Psalms Lecture 10: Psalm 89

THE FOLLOWING ARE NOTES FOR LECTURES GIVEN AT NEW COLLEGE, BIRMINGHAM. I AM NOT AN EXPERT AND BOOKS WILL BE CREDITED TO SHOW WHERE MY INFORMATION IS COMING FROM. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, COMMENT ON THIS POST AND I WILL TRY MY BEST TO ANSWER.

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Psalm 89 is far too long to put on here, so here’s a link to Bible Gateway. In the notes I will be quoting small sections that are relevant to what is mentioned. Enjoy!

Ethan the Ezrahite is the author, but in the Old Testament he is seen as a standard of wisdom particularly. Solomon is shown to be wise through a comparison with Ethan in 1 Kings 4. Ethan is meant to be a musician, one of the temple musicians, a cymbal-player, and a sage (hence the wisdom).

This psalm can be seen as an amazing hymn of praise, an artful hymn, called a maskil, which specifically sees God as creator and the one who chose David and his descendants to be kings forever. The foundation of this psalm is 2 Samuel 7:4-17 which is the promise of a throne for David’s dynasty “I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son”. There are many areas of scripture that look at the Father-Son relationship but this psalm focuses on the clause “for ever”, which the events mentioned at the end of the psalm.

This means there is a painful tension: between the promises of God, and the reality of when things go wrong. However, the psalm is not bitter, it’s spirit is more humble than that. Instead of anger at God, this psalm is an appeal to God to show His hand. When we look to the New Testament, we realise that the fulfilment of God’s promise outstrip the expectations of this psalm. Although it may have looked like God had forgotten about David, in fact David’s line, his dynasty continued far beyond, and became the world’s salvation.

As with certain other psalms this psalm is the product of the choir, this psalm is not truly about David or by David. His name is mentioned for the connection to God’s promises and seemingly silent stage for the kingdom.

There is a little confusion about how this psalm was written though: as there seems to have been a disaster of some kind it suggests that it could have been written a long time after David’s reign. Another possibility is that the first part, up to verse 37 was written, and then the rest, 37-52 at a later date, possibly centuries later. On the other hand it could refer to the troubles of Rehoboam’s time which would allow Ethan to be an old man when he wrote this psalm, either all-in-one, or by going back to it years later to add a prayer for the present troubles. The styles changes very dramatically, from praise to lament. Particularly by the end it is a prayer for help of a defeated King. Still as so many other psalms also do, this comes round again to praise, reminding us that despite hard times worship of God is still of utmost importance. It is written in such faith, and expectation, of God’s love through the bad and the good.

We can have more faith because we know that through all this God still had the steadfast love that he had planned out David’s line far beyond what David could have imagined.

We’re going to look shortly at the covenant and then the seeming eclipse of that covenant relationship.

DISCUSSION

Covenant (particularly in verse 19-37)
What ideas about covenant do you see in these verses?
What can we learn about the idea of covenant?

Covenant in eclipse (38-51)
What about now? What contrasting ideas are here in comparison to verses (19-37)?
What can we learn about how the author feels?
How does He feel towards God?

Bringing all this to our present day what things can we learn from this psalm?

Short time of reflection:

  • Kidner, Derek. Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Book III, IV and V of the Psalms (Inter-Varsity Press, England, 1973).
  • Spurgeon, C. H. The Treasury of David, Volume II, Psalm LVIII to CX (Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts).
  • Society of Biblical Literature. The Harper Collins Study Bible (New Revised Standard Version).
  • Walton, John H. Chronolgical and Background Charts of the Old Testament (Zondervan, Michigan, 1978).
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