God’s Steadfast Love

Psalm 89 is a psalm of David—not a psalm by David, but a psalm about David.  Specifically, Psalm 89 is a psalm of God’s covenantal care for David at the lowest point of David’s life.  It was written by Ethan the Ezrahite, who had been appointed by David many years earlier to help lead Israel in singing praises to God.  It seems to have been written during the time that David was fleeing Jerusalem when his son Absalom sought to steal the throne.  In verses 38-45 Ethan describes what David’s enemies subjected him to: “But now you have spurned and rejected him; you are full of wrath against your anointed.  You have renounced the covenant with your servant; you have defiled his crown in the dust.  You have broken through all his walls; you have laid his strongholds in ruins.  All who pass by plunder him; he has become the scorn of his neighbors.  You have exalted the right hand of his foes; you have made all his enemies rejoice.  Moreover, you have turned back the edge of his sword, and you have not supported him in battle.  You have removed the scepter from his hand, and hurled his throne to the ground.  You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with shame.”

This matches the description provided in 2 Samuel 16:5-8 & 13-14: “When King David came to Bahurim, a man of the family of the house of Saul came out whose name was Shimei son of Gera; he came out cursing.  He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; now all the people and all the warriors were on his right and on his left.  Shimei shouted while he cursed, ‘Out!  Out!  Murderer!  Scoundrel!  The Lord has avenged on all of you the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom.  See, disaster has overtaken you; for you are a man of blood…. So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went, throwing stones and flinging dust at him.  The king and all the people who were with him arrived weary at the Jordan.”

Near the close of the psalm, Ethan prays, “Remember, O Lord, how your servant is taunted; how I bear in my bosom the insults of the peoples, with which your enemies taunt, O Lord, with which they taunted the footsteps of your anointed.”

Yet, in the midst of the lowest point of David’s life, Ethan draws our attention back to God’s covenantal care of David.  Thus the psalm opens with a repeated focus on God’s steadfast love and faithfulness: “I will sing of your steadfast love, O Lord, forever; with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.  I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens.  You said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one, I have sworn to my servant David: I will establish your descendants forever, and build your throne for all generations.’”

A bit later in the psalm, Ethan draws our attention to God’s mighty power and faithfulness: “O Lord God of hosts, who is as mighty as you, O Lord?  Your faithfulness surrounds you” (verse 8).

About the vital connection between God’s steadfast love and mightiness and faithfulness, Shawn Brix comments, “Psalm 89 states that God’s love ‘stands firm forever,’ and God is mighty.  These attributes together are closely connected with faithfulness.  God’s love compels him to be faithful toward us and God’s might enables him to overcome any obstacle that stands in the way of that faithfulness.”

Even at the lowest points of our lives, Psalm 89 assures us that God’s steadfast love always propels his faithfulness toward us and his mightiness always enables his faithfulness toward us.

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