God Resolves Our Problems in His Time
Samuel Lesson #182
August 6, 2019
“Father, it’s such a tremendous time that we have to come together to be refreshed, encouraged by your Word, to face the reality of living in a fallen world, to face the reality of Your grace and Your goodness to us, to face the reality of our salvation and nevertheless still having to live in a fallen world with all of its anxieties and frustrations and difficulties and obstacles, learning to trust in You and to walk humbly before You as we grow spiritually.
“And Father we pray that as we come to the conclusion of this study in Psalm 89, that You will help us to see the application and the implications of it for our own lives, for our own thinking, learning to trust You, learning to talk to You openly and honestly about the challenges, frustrations and difficulties that we face in life and learning how to pray more biblically as we address the issues of our lives.
“And Father, help us to remember that we are put here to serve You and glorify You, and we pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Let’s open our Bibles to Psalm 89. We will pick up with a little review prior to verse 38, but we’re down to approximately verse 38, and if the Lord is gracious, we will make it through the rest of this particular Psalm. This is an extremely interesting Psalm, and the things that he says as he gets to the end and gets to his prayer of petition ought to resonate with every one of us. If we are honest with God—the trouble is, most Christians are not honest with God—we hit situations in our lives where we trust God, we claim promises we’re walking with the Lord, we’re doing everything right, and nothing goes right. Everything is going wrong.
We claim promises and it’s like God is just ignoring us and whatever happened just seems to get worse and worse and worse, and yet for a lot of Christians who really have a false view of their relationship with God, they’re just not honest with God.
I’ve said this many times; you’ve heard me say this, that when we read the Psalms, we get a pattern for prayer, and part of that pattern for prayer at times is expressing honestly what we think about what God is doing. That means that sometimes we get angry with God.
Sometimes you read in the psalms, that the psalmist is extremely frustrated with God, sometimes they’re confused, sometimes they’re angry, sometimes they’re resentful, sometimes they are just throwing up their hands in exasperation, and they tell God about it. And you tell a lot of Christians that if you need to tell God off, do so, they’ll gasp and say, “That’s blasphemy!” Well, then you throw out a lot of psalms, and the reason is is because if we’re not honest with God, we are not going to be honest with ourselves about what’s going on.
In prayer, a lot of times, as you see in the psalms, there’s a process going on as you think through your problem, and you think through God’s character and God’s promises, it changes your perspective on your problem, and it changes your perspective on what God is doing. And even the timing—and that’s one thing that we all have experienced at times as “God You were supposed to fix this yesterday and I’m afraid You’re not going to fix this until maybe my life is almost over, if then.” There are a lot of very superficial assumptions that people bring with them to prayer and to their relationship with God, and we see some of that in this psalm.
If you remember, as we’ve taken a lot of time to go through the first 37 verses, what we see here is this remarkable meditation upon the power of God. It goes all the way down to about verse 19, and it’s just great. It’s elevating, and we’re thinking, “How in the world could someone who starts off with such a magnificent focus on the attributes of God and His power and His omnipotence and His might, singing of the mercies, the chesed of the Lord—“Forever with my mouth, I will make known Your faithfulness to all generations,” and then when we get down to verse 38, we’re going to discover that there is a series of three verses; actually, it goes down even into Psalm 89:41–42 where it is structured a little differently—where he’s blaming God for every problem that they’re facing. Then he shifts.
In the Hebrew grammar starting at verse 38, there’s a radical shift in the focus: “But You, God, this is Your fault; You caused all this to happen.” He’s blaming God, and see how his tone shifts so rapidly, and don’t sit there and act like this hasn’t happened to You because if we’re honest, it’s happened to every one of us. We get caught up in the details of our lives, and we get upset about the way things are going because we think God ought to be doing things differently, and then we try to cover it up.
Hello. God is omniscient. He knows exactly the level of frustration in your life and in mine. He knows when we’re angry; He knows when we’re upset, and He doesn’t like it when He hears these holier-than-thou prayers that are masking underlying dishonesty with ourselves and resentments. And we’re never going to really get past that if were not honest with God about what’s going on.
So, when we look at this last section as we’re going to today—it goes down to verse 52—it’s really talking about how God resolves our problems—but in His timing and in His way. That’s where the rub comes because we want Him to handle it the way we think it ought to be handled, according to our time schedule, and this is a very difficult situation.
In fact, this is one of the reasons why you can start, as I did, with the beginning of this psalm, and you see the subscript there. The contemplation of Ethan the Ezrahite. We know he is mentioned by Solomon in 1 Kings 4. The writer of Kings recognizes that Solomon is wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, but we don’t know exactly when Ethan lived.
There are elements that come into play when we get from verse 38 down to 51 where it sounds like Israel is on the verge of the fifth cycle of discipline; they’re really being hammered by God, and it doesn’t really fit his time period. I suspect that there’s something prophetic going on towards the end of this, but then it’s too personal.
The writer is expressing his own exasperation with what God is allowing to happen to Israel and the shame and reproach that that brings upon His people. So there’s something there where Ezra is like many of us; we’re proud of who we are; proud of our church; we’re proud of what God is doing, and all of a sudden, something happens, and we say, “Lord, that this is bringing shame on the situation.”
Israel was proud of Solomon’s Temple. They were proud of the way God had blessed David, and in the way God blessed Solomon, and now all of a sudden, He’s pulled the rug out from under Israel. But if we remember, Solomon led the nation into idolatry, and as part of the discipline—go back to the five cycles of discipline; I’m not going to go through those tonight but those are listed in and laid out in Leviticus 26 and in Deuteronomy 28—and you read through those, and you see how God is bringing discipline on the nation. He causes the nation to go through a civil war where the 10 northern tribes rebel against the Davidic king, and it just leaves the Davidic king with the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin and the nation is just torn asunder.
This is a breach that goes on for the about the next 300 years, and so this is a major problem that takes place. The nation does not recover from that and will not recover from that. There will not be true unity until the Lord Jesus Christ returns as the Messiah, and you have Him establish His kingdom. So, this is a really interesting scenario, and we need to understand exactly what’s going on here.
Slides 3 and 4
Now we have been studying in the Davidic Covenant coming out of our study in 2 Samuel 7 for about six months looking at a lot of different things. But the Davidic Covenant itself promised to David three things: an eternal house or dynasty; an eternal kingdom—one without end that would go on from generation to generation; and an eternal throne, and the throne stands for the one who sits on it, so that’s basically saying an eternal ruler.
We’ve looked at the structure here that there’s basically three divisions. The first division is the first 18 verses where the focus is on God’s attributes, His character, His love, that is His chesed love, is unconditional loving kindness, His covenant faithfulness, and His faithfulness, emunah. These are tied together, but also there is this focus on God as the Creator, His power, His might. All of that underlies the fact that God can accomplish what He wishes to accomplish and when God promises to do something, He will bring it to pass.
Then in Psalm 89:19–37—we didn’t quite finish this last time—we have God’s rehearsal, God’s promise to David. Ethan adds a few things in our understanding of the Davidic Covenant and what had been promised to David, and this just enhances everything. Then we get into the real problem down in Psalm 89:38–52. There’s a serious threat to the Davidic monarchy that looks like if he hasn’t been toppled from his throne, he’s lost his authority and it threatens the stability even the survival of the Southern Kingdom, which is why some people place it later in history, for example, around the time of either the invasion of Sennacherib around the late eighth century BC, which is around 722 to 700 BC, or even into the time of the initial Nebuchadnezzar invasions around 605 BC. I don’t think it’s that late. I think that there may be an element of hyperbole here, but we just can’t be sure because there’s not enough information given to really tie it down. But we can understand what the sentiments are, we can understand what the thoughts are, we can understand exactly what is being expressed in this situation, and it’s a prayer. The whole psalm is a prayer, calling upon God to fulfill a promise.
The promise that is claimed is the promise of the Davidic Covenant, which is outlined in those verses from Psalm 89:19–37. In step two, he’s thinking through these doctrinal rationales. It starts with him thinking through the character of God and how that applies to the situation, and then he’s going to think through exactly what the implications of God’s promises are going to be. We’re really going to see this in the last three verses of this section [Psalm 89:35–37], where God says, “Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, and His throne as the sun before Me; it shall be established forever like the moon, even like the faithful witness in the sky.”
You can just hear Ethan after he writes that going, “Well then, what in the world is going on right now? I mean this country is falling apart, and You just made this promise and it sure doesn’t look like You’re keeping this promise because everything is falling apart.” That’s why he shifts gears in Psalm 89:38–42 and says, but You have cast off; You have been furious; You have renounced; You have profaned; You have broken down; You have brought this stronghold; You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries.
So, he’s just blaming God for every problem that’s going on. And finally, as he is honest with his irritation, his resentment, his frustration with what God is doing, he eventually comes back to a focus upon God’s faithfulness and His promise, ending the whole psalm with the statement, “Blessed be the Lord forevermore. Amen and amen.”
So that gives you a real-life example of how he used the faith-rest drill to shape his prayers to God. When we understand these things as believers, it ought to radically change how we pray. Not that we’re always going to fly off the handle and get frustrated or irritated with God, but there are times when we really feel that way and we need to express it.
What happens with a lot of Christians is they don’t express it, and that leads to a dishonest relationship with God. I’m not saying cross the line and be blasphemous, but be honest with your frustration, your irritation with God. He knows. You’re not going to surprise Him by telling Him, “I’m really upset with You, Lord. I have been trusting you and I’ve done this and I’ve done that and I’m relying upon You, and look at how my life is just falling apart. I don’t understand.” That’s honesty, and none of us get past any problems if we’re not honest about the problem—honest with God and honest with ourselves.
In the second division, as we laid it out last time, we came down to the fourth section of the second division where God promises that His Covenant would never be canceled, though they would be hindered by sin and disobedience, and the result of sin and disobedience would bring into play the five cycles of discipline—those stages of divine discipline that are laid out in Leviticus 26 and in Deuteronomy 28. A couple of things as we review for a second, I wanted to bring something out last time.
As God is making this promise of His covenant, He says [Psalm 89:27], “I will appoint him—that is the Davidic heir—to be my first-born son, the most exalted of the earth’s kings.” I think this is definitely messianic. It uses that term for firstborn; it’s the Hebrew word bekor, and it doesn’t indicate first born in this order, but the one who is the designated heir, who receives the double blessing, the double portion.
We went through this couple weeks ago on Sunday morning in the Ephesians series talking about how inheritance in the Old Testament frequently went to the younger not the elder, not the firstborn. According to the law of primogeniture, the oldest, the firstborn male, would typically receive the inheritance, but God is not going to do things according to human viewpoint, according to human standards.
He is going to bless the one whom He chooses who is not the firstborn, but he becomes designated. According to ancient near-eastern custom, the father could designate who the firstborn is, so firstborn doesn’t mean firstborn in terms of birth order. Firstborn means that preeminent one. The one who receives the lion’s share of the blessing, the one who receives the double portion. He is the one who is elevated to that distinguished position.
The first indication of this is the statement in Exodus 4:22—I mentioned this last time—the Lord said, “Israel is My son, My firstborn.” Now, Israel wasn’t the first of all the nations, but Israel is elevated above all of the other nations to this position of preeminence, and given the privilege of the Abrahamic Covenant and the subsequent covenants.
This is foreshadowing of the role of the Lord Jesus Christ because we have the same terminology that people stumble over when they read this in the New Testament. For example, in Romans 8:29—of course, everybody here is familiar with Romans 8:28–29: “And we know that all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are called according to His purpose, For whom He foreknew, He also predestined—In other words, for him who He foreknew in terms of knowledge ahead of time, He also predestined (and predestined means foreordained, and that doesn’t have to do with necessarily determining your destiny but determining your mission within the body of Christ)—to be conformed to the image of His Son— it’s not talking about choosing who will be saved, it’s choosing that destiny of those who are saved—that He—that is the Lord Jesus Christ—might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The preeminent One among His brethren.
It’s used the same way in Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” So, in His deity, He is above and beyond all creatures, but in His humanity, He is designated the preeminent One over all creation: He gets the double portion; that’s the focal point. They’re not the first, He’s not “born,” that’s the Arian heresy that the Lord Jesus Christ is created at some point in eternity past, or that He becomes promoted when he is baptized by John the Baptist, that’s the adoptionistic heresy, but that He is declared by God the Father as the preeminent One among mankind, and so He gets the double portion.
Colossians 1:18, “And He is the head of the body, the church, who [Jesus Christ] is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead …” Now the who there is a masculine singular pronoun, so that’s referring not to the church; “church” is ecclesia—that’s a feminine noun—so the who refers back to the One who is the head of the body, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the firstborn from the dead, and that’s not talking about the first fruits from the dead. He is the preeminent One. All of these uses follow that emphasis of preeminent One.
In Hebrews 1:6 we read: “But when He again brings the firstborn into the world. He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.’ ” He is the preeminent One.
Why? Because in these last days, God [Hebrews 1:2] “has spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things.” Now this is where we see some intersection with what we studied in Ephesians on heirship and inheritance the last several Sundays, that in these last days, God spoke to us by His Son, His son has been appointed heir of all things, that’s His preeminent role; that is what is related to His being the firstborn Son.
So, in our study now of Psalm 89, we’re at this third section, Psalm 89:26–29, where God makes three statements promising this intimate relationship with Himself through an eternal covenant, and He has declared in verses 28–29 that this covenant with David would be eternal. It’s not going to be temporal. So that means that you have to approach—if you’re living at the time of Ethan; he’s telling Ethan—you have to approach this situation that you’re facing not on the basis of emotion, and it’s never right to approach a problem on the basis of emotion. You have to approach the problem on the basis of the promise of God, that no matter how it looks, no matter how it feels, you can’t judge reality on the basis of emotion and feeling. You have to judge it on the basis of the promise of God, and that’s why this is here to remind Ethan: this is the promise of God; it’s eternal. So, whatever it looks like, God is not forgetting His promise. God has not turned His back on the Davidic dynasty, God has not turned His back on Jerusalem, God has not turned His back on Israel.
So, this is the statement that God made in those two verses [Psalm 89:28–29]: “My mercy—My chesed—I will keep for him forever, and My covenant shall stand firm with him. His seed also I will make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven.” You can’t say it more strongly than that using poetry.
Then we get into the next section where God states His promises will never be canceled, though they may be hindered by sin and disobedience. And that was in Psalm 89:30–37, which we went through last time.
In verses 30 to 32, he basically talks about divine discipline; some of the sons, some of David’s descendants will break the Law. They’ll forsake the Law. This is tantamount to treason because God is the ultimate ruler over Israel and they’re violating His Law. Psalm 89:30: They “forsake My Torah—My instruction—and do not walk in My judgments. [T]hey break My statutes and do not keep My commandments.” In other words, you’ve committed high treason against God; you violated it. They’ve gone into idolatry, and they have violated the First Commandment, and so God says, “I’ll punish their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with the stripes.” Here’s the subtext, Ethan: this is what’s going on right now; this is what you’re witnessing; this is the promise of discipline on the Davidic heir because he has broken the Torah; he’s violated the judgments, statutes, and commandments.
Then in Psalm 89:33 he says, “Nevertheless—contrast, nevertheless—My lovingkindness—My chesed, My loyalty to the covenant—I will not utterly take away from him—Even though he’s given me every reason to violate the contract, even though he’s violated the contract time and time again, even though he has broken all of the stipulations of the contract, nevertheless, I’m choosing, God says, not to break that contract. I am going to maintain the contract. That is why we say it is an unconditional, eternal covenant. God says—Nor allow My faithfulness [emunah] to fail.” And so again, we see the use of both of these terms chesed and emunah as we have from Psalm 89:1, emphasizing the character of God. This is His bedrock certainty, the stability that we can count on that even when we fail, He doesn’t fail.
In Psalm 89:34, God says, “My covenant I will not break—this is His decision—nor alter the word that has gone out from My lips.” Israel has profaned the covenant; Israel has trashed the covenant. Israel has broken it time and time again, and it has forgotten all the commands. It never observes the Sabbath and is not observing the sabbatical years, it’s not observing the Jubilee year, it’s not observing the Passover.
When Hezekiah came to be king, if you carefully read the text in in Chronicles, it says they had not observed the Passover for years. Nobody knew what it was about anymore. They had a whole generation that had no clue what the Passover was or what the purpose of the Passover was; they had never seen it. They had an apostate priesthood. Everybody had to be re-taught, re-instructed, all the priests had to be cleansed before they could observe the Passover. They had to put off the observance of the Passover a month, so they could get the nation spiritually prepared for it. They violated everything.
Now that brings us down to this petition that is brought into focus. In Psalm 89:38–52 where Ethan is petitioning God to remain faithful to His promises to David, even though sin and divine discipline made it appear that the Covenant was canceled. His experience is, God’s not faithful. When he looks at what’s happening to Israel, his experience is saying, God’s forgotten us. This is one of the biggest problems.
I remember reading this years ago in something that Dr. Ryrie wrote, and it’s one of the pithiest and most accurate things I’ve ever heard: “You either judge your life and your experience by the Word of God, or you judge the Word of God by your life and your experience.” And you can fit anything into that. This is what’s going on right now. You have to learn to judge what’s going on in the world on the basis of what the Word of God says, and the Word of God says that man is a sinner and [Jeremiah 17:9] “The heart is deceitful and wicked above all things; who can know it?”
And yet, in response to these horrific, horrible mass shootings that are taking place, everybody is jumping to dance to the tune of the liberal radicals who say, “We have to do something; we have to do something!” You can’t predict what the sin nature is going to do.
We have all kinds of laws on the books that are not enforced. If we enforced every one of them, this probably would be much more difficult for something like this to happen. We don’t need more laws; we need more enforcement, but you can have all the laws in the world and the law does not control the sin nature because “The heart is deceptive and wicked above all things. Who can know it?” Who can predict it?
You can’t predict what somebody is going to do, and a lot of these laws, the so-called red flag laws, are just as horrible because on what basis are you going to determine who will commit this crime, and then punish them or restrict their freedom? And on what criteria?
Nobody in the government is omniscient; most of them aren’t even knowledgeable; they’re ignorant. It’s so sad. I can’t tell you how many briefings I have sat in over the years related to how to talk to Congressmen, why we need to lobby congressmen and talk to congressmen and educate them on just the narrow area of what’s going on in the Middle East.
Many people are elected to Congress because they’ve done well in their community, they’ve had a successful business, they’ve been a good veterinarian, they’ve been part of Kiwanis, they’ve been a good dentist, a good doctor, a good businessman, everybody likes them; they’re “hale fellow and well-met,” but they can’t find Israel on a map to save their life. They can’t figure out where Vietnam is because they’re looking in the Western Hemisphere. That’s a real example. They can’t find things; they don’t know. They’re really good at being able to run a shoe store or being a doctor, but they are not necessarily knowledgeable on taxation and tax codes and law codes, and all these other things.
So, we, as citizens, need to educate them because they are fellow citizens, and otherwise, we’re just leaving them to their staff. And who knows: are we electing their staff? They’ve got a bureaucracy that works for them, and who knows where those people are coming from and what their background is. So, it can be a real mess, and it is a real mess.
We have to judge reality by the Word of God. We have to judge reality by truth and not by our experience, not by our emotions, and not by our limited frame of reference. That’s what God is telling Ethan through this whole situation.
But Ethan is going to react a little bit because he’s very frustrated with what he sees going on around him, and that’s it’s covered in Psalm 89:38–45 where the psalmist is lamenting the discipline on the king in light of the promises of God. He doesn’t understand it. It’s not what he expected.
Then we’ll get to the second part in Psalm 89:46–52 where he calls on God to remember His oath and to help him personally before the king dies, and to understand what’s going on.
This is what I pointed out earlier reading through Psalm 89:38–40. You see the subtlety here is that he’s really blaming God for everything that’s happening.
It’s “but, but” a very strong statement in the Hebrew where the grammar, the syntax of the Hebrew is shifting the focus, and it sets up a very strong adversative clause here where it is in contrast to everything that is going on prior to this. The grammar indicates that strong contrast; it starts off with a conjunction plus a pronoun. Normally, a sentence begins with the conjunction “and” and then a verb: “and he said,” “and he wrote,” “and he walked.”
But here, it starts off with a conjunction and a noun which indicates our pronoun here. It indicates a very, very strong contrast between what happens after verse 38 and what is said before. [Psalm 89:38–40] “But You have cast off and abhorred, You have been furious … You have renounced the covenant … You have profaned his crown … You have broken down all his hedges; You have brought his strongholds to ruin.”
Whose fault is it? He’s saying, “It’s Your fault, God. Look at what You are doing. What about this promise?” So, there’s an edginess to Ethan here as he’s talking to God. He does not understand why God isn’t going along with what He promised, which means he’s bringing his own limited expectation of what he thinks God ought to do to the table rather than just resting and relaxing and trusting in God.
What’s interesting is the language here: He uses two verbs—one is translated in the New King James as “cast off”; the other is translated “abhorred.” These two words are close synonyms in the Hebrew so that you will find that in the way they are handled, for example, the word for “cast off” is zanach, which means “to reject, to spurn, to detest.” Those same English words are used to define the Hebrew word ma’as, which is translated as “abhorred.” They are very close synonyms, and it indicates extremely strong feelings and an extreme sense of opposition here with God—he’s just confrontational with God at this point.
You have “cast off” and “abhorred.” This word “cast off” is interesting because it’s a word that is used in other contexts in order to bring out the aspect of God’s discipline on Israel. I chose one passage to put up here to illustrate this, and this is from Zechariah 10:6, when God is bringing the nation back together and this is His promise for the future. So God says, “I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have mercy on them.—The word for mercy is chesed; I have chesed on them. This is an ultimate fulfillment of the prayer in Psalm 89—Because I have mercy on them. They shall be as though I had not cast them aside;—There’s the same word that we have a back there in Psalm 89, zanach—for I am the Lord their God, and I will hear them.”
So, this is going to be fulfilled, but not in the lifetime of Ethan. This gives us a picture of how this all relates to the divine discipline of the five cycles of discipline.
Now that second word translated “abhorred” is the word ma’as, which again means the same thing: reject, spurn, despise, and some translations will just flip the words. Instead of “You have castoff and abhorred,” they’ll translate it, “You have spurned and rejected,” or “You have rejected and spurned.” It gets the point across though that what he is saying is, “God, You have just completely forgotten about us, and You’re just flushing the Davidic monarchy down the commode.”
Then his second accusation is [Psalm 89:38], “You have been furious,” and it means “to be angry.” It’s a hitpael, which is a causative, which intensifies the sense here; it means and is translated this way in a number of translations. Goldingay, in his commentary, says that “You’ve raged against your anointed,” and in the Tanakh, it translates it: “You have been enraged with Your anointed, Your messianic king.” It’s not talking about the ultimate fulfillment of the Messiah, but of the one who is Davidic.
Then the next accusation in Psalm 89:39 says, “You have renounced the covenant of Your servant.” This is a Hebrew word na’ar, which means “to abhor.” This is only used a couple of times in Hebrew in the Old Testament, and the other time it is used in Lamentations 2:7.
Remember, Jeremiah writes Lamentations after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. He is looking at the ruins of Jerusalem, and the defeat of the kingdom of Judah, the destruction of the Davidic monarchy. And he is lamenting what has happened because they have rejected God, and the whole context is divine discipline, the fifth cycle discipline of 586 BC, and so Jeremiah writes [Lamentations 2:7], “The Lord has spurned His altar, He has abandoned His sanctuary.” So that’s the idea in this word here na’ar meaning “to abandon.”
In Psalm 89:39, “You have renounced—or you’ve abandoned—the covenant of Your servant.” This is really strong language, very confrontational; and then he goes on to say, “You have profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.” That’s an interesting word. The word for crown is the Hebrew word nezer. In the lexicons they give two meanings: consecration and crown. Why? What’s the connection? Because the one who is crowned has been consecrated; he’s been set aside by God; he has been appointed to this high position of leadership. And so, the crown represents his commissioning and his consecration as a leader.
What Ethan is saying here is, “You have profaned, You have made him common. He’s not unique or distinct.” The opposite of being profane is to be holy, to be set apart to God. “You have just profaned him; You rejected all this; You cast it to the ground, so that he is no longer clean and pure.” That relates to his being set apart unto God, and we will get to that in a minute in another verse. That is difficult for many to translate.
So he then goes on and says [Psalm 89:40], “You have broken down all his hedges;”—that’s the walls. And the interesting word, the Hebrew word that is translated “hedges” here is a word that describes the sheepfold, the fence, the pen into which the sheep are placed, and that’s their protection. So, he says, “You’ve broken down the sheepfold,” so the sheep will be scattered and wander away. And then, “You have brought his strongholds to ruin.”
You would think by the way they translate the psalms that “strongholds” sometimes is the same word that is used for a fortress from Masada, but that’s not the word that is used here; it’s a different word. I’m not even going to try to pronounce it, and it is only used a couple of times in the Old Testament, but again it’s used in Lamentations. In Lamentations, Jeremiah spoke about how God had destroyed the strongholds of the city of Jerusalem. Lamentations 2:5, “The Lord was like an enemy. He has swallowed up Israel, He swallowed up all her palaces; He has destroyed her strongholds—or walls or fortifications—and has increased mourning and lamentation in the daughter of Judah.” Now I want you to notice the first line here in this verse is, “The Lord was like an enemy.” So, Jeremiah sees that in divine discipline God sets Himself against Israel.
When a believer is so rebellious, after a lengthy period of time, God will set Himself against him in his arrogance. You’ve heard when it talks about God setting Himself against the proud, God is against the proud. The word that is used there is a word that is sometimes used in a military context of setting himself against, in a military context, or making war against the proud. That’s the idea here. God will turn Himself against the believer and against the nation in order to eventually bring them back, to take them through that discipline.
Up through verse 40, what we see is this accusation against God, and then starting in Psalm 89:41, there is a shift to think about what is happening to the anointed one. Psalm 89:41, “All who pass by the way plunder him.” He is ripe for the pickings and everybody goes through and they’re just stealing everything of value that had belonged to him. So, it’s using him to refer to the king.
But the king relates to the nation; they’re identified as one. Not only is the king being plundered, the nation is being plundered. That’s what happened with the troops of the enemy, whether it was the Assyrians in the Northern Kingdom or the Babylonians or later, the Romans, they just went through Jerusalem, and anything of value, they destroyed or took with them.
So, everything is plundered, and the nation then became a reproach to other nations and to their neighbors because the nations looked at them and said, “What value is this God of yours if He’s going to let this happen to you?”
In Psalm 89:42, again there’s this sense of accusation of God. [Psalm 89:42], “You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries; You have made all his enemies rejoice.” So, here it’s combining the accusation with the focus on the king. But when it says, “You have exalted the right hand of Your enemies,” that is a metaphor; we’ve already seen it back in Psalm 89:13, “You have a mighty arm; strong is Your hand—remember “arm” and “hand” often relate to power. They’re anthropomorphisms that relate to strength, and therefore, to power and so they’re anthropomorphisms for God’s power—and high is Your right hand.” Most people are right-handed, so their greatest source of strength and power is on their on their strong side.
Here he is saying, Psalm 89:42, “You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries; You have made all his enemies rejoice.”—We’re a reproach.
Not only that, [Psalm 89;43] “You have also turned back the edge of his sword, and have not sustained him in the battle.” This is a play on words. Did you catch it? You wouldn’t ever catch it. The word that is translated “edge” is the Hebrew word for “rock” tsur, and so there’s a play on words here that, “God, You turned back the rock, the flint of his sword.”
So, he’s saying something like You dulled the edge of his sword. That’s the idea that by using that word tsur, there’s a play on words there because God is our rock, and God’s no longer the rock for Israel. There’s a play on words there to bring about the fact that God, rather than being the defense, is now the One who is the enemy of Israel. You’ve dulled his sword and you’ve not sustained him in the battle.
Then in Psalm 89:44, “You have made his glory cease, and cast his throne down to the ground.” That’s just doesn’t seem to fit. What does it mean, “You have made his glory cease?” There’s a lot of debate on this and I didn’t have an extra 20 hours to try to work my way through the conclusion on this. But what you have here is a word for “glory” that is not the normal word, kavod, for glory, but in some context if they re-point the word, it has the idea of “splendor.” So that’s what you see in the NET and also in the NASB: splendor. So, it’s similar that you brought it into the splendor of the throne, the splendor of his kingdom, the glory of his kingdom, and then the second line would seem to expand on that: You have cast that down to the ground.
There is a variant on this that is taken as the primary reading by John Goldingay in his commentary on the Psalms, which argues—remember I said back a few minutes ago that God had cast his crown to the ground; He had profaned it; He had made a comment that it was no longer distinct?
Well, purity and cleanness are related to being set apart to God’s service, and so the idea here is—that he is saying, You (being God) have made his (the Davidic king) purity cease, his sanctification cease. He is no longer set apart to Your service. You have profaned him, in other words.
That makes sense in a broader context because that’s what God has done is by bringing discipline on the Davidic king, on the one hand, you could say “yes, his glory has ceased,” but on the other hand, his being set apart as distinctive to God’s service has been wiped out because of this divine discipline, and as a result of that, his throne has been cast down to the ground. Just as we saw earlier at the end of Psalm 89:39, “You have profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.” Here, it’s a casting, it’s thrown down to the ground, so there’s a tremendous parallelism there. I think that that seems to have a stronger position than the other position.
Then, in Psalm 89:45, he says: “The days of his youth You have shortened; You have covered him with shame.” If you try to pin that historically on somebody, that’s when we have difficulty because then you’re looking for some king that died rather young. There are a couple of options there, but they don’t fit the timeframe of Ethan. This is why we’re confused as to exactly when Psalm 89 was written.
That brings us up through verse 45, and he gets through with his little rant against God, and now that his rant is over with, he’s going to come back to a focus on how what his prayer should be, and he resolves his difficulty, and now that he has gotten all of that off of his chest, he’s able to focus on God’s plan and purpose.
This takes us to the last seven verses of the text where Ethan calls on God to remember His oath and to help him before the king dies. See, that’s where the timing issue is. Remember, I titled this, “God Resolves Our Problem in His Time.” This is where I think Ethan steps out of bounds here a little bit because he wants this to be resolved in his own lifetime or in this king’s lifetime, before the king dies.
In Psalm 89:46 we read, “How long, Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?” Now I don’t know about you, but I have prayed something similar to this on a number of occasions in my life, “Lord, how long are You going to keep this testing going? How long are You going to put me in this furnace? When are You going to say, ‘Okay the test is over with; you can relax a little bit’?”
It all has to do with the fact that we want patience, and we want it yesterday, and if I didn’t get patience yesterday, well, what’s the problem? Let’s get it over with. God’s timing is not the same as our timing, and so that’s what’s going on with Ethan here. “How long is this discipline going to go on? Can’t we just get it over with and elevate the king and move forward?”
Then he focuses on himself. We see a certain amount of his self-orientation throughout the end of this: “God, You did this; God, You did that.” So, we see how he’s really, really irritated. He’s right in the middle of this difficult situation. He says [Psalm 89:47], “Remember how short my time is; —I’m not going to be around much longer—For what futility have You created all the children of men?” Isn’t this just ridiculous that we have to go through all of this? It’s just emptiness; it’s futile that You just take us through this over, and over, and over again, and we don’t ever seem to grow. It’s his expression of his frustration that is coming out again. [Psalm 89:48] He said, “What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? Selah.” That “Selah” sets apart these three verses where he is expressing, once again, a measure of his frustration with God, God’s plan, and God’s timing. He wants God to come to fulfill His oath very, very shortly.
Now, it’s like he takes a breath, and he gets refocused on God’s plan. In Psalm 89:49, he says: “Lord, where are your former lovingkindnesses, which you swore to David in Your truth?” See, this brings him back to the character of God. It brings them back to the promise of God. He still wants to know, “Well, where is Your promise?” because the Davidic house now appears to be completely abandoned and broken down, but we know that Your lovingkindness hangs in there. That’s been his thrust all the way through this psalm.
Then in Psalm 89:50, he says: “Remember, Lord, the reproach of Your servants.” This is an interesting petition here because what happens—and you see that the apostles in the New Testament use this kind of prayer and others—is that they pray, “Lord, when the unbeliever looks at what’s going on here, what they’re basically going to do is ridicule us for having trusted You because it looks like You’re not capable, and it looks like You can’t take care of us, and it looks like we have a totally misplaced faith, and so there are reproaches on us. They make fun of us. They ridicule us …”
So he says, “Lord, remember this; we believe in You and should not endure this level of reproach because of who You are.” So then he parallels at the second line of Psalm 89:50, “How I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples,”; he’s taking it very personally that, “We are being ridiculed, and they are making fun of me, and they’re making fun of us because we have trusted in You.”
In Psalm 89:51, he says, “With which Your enemies have reproached, O Lord, With which they have reproached the footsteps of Your anointed.” So again, he doesn’t really resolve this well; he just brings it to this point where he is saying that we are all just being humiliated because the Davidic monarchy has been broken down.
Then it’s like he just stops, and he says [Psalm 89:52], “Blessed be the Lord forevermore!” He doesn’t get to a point in his thinking of a strong resolution: “But Lord, I will praise your name because of …” He doesn’t get there. He started with praise, but at the end, it’s just [sigh]: “I don’t understand, but I’m going to praise the Lord.”
“Blessed” here is used in that sense of praising God: “Praise the Lord forevermore!” because he realizes that he doesn’t understand; he doesn’t comprehend what is going on. “I just have to stop and put the praise on You, Lord, because you’re going to resolve this in one way or another, and I need to trust You.”
That’s where we are a lot of times. We get to a point where we’re just hemmed in, but whatever the tests are, whatever the circumstances are, and we express our frustration to God, we claim the promises, but we’re not going to change the circumstances. We don’t believe in that stupid, silly “name it; claim it prosperity theology” that if we just claim it in the name of Jesus, everything’s going to work out, and God’s going to change all the circumstances. We just hang in there as Job did, and we go forward trusting the Lord even though the way forward is going to be quite difficult. We learn that no matter what, we are going to praise the Lord.
This takes us back to a passage we all know and love; we sing the hymn Great is Thy Faithfulness. This is what Jeremiah says when he is looking at the smoking ruins of Jerusalem, and he says [Lamentations 3:20–23], “My soul still remembers and sinks within me.—This is not a superficial view of the Christian life, which is, “I’m going to have this sort of exuberant, bouncy joy all the time.” I have joy, but I have to understand that it’s a stable mental attitude that at times is coupled with grief; it’s coupled with sorrow. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ is in the Garden of Gethsemane and the text says He’s got profound sorrow, but at the same time, He’s got joy because that never changes for Him. He doesn’t sin; He’s just weighed down by the circumstances. And that’s what Jeremiah is saying here: “My soul still remembers and sinks within me.”
Paul says we grieve, but not like those who have no hope. The word for “grieve” there is the same word that relates to the sorrow and the grief that the Lord Jesus Christ had in the Garden of Gethsemane.
And then we see the mental attitude shift in Jeremiah [Lamentations 3:21], “This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope.” It is thinking about the character of God that gives us a confident expectation of the future, whenever that comes, and however it comes.
Jeremiah says that [Lamentations 3:22], “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.” But His compassions didn’t mean that Jerusalem would be immediately rebuilt; His compassions didn’t mean that that these captives are going to be hauled off to Babylon and others are going to flee and go down to Egypt and they’re going to be away from Jerusalem and the Promised Land for a generation or more.
But even in the midst of all the crises, the catastrophe, and the chaos of our life, God’s mercies are going to continue, and we won’t be consumed. His compassions don’t fail; they’re new every morning—not every week, every year, but every morning—day by day, living one day at a time. He concludes [Lamentations 3:23], “Great is Your faithfulness.” His circumstances don’t change. Ethan’s circumstances didn’t change. Finally, he just had to say, “Well, praise the Lord forevermore; He’s in control.” “They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness,” Jeremiah says.
[Lamentations 3:24], “ ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!’ ” He has no more understanding of why God is bringing this suffering into his life and the life of other faithful believers and all the unfaithful believers, than Job understood his suffering. It boils down to simply trusting God because He’s got all the facts and I don’t. And if I knew all the facts, I couldn’t comprehend it, so I just have to trust in Him. “The Lord is my portion; therefore, I hope in him.”
[Lamentations 3:25], “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him.” It doesn’t say the waiting is good; it doesn’t say the waiting is easy; it doesn’t say the circumstances change while you’re waiting. It says [Lamentations 3:25–26], “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly.” There’s no resolution there; it’s just hoping, confident that someday it’s going to work out, and I’m going to wait. And one day, I’ll see the deliverance and the salvation of the Lord.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity that we have to be reminded that we really don’t know it all. We know Your promises, but sometimes our limited experiential appraisal doesn’t approach what’s really going on in Your plan. We’re limited in our perception; were limited in our interpretation; we’re limited in our understanding, and we need to learn to trust You, to relax, and to realize You will bring about Your promise, You will be faithful to it, and You will bring it to pass. But it may not be the way we think, and it may not be according to our timeframe. We need to just rest in You. We need to wait patiently and hope in You.
“That doesn’t mean the circumstances will change, but what needs to change is our mental attitude and the way we think about the circumstances not going the way we want them to, and learn to reverse our thinking, to have our thoughts renewed and exchanged for the truth of Your Word, so that we can reflect the character of the Son of God in our lives. We pray this in His name. Amen.”