We’re spending much of this week of Advent in Psalm 89, which is a long and layered song. We could draw insight from this passage for a long time. Today, I’ve been thinking through this Psalm in four movements which include two big surprises:
Movement 1: verses 1-4
At the start, this song is all about the love and faithfulness of God. Ethan (the writer) says, “I will declare that your love stands firm forever.”
Movement 2: verses 5-18
Next, the adoration of God moves from personal to cosmic. Ethan reflects on God’s power over all of creation, “You rule over the surging sea…”
Then, the writer focuses on one man as a unique recipient of God’s power and faithfulness: “a warrior,” “a young man,” David, who is anointed by God, promised unparalleled success, favor, lasting power, an ever-enduring throne. Ethan has God saying of David, “…His line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun.” Like the sun!
Movement 3: verses 19-48
But suddenly, there’s a surprise in the story: God’s promises are not realized, God renounces his covenant (which He, Himself established and said He would “not violate” in vs. 34), David experiences rejection, ruin, shame, and his enemies rejoice as God “cast(s) [David’s] throne to the ground.” This section is, simply, hard to take. What do I do with this?
Movement 4: verses 49-52
The writer’s response to the reality of what he’s witnessed is to struggle. It’s the age-old dynamic of faith: he struggles to reconcile what he believes with what he has seen. That’s the struggle.
He questions God: “Where is your former great love?”
He pleads with God: “Remember your servant…”
He rails against God: “…they have mocked every step of your anointed one.”
And then, at the very end, there’s a second surprise: resolution. Maybe it’s the fierce cry of a determined soul; maybe it’s the desperate cry of a breaking heart. I don’t know. But Ethan simply ends with this: “Praise the LORD, forever. Amen and Amen.”
May God sustain us as our beliefs and realities collide, leaving us, often, in chaos, searching for shalom.