time as the Church Age.
The third view is called post-millennialism and this is the view that gradually in the Church Age, God the Holy Spirit will bring about improvements as a result of the spread and impact of the gospel until ultimately, the kingdom, this period of perfection or utopia on the earth, is reached. Then Jesus will return after or post Millennium.
That’s important because in the 19th century, you had Christian ideas about history and about the Kingdom perverted as a result of the influence of German rationalism, what became known as German rationalism coming out of the German Enlightenment. German Enlightenment was every bit as destructive to Western civilization as the French Enlightenment, except they both destroyed the traditional ways of thinking about reality. They were reactions ultimately to the authority of God as it was made manifest in Christianity and the church at the time.
So, the bottom line for that is when you get into various philosophies of society, philosophies of politics, philosophies of economics—for example Marxism and socialism, philosophy such as Hegelian idealism—all of these ideas came together to create just a nastiness in history in the 20th century as people sought to bring in this perfect kingdom, this utopic period through human effort instead of walking with the Lord and letting it come about as a result of the Lord’s return at the Rapture, then the Tribulation and then the literal thousand-year Kingdom.
When you hear these fluid terms today that are bandied about a lot—and frankly, if you try to get a clear definition, there’s no agreed-upon definition—you hear a lot about social justice. But, there are no two people in the country that will agree upon the definition of social justice; they’re very fluid—they come out of this period because there is a unifying idea. The idea is that we can bring in an era of righteousness where there is perfect justice and that is a perversion of the biblical teaching on a Millennial Kingdom. At its root is a denial of the total depravity of man, the corruption of man, and the fact that man is inherently evil. That is a rock-solid Judeo-Christian value.
One of the reasons leftists hate Christians and those who believe in a literal Bible is that we believe that there are certain things that are right, certain things that are wrong, and that man is not perfectible, and neither is society. That sets us up totally against the drift of Western civilization today and the drift of our culture. This isn’t going to get better folks; this is going to get worse and worse, because it is observed that we’re the ones who are holding everything back. So, we become the enemy.
As part of all that thinking, we have the Davidic Covenant, which tells us that this era of perfection will not come in until there is a Davidic Ruler who Himself is perfect, and He is the exemplification of perfect righteousness and perfect justice.
If you look in Psalm 89 in the midst of the first 18 verses, which are really a focus and a praise on the character of God as the One who can bring this about, we have the phrase [Psalm 89:14] “righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne.” It’s not the foundation of the Presidency of the United States, the Supreme Court, or the House of Windsor, or any of the ruling houses and parliaments in in Europe or Islam. It is the Creator God, the Lord God of the Bible who defines righteousness.
So when you think about these claims, always get your mind focused on asking the question, “Well where did you get your norms and standards for what is just, for what is right? Where does that derive?” And think about that as you hear things as you see things because they’re coming from the bottom up. They’re being developed from individuals’ experiences of what they think is acceptable, but, “Where you get this? Why is your view of what’s right or wrong better than your next-door neighbor’s view of what’s right or wrong?” So, those become the issues.
What we see in this psalm, which is a great faith-rest psalm, is in a time of crisis, a crisis for the Davidic monarchy, a crisis for Israel, there is this cry from Ethan the Ezrahite for God to intervene, for God to act. I want you to hear his question, hear the emotion that we have in the closing prayer. Everything ramps up until you get to the last of seven verses, and he says in Psalm 89:46, “How long, O Lord, will you hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?—He says, “God, You just let this evil go on and on. You see that all of these things, this chaos developing. You see the culture collapsing, You see all of this evil that’s going around. How long are you going to let this go on?”
Then he says—“Remember how short my time is:”—You get the idea here that he, the writer here, may be at the end of his life, and he’s saying, “Lord, I don’t have a lot of time left. When are You going to fulfill Your promise? When are You going to restore order, or are You just going to ignore everything and let it all fall apart?” And he says in Psalm 89:48, “What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life in the power of the grave?” You think he’s talking about himself, that he’s about to die.
Then he questions God in Psalm 89:49. Sometimes people get the idea that they shouldn’t question God when they pray. This is a guy who’s not only questioning God, he’s doing it under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit as he’s writing it. See God’s a real person and we can talk to Him like a real person, and if you have questions, if you’re upset with God, and you try to act like you’re not, you’re just trying to blow smoke at God.
He’s basically sitting up there saying, “When are you going to get honest and tell Me what’s really going on?” You have to think about your life, and when you have complaints, be like the psalmist and bring these complaints he’s taken to God. He says, “Lord, where are your former lovingkindnesses?” We’ll look at that word in a minute, and that word means your “loyal love,” your “faithful love” to the Covenant with David.
He said, “You used to be faithful. Why aren’t You faithful anymore? Why are you letting the whole culture and civilization just collapse?” So, you can sense his real frustration here. [Psalm 89:49] “Lord, where are your former lovingkindnesses, which you swore to David in Your truth? Remember, Lord, the reproach of your servants—in other words, those of us who are serving You, we’re the ones who are catching all the flak and all of the rejection and all the ridicule— how I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples with which Your enemies have reproached, O Lord, with which they have reproach the footsteps of Your anointed.”
The point that he is making, and he keeps repeating that word “reproach,” is that the culture is rejecting You, the culture is resentful of You. It’s antagonistic to You, and it is leveling that at those of us who follow You. We’re bearing the brunt of that rejection that resentment and that ridicule. So, he’s calling on the Lord, “How long are You going to let this happen before You are faithful to Your covenant?”
Then he reaches his conclusion in Psalm 89:52: “Blessed be the Lord forevermore! Amen and Amen.” That’s how this closes out. It tells us that there is something extremely critical that’s taking place in the culture around them, but we’re not exactly sure what that is or when that occurred.
As we get into Psalm 89, we’re going to see the repetition of these words that we found at the end of 2 Samuel 7, at the end of the Davidic Covenant, where God promises to David, “but my mercy shall not depart from him.” He’s talking there about David’s son Solomon, [2 Samuel 7:15] “but My mercy shall not depart from him as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you.” The word there for mercy—it’s translated “mercy” as well in the New King James. The New American Standard is more consistent and translates it almost always as “lovingkindness.” That refers to the faithful, covenant love of God to His people on the basis of His covenant.
So, we see this word, and that God promises that His faithful, covenant love will not depart from David’s descendants. That’s a promise of God that Ethan is claiming in Psalm 89.
In 2 Samuel 7:16, he goes on to say, “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before You. Your throne shall be established forever.” So, you have those three concepts that are in the chart: the house, the kingdom, and the throne, which are promised forever and ever. That’s an eternal promise. So this is the foundation, the biblical promise that Ethan is claiming, and he writes 52 verses. He writes this long, long Psalm all focusing on calling upon God to fulfill this promise.
There’s a lot of practical value here, both in terms of the fact that he’s in a situation not too different from the kind that we’re in, or that Christians have been in throughout the centuries where the surrounding pagan culture is antagonistic and hostile and perhaps resentful and desiring to destroy the influence of Christianity and the Bible. It’s also an example to us of how to use the faith-rest drill in terms of claiming promises.
When we look at Psalm 89 itself, this is how it’s structured. You have basically three divisions in the psalm. The first one is a focus on God’s love and faithfulness. He praises God’s love and faithfulness. God’s love and faithfulness are the topics in those first 18 verses, and we know that because, as we’ll see the word “love”—which here is chesed, “faithful, loyal love,” that word— and the word emunah, the word “faithfulness” are each repeated seven times. That tells us right away that these are both critical words, and that’s what the topic is, that’s what the focal point is.
When you face problems, that which gives you stability is understanding God’s faithful, loyal love to you and to me as members of the church, believers in Jesus Christ, and understanding His faithfulness, that God is going to be true to His Word and true to His plan, and we can trust Him. He alone is the source of stability for us.
We’ll come back as we go through this and see that the concept of God’s faithfulness is directly related to the idea of having stability in your life. No matter how unstable and uncertain everything is around us, we can have stability, and we can have a relaxed mental attitude in the midst of all of this cultural collapse that is going on around us. That is exactly what we’re witnessing is the erosion on the inside that is incredible. Who could have thought this 30 years ago that we would collapse internally this much? But it’s because we’ve rejected the foundations provided by Scripture. That’s the first 18 verses focusing upon God.
The second section goes from Psalm 89:19–37, and this focuses on God’s promises to David. He praises God for who He is—and that’s important because just as he gives us this example of going to the essence of God and focusing on that, all of the sudden when we realize how great and glorious God is and how powerful He is and how great His faithfulness is—then whatever the problems are that we face, they just sort of minimize. I mean nobody here can come up with a problem that is too great for the omnipotence of God, that is too great for the grace of God, that hasn’t been provided for by God, that hasn’t been dealt with in the Word of God. We just can’t.
So, when we learn that, we just have to change our whole perspective, we have to have an attitude adjustment because God has a plan for us, and we need to adjust to His plan and not expect God to adjust to our plan. That’s the focal point here, and again and again in this section, there’s going to be a focus on the character of God.
And then the last part is the petition that goes from Psalm 89:38 down to the end of Psalm 89:52. God is petitioned to remain faithful to His promise to David even though sin and divine discipline have made it appear that the covenant was canceled, that somehow the house of David is going to fall and that the covenant won’t be fulfilled.
So, those are the three divisions: God’s character, His love, and His faithfulness are praised, God’s promise is reviewed in light of God’s character, and third that God is petitioned to fulfill the promise of the Davidic Covenant. Those are the three divisions.
Then when we break them down a little bit what we’ll see here is God’s love and faithfulness appraised in those first 18 verses. There are two basic sections. Psalm 89:1–4 focuses on God’s covenant loyalty and faithfulness, and he praises them. So, God’s covenant loyalty and faithfulness are praised, and those terms are used in parallel with each other in the first two verses especially.
Then he brings in the idea of the covenant. What’s interesting here—you can catch it in some of the ways it’s translated—is the repetition of certain key words that brings out this idea, and it helps us to focus on the issue of stability. If you look at Psalm 89:2, “For I have said, ‘Mercy shall be built up forever.’ ” That word for “built” is something that is “constructed,” that is going to be solid, and it is parallel to “You shall establish” in the second stanza. “Building up” and “establishing” give you a sense of permanence, a sense of stability, a sense that you can rest on the rock of the Lord.
Then you get into Psalm 89:4 and again you have that same terminology—“establish” and “build up”—so those reinforce the image of God’s faithfulness and His stability that you get in both the words for His faithful, loyal love, and the word for faithfulness.
Then in the second part of this opening section, the focus is on God’s unique and awesome character, especially His righteousness, His faithfulness, His justice, and His power, and you can add truth to that. Those are important. God is the source of righteousness.
We hear a lot today of social justice, but the issue for us as Christians is biblical justice, not social justice, and there’s a vast difference. Where do you derive your values for social justice? Whose society? Who defined society? Who created society? Where do you find the very first society?
If you defined society as a group of persons gathering together, the first society is the Trinity. You have three Persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—bound together eternally. In that society, what is at the very focus of it? It is righteousness and justice. So we start with those concepts from an eternal absolute that is unshakable, that is immutable. The terms that resonate throughout this entire psalm are the God who is faithful, loyal, He’s the rock, He’s the One who is stable.
In this second part in Psalm 89:5–18, we see we have four divisions there. The first is that the Lord will be praised, and that’s in Psalm 89:5. It’s a summary statement of that which will follow. [Psalm 89:5] “And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord—and that’s not talking about the stars in the sky; that’s talking about the inhabitants of the heavens. It’s a figure of speech—Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints.”
The assembly of the saints refers to what? The assembly of the holy ones, that’s the angels, the ones who inhabit the heavens. So, you see, you have the parallelism between “the heavens will praise You” and “the assembly of the saints.” That helps you to see. It helps us to define that.
It is the inhabitants of the heavens, the angels, who will praise God’s wonders, and so, [Psalm 89:5] “The heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord; Your faithfulness also.” “Wonders” is then developed into “faithfulness.” It’s a “wonder,” that is, it is something that should inspire awe in us as we see what God has done, because a God who can bring something out of nothing certainly can solve any problem that we face and can certainly restore stability to a nation and restore stability to your life and my life. So again, that is a summary that introduces the rest of the section.
In Psalm 89:6–8, the Lord will be praised for His unique and awesome attributes. He’s holy; that means He’s one-of-a-kind, He’s distinct, He’s unique, and He is set apart from everything in creation. In Psalm 89:6 he says, “For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord?” Can anyone be like God? No. No one can be compared to the Lord, and I think there’s a little thrust there that’s between the lines.
See, it’s not Satan—he cannot be compared to the Lord. No one can be compared to the Lord, [Psalm 89:6] “Who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty—that’s another term for the angels, those who inhabit the heavens—Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord?” So, it’s a focus on His uniqueness.
What makes Him unique? As you go through this section, you’re going to see that it’s His righteousness and justice, His truth. These are the things that are the foundation of His throne.
When we look at this concept of foundation, I think that we’re going to stop and take a little bit of time just to reflect on what is the foundation of rule. Scripture says that a nation will perish when the foundations crumble. What are the foundations that establish a rule? What are the foundations that establish a nation? So, we need to look at that. It’s truth, it’s righteousness, it’s justice, but those terms do not exist independent of the character in the Person of God.
We have to go to Scripture to define everything just like we go to the Cross to define love. Love isn’t what you experience when you have a baby and you look at that baby and your heart is filled with love for your baby. That’s great, that’s wonderful, but that’s not biblical love. Biblical love is when you give that Son to go to the Cross; that defines biblical love for those who don’t deserve it. That’s how we go to Scripture to define these concepts of righteousness, justice, truth, and love. All of them are exemplified in God.
In that third section, the emphasis is on His omnipotence and His sovereign rule over Creation. And then fourth, the Lord blesses those who walk with Him and glory in His righteousness, and strength. We glory in God’s righteous rule. We as believers need to take a stand for righteousness. There is a place for that, but it is a biblical righteousness, a biblical justice, not a social justice that’s derived from the experience-based ideologies of Marxism.
We look at Psalm 89, and we look at the very first line. These superscripts are part of the text in the Hebrew text. This is verse one in the Hebrew Bible. This is not verse one in the English Bible. So, when you look at your English Bible and you see the small print there, it says “A Contemplation of Ethan the Ezrahite.” It’s in small print like this as an editor’s comment. This is not an editor’s comment. This is part of the original text. It’s giving us a hint, not much of one, about its original use. It’s a maschil; a maschil was a type of song, a hymn that was sung, and the author is Ethan the Ezrahite.
When I looked at this superficially, based on just some things that I had read as well, you look at this, and say, “Ezrahite.” What comes to your mind? Ethan the Ezrahite, what comes to your mind? Remember Ezra in the Old Testament, the post-exilic priest who came back reestablishing the worship of God? He was in about the third return of Jews from Babylon. That’s not the Ezra it’s talking about.
See, I had just assumed that’s who he’s talking about, so I was thinking, “Okay, this is a contemplation, the king, the time of this chaos and collapse is either during the period of the exile, or it’s following the exile, and everything is still in a state of chaos, and there’s no Davidic king on the throne. And so, everything just seems to have fallen apart.” That would make sense in terms of what the author says, but that’s wrong.
You’ll also find other people—you may have some notes to this effect in your Bible—that this is during the period about four or five years after the division of the Northern Kingdom from the Southern Kingdom after the death of Solomon, when Jeroboam in the North led a tax revolt of the 10 nations in the North against Judah and Benjamin in the South. As a result, you had the split of the kingdom and then four years later, Shishak, who is a Pharaoh in Egypt, comes up and invades and everything is in disarray and chaos. So some people suggest that it’s Shishak. Well, we’ll see about that.
Other people think that this occurred either after Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion or second invasion or even after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. But if we do a search in the text on Ethan the Ezrahite, there are a number of Ethans that are mentioned, but they’re almost all indicated by their father’s name. As we have here, Ethan the Ezrahite was from that clan or something, we don’t really know, but he’s mentioned in 1 Kings 4:31, but we have to have the context.
This is a summary statement about Solomon, [1 Kings 4:30] “Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt.” In other words, he’s the wisest guy who ever lived, [1 Kings 4:31] “For he was wiser than all men—” He’s wiser—who’s the first guy he’s wiser than? He’s wiser, “than Ethan the Ezrahite”. Well, if he’s wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite and somebody is writing 1 Kings either at the same time as Solomon or just a little bit later, then it’s possible that if he’s writing a little bit later it could be Shishak.
But it’s more likely based on the fact that 1 Chronicles 15:19 mentions Ethan in conjunction with Heman and Asaph, that he was a contemporary of David’s and might have overlapped a little bit into Solomon’s life, but that he is much earlier. He is much earlier than Shishak; he’s earlier than the tax revolt between the North and the South. He’s much, much earlier than—300 years earlier than—the Babylonian invasion. So, it can’t really be them, but that also has other problems. I’m not going to drill down and into all of the details, but it leaves a certain level of uncertainty.
One of the things that seems to be certain is that Ethan the Ezrahite is a contemporary of David’s and Solomon’s, somewhere around 1000 BC, 990 or 980 BC, somewhere in that period is when he was alive. This would indicate that he’s not looking at one of these major catastrophes, but he’s looking at some other catastrophe that is occurring during the time of David.
Now if we’re right, as I’ve suggested in previous classes, that the Davidic Covenant isn’t given chronologically early like it stated in the text, but that this was something that came later—and for the various reasons I suggested because it says that it was after David defeated all of his enemies,—the next chapter we get into 2 Samuel 8, David’s still fighting all of his enemies.
So, it seems like the Davidic Covenant comes later, but one of the last things that happens in David’s life, as we’ll see, is that David orders a census to be taken of the people. He wants to see how many people he has and how great he is, that’s the thrust of that. It’s a very arrogant action and in the parallel passage in Chronicles, we’re told that the source of this temptation to do this was Satan. So, he’s clearly doing something that is extremely arrogant and wrong and disobedience to God.
As a result of that, there is this crisis of a plague among the people for three days. It’s possible that it’s in the context of that, a really low point in the history of David in his life toward the end, that this was penned. But we don’t know; we can’t say for sure. We can’t peg it to any particular time or any particular event, except it does seem to be very early.
What’s interesting here [regarding the superscript] is the people who don’t pay a lot of attention to it. For example, we found out today that Dr. Alan Ross said that he’ll be here for the Chafer Conference next year, and so he’ll be coming to talk about worship and that will be outstanding. He taught Psalms for about 10 years at Dallas Seminary when he wrote the commentary on Psalms in The Bible Knowledge Commentary.
In that he says about this psalm, “This royal Psalm is a prayer that God would honor the Davidic Covenant. The psalm is attributed to Ethan, a Levite, according to 1 Chronicles 15:17–18 and a wise person, according to 1 Kings 4:31, but the exact occasion of its writing is unknown.” Then he comments, “Various military defeats such as the invasion of Judah by Shishak of Egypt and the Babylonian exile have been suggested.” He wrote that in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, which came out around 1982 or 1983.
In his most recent work—in the first volume or two on the Psalms that were published about 10 years ago—he says, “Since it is a lament over the defeat of the king, the psalm probably had to have been written when the king was a real person”—so, there was still a literal king ruling over Judah—“but that would include anytime from David to the captivity.”
Then he says, “The problem is made more complicated in that the writer seems to have used earlier material but perhaps both the hymn [the first 18 verses] and the oracle [verses 19 to 37], make him a compiler more than a composer.” Did he mention Ethan? No. See, he didn’t even mention him in his most recent commentary.
Then I consulted a couple of other commentaries, The Moody Bible Commentary, of which the Old Testament was edited by Michael Rydelnik, and he makes the same argument that Ethan the Ezrahite appears to have been a poet or a wise man in the court of Solomon. So, he sees the timing there not later with Shishak or at the at the exile.
There were a couple of other commentators, Tom Constable, who was a professor in Bible exposition at Dallas Seminary when I was there, has his commentary on the whole Bible out as well. You can download it off the Internet. He makes the same argument.
Now what’s valuable is that they’re making a text-based argument. They’re not just operating off of an abstract idea: “This must be a time of defeat, so let’s find a time of defeat and plug it in there.” They’re looking at who is Ethan the Ezrahite and let’s find his time and look at it that way. So that’s more text-based than it is based on some sort of external rationale. So, it’s a better approach and a better methodology.
We get into this first division taught where the focus is on the love of God and the faithfulness of God and God’s love and faithfulness appraised. In the first four verses, God’s covenant loyalty and faithfulness are praised. What we see here is this emphasis on these two words—“His mercy” is one way it’s translated, and “lovingkindness.” That’s the favorite way for the New American Standard translate it. God’s “covenant loyalty”.
All of these ideas are bound up in this word chesed, and so that’s the first keyword at the top of the slide, chesed. Incidentally, that is the root word—it has to do with covenant loyalty—that’s the root word for the noun Hasid or Hasidim, that’s a plural for Hasidic Jews. The root there is chesed, and they’re claiming that they are loyal to God. That’s the idea; it means “lovingkindness”. It’s translated “mercy,” “kindness, “faithfulness.” This is the emphasis in chesed.
What’s that last word? Faithfulness. It’s sometimes translated “faithfulness” because God is faithful to His covenant. So, there is a synonymous overlap with the second word we see, and that is the word ’emunah. That is usually translated “faithfulness,” but it’s really close to a derivative form of that word, a cognate emet.
If you look at the consonants, you have this first consonant is aleph, that’s usually translated like an apostrophe; it’s just an extremely soft, almost unpronounced guttural. So the first vowel is this funny looking five dots here, that’s “e,” and then you have an “m,” an “u”, and an “m.” So if we just replace the first vowel with an “a” and then the second letter is an “m” and the second vowel is an “e,” and the second full consonant would be “n”—which is “amen,” which means “it is certain”; “it is true.”
When we say, “amen,” that’s what it comes from is amen, which is the Hebrew word. It has this idea of certainty, it has this idea of stability. This is the idea in this second word. In fact, it’s used and translated “doorposts” in 2 Kings 18:16.
Now that’s a significant passage for doing the word study because the doorpost—it really is in a more accurate translation, translated as “a pillar of support.” It’s the foundation stone under the pillars of the temple. What does the foundation stone provide? It provides support and stability for that which rests on it. That is how that word is used.
So the core idea in this word group is the idea of stability, this idea of something that is steadfast, that is rock solid, that is unshakable, that is in immovable. That’s why it comes to refer to faithfulness in one sense: one group of words tends to focus on faithfulness and another cognate set focuses on truth because truth is that which gives us stability. Without truth, everything is totally relative and everything is uncertain, and you can’t depend on anything.
Both of these concepts, “truth” and “faithfulness,” come out of the same word group. That is confusing for the King James translators because they hadn’t really drilled down enough in their sophistication with Hebrew at that time, so a lot of times, they translated ’emunah as “truth.” Sometimes, it has more of that sense, and you derive that from the context. That’s why in some passages, and I hit a couple of them, it’s not translated “faithfulness.” It’s translated “truth,” but it should be translated “faithfulness” or “stability.” These are the two key words.
Let’s just look at how these two words—“truth” and “faithfulness”—are used in Psalm 89. What we’re seeing here is that part of his use of the faith-rest drill is to focus on these characteristics of God. When we focus on God, when we have problems, and we’re turning to trust God, what we have to do is focus our minds on these attributes of God, and their certainty. So, he uses these two words, and they’re parallel.
Remember I talked about how in Hebrew poetry you are rhyming ideas rather than words, and it’s called “parallelism”. You have the first line that states one thing and the second line then restates it in a slightly different way using synonyms, and it echoes the first line and usually expands on it just a little bit. Sometimes a second line is in opposition, and that’s called “antithetical parallelism.” Then you also have another form of parallelism where the main idea is stated in the first line, and the second line expands on it, opens it up.
So, the first stanza in Psalm 89:1 says, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.” The second line says, “With my mouth—you sing with your mouth; there’s the parallelism—I make known—that’s related to you in your singing, you’re making something known—Your faithfulness—see, faithfulness is parallel to chesed, to Your “faithful, loyal love”—to all generations.” That is parallel to “forever,” so it expands on that, that you’re going to make known God’s faithfulness. It zeros in; it’s more precise than just chesed.
Psalm 89:2, “For I have said, ‘Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.’ ” The speaker here in both verses is going to be Ethan. He is singing about the mercies of Yahweh. Then he says, [Psalm 89:2] “For I have said ‘Mercy— again it’s the same word chesed, that is “Your faithful, loyal love”—shall be built up forever—and then—Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.”
We saw that the root idea in ’emunah is “that which is steadfast.” Look at the other verbs here: it’s built up and it is established. See the language here resonates with that which doesn’t move, that which has been built, established, it’s rock-solid and it’s unshakable. So, it drives us to thinking about God in that way, but it’s brought out by these by these words.
In Psalm 89:14, you have the use of chesed again and now it’s connected with “truth.” But the word that’s used here for truth is emet: some translations will translate it “mercy” and “faithfulness.” So, we see that it’s a very close connection of ideas, and there is a lot of debate that goes on about when you translate one way or the other. Psalm 89:24 says, “But my faithfulness [’emunah] and my faithful, loyal love [chesed] shall be with him,”—that’s God speaking in terms of the descendant of David mentioned in the Davidic Covenant.
Then Psalm 89:28, “My mercy [chesed] I will keep for him forever, And My covenant shall stand firm with him.” See again, “stand firm,” this idea is stated over and over again that when things are in a state of chaos that which is stable and steadfast is God. Psalm 89:33, “Nevertheless, My chesed …”
Now the last two times it’s translated in Psalm 89 in the King James and New King James as “lovingkindness.” [Psalm 89:33], “Nevertheless My lovingkindness I will not utterly take from him, Nor allow My faithfulness to fail.”
[Psalm 89:49] “Lord, where are Your former lovingkindnesses, Which You swore to David in Your truth?” Notice again here “lovingkindnesses” is going to be related to “truth” in that passage. Here and in Psalm 89:33, you have both “lovingkindness” and “faithfulness” in parallelism. So, all through this hymn, there’s this drumbeat, this musical theme that’s running throughout the background on “faithfulness and loyal love,” “faithfulness, loyal love,” “faithfulness, loyal love,” and it’s also tied in some ways to the idea of truth.
Then we come to the second keyword, ’emunah, which like chesed is used seven times. It’s used in Psalm 89:5, Psalm 89:1–2, but we’ve already covered that. It’s used in Psalm 89:5 by itself, “And the heavens—that is, those who inhabit the heavens,—will praise Your wonders, O Lord; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints.”
Psalm 89:8, “O Lord God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You.” See, “faithfulness” is parallel here to “mighty.” What makes God powerful is His stability. It focuses us on another dimension of omnipotence because that which is truly all-powerful is stable and solid and dependable.
Then we get into Psalm 89:49 and the statement here, “Lord, where are Your former lovingkindnesses, which You swore to David in Your truth [faithfulness]?” There, it should probably be translated—it’s ’emunah and it should not be translated “truth,” but— “faithfulness.” So, we see that parallel that is being brought out here.
All of that gives us an idea of the theme that we’re going to see here, and how the writer is reminding us again and again of God’s faithful, loyal love. He’s loyal to us no matter what we do.
It reminds me of the hymn that’s quoted in 2 Timothy 2 [2 Timothy 2:13] that we are faithless, yet You remain faithful. No matter what we do, God is always faithful.
We get into looking at the faith-rest drill and there are three components. Step one is to claim a promise, and that means that we have to know promises. It has to be hidden in your heart. You have to memorize Scripture. When Jesus is refuting, rebuking Satan, when Satan is tempting Him in the wilderness, He’s not saying, well, there are five points to this doctrine. He’s quoting Scripture accurately. So, we have to hide the Word of God in our heart. David said, [Psalm 119:11] “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” So, it’s not just doctrine; it is the Word of God that we have to know. That’s the starting point.
Sometimes we remember the whole promise. Sometimes we just remember a phrase, but we latch on to that, and we mix our faith with that. Sometimes we’re mixing our faith with a principle because we remember, “God is faithful,” but that’s Scripture, so it’s a principle.
God is always faithful to His Word. So, we latch on to that or we latch onto a rationale. And really, we’ll see that in this passage. There’s a rationale that is built in establishing the confidence of Ethan because he keeps going over God’s essence: If You’re faithful, if You’re righteous, if You’re just, then You will act in a certain way. So, he’s using that as a structure for expressing his faith to God.
So, we start off with claiming a promise.
Then, step two is we think about it. This is what meditation is. It is going over that promise again and again and again in our head and squeezing every bit of truth out of it that we can. We think through these rationales that are embedded in the promise. But notice, we have to know what the promises are and that’s what we find in here; it’s going back to look at the words, the terms that are used in the Davidic Covenant; words like “establish” and “house” and “faithful.” Those are the very words that Ethan is using in Psalm 89 to claim the promise of the Davidic Covenant. He’s using God’s words and God’s language back to Him as he’s claiming that promise. That’s why he’s able to think it through and restate it in terms of these rationales.
Then the third step is being able to appropriate the conclusion, that this means that You’re going to act in history. Now that’s not stated as overtly as it is in some psalms, but it is in the very last verse of Psalm 89, where he stopped and said, [Psalm 89:52] “Blessed be the Lord forevermore. Amen and amen.” And as I just said, that “Amen and amen,” Amen is a form of ’emunah, so by saying that at the end, he is reiterating the idea, “I believe in the steadfastness and the certainty of God.” So that expresses that.
This brings us here to the faith-rest drill, and we’ll stop here. It’s a good stopping point. Next time we’ll come back and see how these three steps are exemplified in this psalm in relation to what was specifically promised in the Davidic Covenant itself.
“Father, we thank You for Your Word. We thank You for the examples that we see in Your Word of how we are to claim promises, how we are to pray, how we are to take these things before Your throne of grace, and present a case to You, and how we should pray and express how we trust in You, and why we’re trusting in You, and if we’re building a biblical case, what we’re trusting You for in light of what You have specifically promised.
“Father, we pray that You would help us to think through what we learned tonight. Think it through, as we read through Psalm 89 a few times between now and next week in preparation that we can come to a better understanding of how this whole methodology of this Psalm 89 is at the core of our spiritual life. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”