PSALM EIGHTY-NINE


[Pss 89:1] I will sing of the lovingkindness of Jehovah for ever: With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.
[Pss 89:2] For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever; Thy faithfulness wilt thou establish in the very heavens.
[Pss 89:3] I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant:
[Pss 89:4] Thy seed will I establish for ever, And build up thy throne to all generations. Selah
[Pss 89:5] And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Jehovah; Thy faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.
[Pss 89:6] For who in the skies can be compared unto Jehovah? Who among the sons of the mighty is like unto Jehovah,
[Pss 89:7] A God very terrible in the council of the holy ones, And to be feared above all them that are round about him?
[Pss 89:8] O Jehovah God of hosts, Who is a mighty one, like unto thee, O Jehovah? And thy faithfulness is round about thee.
[Pss 89:9] Thou rulest the pride of the sea: When the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.
[Pss 89:10] Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; Thou hast scattered thine enemies with the arm of thy strength.
[Pss 89:11] The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: The world and the fullness thereof, thou hast founded them.
[Pss 89:12] The north and the south, thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon rejoice in thy name.
[Pss 89:13] Thou hast a mighty arm; Strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.
[Pss 89:14] Righteousness and justice are the foundation of thy throne: Lovingkindness and truth go before thy face.
[Pss 89:15] Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: They walk, O Jehovah, in the light of thy countenance.
[Pss 89:16] In thy name do they rejoice all the day; And in thy righteousness are they exalted.
[Pss 89:17] For thou art the glory of their strength; And in thy favor our horn shall be exalted.
[Pss 89:18] For our shield belongeth unto Jehovah; And our king to the Holy One of Israel.
[Pss 89:19] Then thou spakest in vision to thy saints, And saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
[Pss 89:20] I have found David my servant; With my holy oil have I anointed him:
[Pss 89:21] With whom my hand shall be established; Mine arm also shall strengthen him.
[Pss 89:22] The enemy shall not exact from him, Nor the son of wickedness afflict him.
[Pss 89:23] And I will beat down his adversaries before him, And smite them that hate him.
[Pss 89:24] But my faithfulness and my lovingkindness shall be with him; And in my name shall his horn be exalted.
[Pss 89:25] I will set his hand also on the sea, And his right hand on the rivers.
[Pss 89:26] He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.
[Pss 89:27] I also will make him (my) first-born, The highest of the kings of the earth.
[Pss 89:28] My lovingkindness will I keep for him for evermore; And my covenant shall stand fast with him.
[Pss 89:29] His seed also will I make to endure for ever, And his throne as the days of heaven.
[Pss 89:30] If his children forsake my law, And walk not in mine ordinances;
[Pss 89:31] If they break my statutes, And keep not my commandments;
[Pss 89:32] Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, And their iniquity with stripes.
[Pss 89:33] But my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, Nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.
[Pss 89:34] My covenant will I not break, Nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
[Pss 89:35] Once have I sworn by my holiness: I will not lie unto David:
[Pss 89:36] His seed shall endure for ever, And his throne as the sun before me.
[Pss 89:37] It shall be established for ever as the moon, And (as) the faithful witness in the sky.
[Pss 89:38] But thou hast cast off and rejected, Thou hast been wroth with thine anointed.
[Pss 89:39] Thou hast abhorred the covenant of thy servant: Thou hast profaned his crown (by casting it) to the ground.
[Pss 89:40] Thou hast broken down all his hedges; Thou hast brought his strongholds to ruin.
[Pss 89:41] All that pass by the way rob him: He is become a reproach to his neighbors.
[Pss 89:42] Thou hast exalted the right hand of his adversaries; Thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice.
[Pss 89:43] Yea, thou turnest back the edge of his sword, And hast not made him to stand in the battle.
[Pss 89:44] Thou hast made his brightness to cease, And cast his throne down to the ground.
[Pss 89:45] The days of his youth hast thou shortened: Thou hast covered him with shame. Selah
[Pss 89:46] How long, O Jehovah? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? (How long) shall thy wrath burn like fire?
[Pss 89:47] Oh remember how short my time is: For what vanity hast thou created all the children of men!
[Pss 89:48] What man is he that shall live and not see death, That shall deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah
[Pss 89:49] Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, Which thou swarest unto David in thy faithfulness?
[Pss 89:50] Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; How I do bear in my bosom (the reproach of) all the mighty peoples,
[Pss 89:51] Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Jehovah, Wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.
[Pss 89:52] Blessed be Jehovah for evermore. Amen, and Amen.



God's Covenant With David And Israel's Afflictions


I. The Davidic Covenant (vss. 3, 4).
II. God's sovereignty portrayed (vss. 5-18).
III. An exposition of the Davidic Covenant.
A. David's personal reign (vss. 19-24a).
B. Messiah's reign (vss. 24b-28).
C. The inalterable character of the Covenant (vss. 29-37).
IV. The seeming failure of the Covenant promise (vss. 38-45).
V. A concluding prayer.
A. Brevity of life (vss. 46-48).
B. Petition for deliverance (vss. 49-51).
Concluding Doxology (vs. 52).


We are told in the superscription that Ethan the Ezrahite was the human author of Psalm 89. While we like such information in regard to the author of any portion of Scripture, it is not necessary to know who did the writing. The one big consideration is for us to know that the one who did the writing was inspired by the Spirit of God. Praise God we have absolute evidence that all Scripture is inspired of God.

The occasion for the writing of this psalm was the overthrowing of the Davidic throne, which we see set forth in verses 38-45. The question arising immediately is: To what overthrow of David's throne does this passage refer? Various answers are given to this query. In all probability the catastrophe was the one caused by the invasion of Palestine by Shishak, king of Egypt, in the fifth year of the reign of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon (I Kings 14:25-28: II Chron. 12:1-12). The reigns of both David and Solomon were most glorious. David had fought many wars, conquered mighty foes, and had established Israel as a kingdom among the nations of Western Asia. Solomon was a sovereign who loved peace, engaged in great enterprises of mining in the Wady Akabah south of the Dead Sea, and trade and commerce. Untold wealth flowed into his coffers. He established friendly alliances with many nations of the ancient world and cemented relationships by marriage. Thus the reign of Solomon was the most glorious of all during the history of Israel.

Upon the death of Solomon Rehoboam his son became his successor. But Rehoboam was not a man with the talents and abilities of his father. He was unable to evaluate the situation in which he found himself. The kingdom of Israel lost prestige immediately upon the death of Solomon. The days of prosperity ceased. Gloom and discouragement settled down over the land. The people who had been taxed so very heavily during the prosperous reign of Solomon pleaded with the new sovereign to lighten the burden of taxation. Rejecting the advice of his father and adopting the unwise suggestions of the younger of the realm, Rehoboam bluntly declined to listen to the pleadings of the people. When he thus absolutely refused to consider their complaint, the people of the ten northern tribes recalled Jereboam from Egypt and made him sovereign of the ten northern tribes, that formed themselves into the new kingdom of Israel. Thus only the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained faithful to the Davidic house.

Further distress came upon the kingdom of Judah and the house of David when Shishak invaded the territory, overran the country, threw down the fortified cities, despoiled the country of all its wealth, and led the young king Rehoboam into Egypt with many Jewish captives. On the south side of the temple of Karnak at Luxur, Egypt, Shishak had the account of his conquest of Judah recorded and pictured on the stones of that wall, Rehoboam and his fellow-Jews being led as captives before the victorious Pharaoh.

In view of all the calamities that overtook the kingdom of Judah in the first four years of Rehoboam's reign, naturally the people were discouraged, despondent and downhearted. It appeared to them that the promises that had been made by the Lord to David concerning the continuity and perpetuity of his dynasty had absolutely failed. The king was in exile. The princes were likewise with him in bondage. The wealth of the realm had been seized by the foreign conqueror and taken down into Egypt. Desolation and waste were seen on every hand. The people were struggling to keep alive. Doubtless all of the evils that attend and follow a war of aggression came heavily upon the people. They could not harmonize the present situation with the promises of God.

To meet this situation and to clarify the atmosphere, our psalmist was inspired to write this most marvelous psalm. With all of the prophets and the psalmists, Ethan, the composer of this poem, was thoroughly convinced that God's loving-kindness endures forever, and that mercy will be built up unto all generations. He therefore began his poem with the following words:

"I will sing of the lovingkindness of Jehovah forever:
With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.
For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever;
Thy faithfulness wilt thou establish in the very heavens (Ps. 89:1,2).

God's loving-kindness is His grace, unmerited favor. The faithfulness of Jehovah is His loyalty, being true to His promises and to His very character. Thus concerning God's grace and faithfulness Ethan declared that he would sing. By revelation and by faith he looked out into the future and saw the desolations removed and the kingdom re-established in the land of the fathers, and the promises of God thus reaffirmed. The faithfulness of the Almighty is likewise emphasized as being built up in the very heavens--as well as on the earth.


I. The Davidic Covenant

"I have made a covenant with my chosen,
I have sworn unto David my servant:
Thy seed will I establish for ever,
And build up thy throne to all generations (vss. 3, 4).

The personal pronouns I and my of verses 1 and 2 refer to the human author, Ethan. But the same pronouns in verses 3 and 4 refer to God; for it is He who chose David and made the covenant with him to establish his throne forever. Thus, in verse 3 and 4, the psalmist is impersonating God or quoting Him, giving the language that He uttered to David: "Thy [David's] seed will I [Jehovah] establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations." This language refers to the covenant into which God entered with David, as we find recorded in II Samuel, chapter 7.

At a glance this chapter shows that David proposed to build the Temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem and divulged his plan to the prophet Nathan, who immediately, without first consulting God in respect to the matter, gave assent to the royal design. That night, however, the word of Jehovah came to Nathan and told him that he had made a mistake in encouraging David to make further preparations for the building of the house of Jehovah. The reason that David was not permitted to do this was that he had been a man of war and blood.

Because David had purposed in very soul to build the Temple to praise the honor of God, the Lord made a promise to him, namely, that He himself would build a house to David. The house which David purposed to build was the Temple, the literal sanctuary at Jerusalem. The house which the Lord promised for David was a royal house, a dynasty of kings descending from David.

The Lord assured David that, upon his death, his son would be placed upon the throne of the kingdom, and that he would build the house of Jehovah. This kingdom was to be built up and established forever. In making this promise to David, the Lord called attention to the fact, if his descendants who would sit upon the throne should commit iniquity, He, the Lord, would punish such sin. He hastened, however, to assure him that, though they should go off into sin and wickedness, He would not take the kingdom from the Davidic house as He had taken it from the house of Saul. His throne and his kingdom therefore were assured by the Lord to David to continue forever.

"Moreover Jehovah telleth thee that Jehovah will make thee a house. When thy days are fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, that shall proceed out of thy bowls, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son: if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but my lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thy house and thy kingdom shall be made sure for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so did Nathan speak unto David" (II Sam. 7:11c-17).

Thus in the Samuel account we see the entire Davidic dynasty in vision. Some of these kings, as history proves, were excellent and good men. Some, on the other hand, were wicked, evil persons. But in this promise, figuratively speaking, God turned the floodlight on the entire dynasty and we see the entire line of kings through the centuries to the coming of the Messiah in whom all prophecy will be fulfilled

We see the Chronicles, version of the same promise in I Chronicles 17:10-14 "Moreover I will tell thee that Jehovah will build thee a house. And it shall come to pass when thy days are fulfilled that thou must go to be with thy fathers, that I will set up thy seed after thee, who shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build me a house, and I will establish his throne for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son; and I will not take my lovingkindness away from him, as I took it from him that was before thee; but I will settle him in my house and in my kingdom for ever and his throne shall be established for ever."

In this passage the floodlight is not used. On the contrary, the spotlight is focused on one of David's descendants "who shall be of thy [David's] sons," and who shall build the house of Jehovah and establish His throne forever. This one, according to the quotation, comes of David's "sons." Since a person can have only one father, and since this one is of David's "sons," we know that the word "sons" here is used in the sense of the Davidic dynasty. Since nothing is said about his committing iniquity, the inference is clear that he does not commit sins and wrong-doings. It is he who builds this Temple of Jehovah. When this passage is restudied in the light of related ones, it becomes immediately evident that the one under the spotlight in the Chronicles passage is none other than the sinless, spotless Son of God, David's Greater Son, the Messiah.

In the two versions of the Davidic Covenant, which we have just noted, nothing is said about the removal of a disobedient king or the casting down of the throne even temporarily. Provision, however, for such an eventuality is hinted in the warning that, if one of his descendants should commit iniquity, he would be punished. The sin might, however, be sufficient to justify the overturning of the throne and the removal of the people from the land into exile.

On his dying bed, David gave his son Solomon a charge, urging him to be faithful and true to God, "That Jehovah may establish his word which he spake concerning me, saying, If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee," said he, "a man on the throne of Israel" (I Ki. 2:4). From this language we understand that it was the will of God that the dynasty of David should remain intact throughout the centuries until He should come whose right it is to reign, namely, the Messiah of Israel. The inference of this passage is that, if any of David's descendants fail to take heed to their ways, there would fail one to sit upon the throne. We are not to understand that there would not be someone whose right it would be to sit upon the throne, but that the throne would not be in a condition for such a one to sit upon it.

On this subject Jeremiah spoke twice. To the people of Jerusalem and to the nation he declared that, if they would observe God's laws and be faithful to Him, "Then shall there enter in by the gates of this city kings and princes, sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they, and their princes, the men of Judah, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall remain for ever" (Jer. 17:25). The same promise was again spoken in 22:4: "For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding on chariots and horses, he, and his servants and his people."

From all this data we see that it was God's "number one" plan for the Davidic dynasty to continue intact through the centuries until the Messiah should come and mount the throne and establish a reign of righteousness. But, as has already been seen, provision was made for the overthrowing of the throne in the event that the occupant of it proved unfaithful and untrue to God. Rehoboam was the first thus to disregard his duty to God and to sin so that the throne was overturned in his day and time. Psalm 89 was therefore written for the express purpose of explaining such a situation as arose when Rehoboam was carried off into captivity and desolation was left throughout the country. It likewise was to explain any subsequent national catastrophe when the throne would remain vacant and the people be left in the morass of a national disaster.


II. God's Sovereignty Portrayed

"And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Jehovah;
Thy faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies can be compared unto Jehovah?
Who among the sons of the mighty is like unto Jehovah,
A God very terrible in the council of the holy ones,
And to be feared above all them that are round about him?
O Jehovah God of hosts, who is a mighty one, like unto thee, O Jehovah?
And thy faithfulness is round about thee (Ps. 89:5-8).

The Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. In the verses just quoted, we catch a glimpse of the heaven of heavens where the throne of God is. We see Him seated upon this throne and around about Him are gathered the great "assembly of the holy ones." The question immediately arising here is, Who are the holy ones mentioned in verse 5? Two answers have been given to this question. One is that they are saved people who are in the presence of God, and who are rendering praise and adoration to the Almighty. The other is that they are the heavenly host, consisting of the seraphim, the cherubim, and all ranks and orders of angels. In other words, those taking this latter position interpret the holy ones as "the sons of the mighty" mentioned in verse 6. While we cannot be dogmatic in regard to these two interpretations I am less inclined toward the first one. My reason for this position is that, in the time when this psalm was written, the saved people were not in the presence of God. Prior to the victory which our Lord won on the cross, all people--both saved and lost--went upon death to Hades, or Sheol as the place of the departed was then called. After Christ's victory He released the saved who were in Sheol at the time of His ascension and lead them to glory. If these statements are correct, this first position is untenable. We are in that event thrown back upon the second position: That these holy ones are the angelic host.

The Spirit of God gave the prophet a clear vision of the throne room of God in heaven. He saw the Almighty seated in majesty, surrounded by these vast hosts of spiritual worshipping beings. He declared, therefore, that there were none among the sons of the Almighty who in any way could compare with Him.

"Thou rules the pride of the sea:
When the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.
Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain;
Thou hast scattered thine enemies with the arm of thy strength.
The heavens are thine, the earth is also thine:
The world and the fullness thereof, thou hast founded them.
The north and the south, thou hast created them:
Tabor and Hermon rejoice in thy name.
Thou hast a mighty arm;
Strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand (Ps. 89:9-13).

In these verses we see that the Lord Jehovah who is enthroned, as we just have seen, in majesty, glory, and power, is the Sovereign throughout the entire material universe. There was a time when the Triune God alone existed. As the ages of the past rolled by, the Lord created the celestial host--as we see in Job 38:7. Following that event He created the entire material universe. Since He is the Creator, He is the Sovereign Lord of all. In verse 9 the psalmist therefore declared, "Thou rulest the pride of the sea: When the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them."

Moreover, according to verse 10, He is the one who broke Rahab in pieces, "as one that is slain." He scattered all His enemies with the arm of His strength. The word, Rahab, sometimes applies to Egypt, but it certainly cannot in this instance. When we study this verse in the light of Psalm 74:13,14 (see the connection of the context) and then view it further in the light of Job, chapters 40 and 41, we conclude that Rahab is none other than the one that is the beginning of the creation of God, the king of the sons of pride, whom we know as the god of this world, the devil, the adversary of both God and man. This conquest of the devil, mentioned in Psalm 89:10, and his hosts is doubtless a reference to the victory which God won over Satan and his hosts when they originally rebelled against the Almighty and led a revolt throughout the entire universe. Thus the Lord put down this revolt and re-established piece throughout the vast realm of space. Thus He established His sovereignty in the heavens and on the earth and reigned supreme as King. The north, therefore, as well as the south, was created by Him and they are wholly and entirely depended upon Him. The Lord God has a mighty arm and a strong hand and wields indescribable power. He controls everything.

"Righteousness and justice are the foundations of thy throne:
Lovingkindness and truth go before thy face.
Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound:
They walk, O Jehovah, in the light of thy countenance.
In thy name do they rejoice all the day;
And in thy righteousness are they exalted.
For thou art the glory of their strength;
And in thy favor our horn shall be exalted.
For our shield belongeth unto Jehovah;
And our king to the Holy One of Israel (Ps. 89:14-18).

According to verse 14 righteousness and justice are the foundation of the throne of God, together with loving-kindness--or grace--and truth. One should study the character of the Lord in the light of Exodus 34:6,7: "And Jehovah passed by before Him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth; keeping lovingkindness for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation." Here is the sevenfold statement of God's character given by Himself.

It is a wonderful thing to know God personally. The individual who thus knows God, or the nation thus acknowledging Him, is indeed, as we see in Psalm 89:15, blessed. To have the proper appreciation of God and His character and one's relationship to Him is to be drawn closer and closer to Him in fellowship and communion.

The Psalmist declares in verse 16 that the nation thus appreciating God, which in this case is none other than Israel, the Chosen People, rejoices all the day in Him and in His righteousness.

He is the glory of their strength, the Occasion of their strength. It is in His favor that Israel's horn shall be exalted. The word, horn, when used symbolically, either refers to power or to the ruler who in this case is none other than Messiah. Thus Messiah will be established as the King of Israel and the Lord Jehovah, the Father, will be a shield to her when she accepts Him. Israel's protection belongs to Jehovah as well as her King, the Messiah of Israel and the Saviour of the world.


Continued on next page