God’s Grace: Loyal, Faithful Love
2 Samuel 7:18–29; Psalm 89:1–18
Samuel Lesson #171
May 21, 2019
“Father, we are so grateful for Your grace, for Your goodness to us. We are grateful for the fact that our salvation is not dependent upon who we are, it’s not dependent upon what we do. It’s not dependent upon what sins we avoid or any human factor. It’s totally dependent upon the fact that Jesus Christ paid for our sins when He was on the cross.
“And Father, we pray that You would help us understand that. And understand the more we study Scripture, to come face-to-face with Your grace, Your faithful, loyal love to us, Your power, Your might, Your strength, Your wisdom, all of these attributes that separate You from all the gods that people think of, that You are the unique God of the heavens and the earth, the Creator of the heavens and the earth. You stand completely apart from all creation.
“You are the Creator God who made us in Your image and likeness to reflect You and glorify You.
“And Father, we pray that we might step up to that challenge to grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, that You might be glorified in our thinking.
“Help us as we study this evening to think about what we are learning. And may God the Holy Spirit help us to see how the principles relate to the things we do, the way we live, and the way we think. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
I want to go back and touch on a couple of things that I began with last time just because I’ve done more study. And some things came to my attention that I wasn’t aware of last time, or I hadn’t thought about it that way, so we are going to continue to look at the beginning of Psalm 89.
Psalm 89 is a prayer that is based on the Davidic Covenant as a promise. What we’re going to bring out, what we are going to see—this is where I stopped last time—it is talking about the faith-rest drill.
That’s a phrase that means it is a way in which we use faith. It’s a drill, a practice. If you grew up doing any kind of athletics, music, dance, or just about any kind of physical activity, you’re used to doing drills. That was how you trained yourself to be able to perform when it was time to do so.
The same thing is true in the Christian life. We have these various spiritual skills, or drills, that we engage in. Using faith, using promises, trusting God when situations, crises, difficulties come up where we develop that automatic reflex, to trust in God, to claim a promise.
That is so important and that’s what’s going on here in this very lengthy psalm. It is written by Ethan the Ezrahite.
I want to go back and look at a couple of things that I pointed out last time about Ethan the Ezrahite simply because we don’t know much about him. He is only mentioned one time specifically, as Ethan the Ezrahite. We will see that in a minute in 1 Kings 4:31.
He is listed with some other people. There is an Ethan who is listed with those same people in another passage in 1 Chronicles 2:6.
As I was saying last week, because of that it seems to me he was a contemporary of David and Solomon.
We don’t know how old he was. I want to bring out some things I may be restating, or teaching a little differently from last week as a result of my studies.
Psalm 89 focuses on understanding the Davidic Covenant. The Davidic Covenant, an unconditional promise by God to David and his descendants, becomes a foundational promise for the house of Israel, for all of Israel. A promise that they can go to and rely on related to their past, looking to David, and relating to their future—that Messiah would come from the seed of David.
And looking to a glorious future where a descendent of David would establish a glorious kingdom with Jerusalem as the capital, and all of the Gentiles coming together to worship in Jerusalem at the temple.
The Davidic covenant is foundational. We have studied this so much.
Looking at the three core promises in the Davidic Covenant related to an eternal house or dynasty, which means that that line of descendants from David would culminate in somebody who was eternal, everlasting. And He would rule over an eternal kingdom. You can’t have an eternal kingdom without an eternal house or dynasty, and an eternal throne.
When we started last time, I looked at this opening superscription in Psalm 89. It is part of the inspired text, it’s not something that was added later.
It’s written by this man Ethan the Ezrahite. As I pointed out, he is something of a contemporary of David or Solomon.
We see this reference in 1 Kings 4:30, “Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt.”
Who wrote this down? We don’t know. It is one of the prophets who wrote and recorded what is in 1 Kings.
The next question is, of course, when did they write it? And again, we don’t know exactly. It could have been several prophets. There are a couple of prophets mentioned in the beginning, during the reign of Solomon, and later, during the reign of his son, Rehoboam.
Those prophets could have written this down, and other prophets later, at some point, because 1 Kings and 2 Kings was originally one book and parts of it would be written by different prophets.
Most likely there would have been a compiler, somebody who was the final editor who put it all together, made it read clearly. All this would be done under the inspiration and oversight of God the Holy Spirit.
This is written sometime later. It could be written, and probably was written, after Solomon died. So if you put yourself in this position of the prophet who is writing down the record of God’s work in Solomon’s life, in Solomon’s reign, and he is writing from a future perspective about Solomon’s wisdom at the beginning, and he mentions this comparison, he expects his readers to know who these individuals are, who Ethan, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda are, those four men. They would be well known to the reader, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that those men were contemporaries of David or Solomon. They would be known.
There is a sense that they could be contemporaries of Solomon. Solomon only lived to be about sixty, and it’s very conceivable that Ethan lived beyond Solomon’s time.
He could have been younger than Solomon, he could’ve lived much longer than Solomon, and he could have been older than Solomon and lived longer than Solomon.
All I’m saying is that last week I proposed one scenario where he was a contemporary of David and overlaps in the Solomon’s life. But, as you read through Psalm 89, and you get to the end, there is a significant serious threat to the dynasty of David.
That’s why the writer of the psalm is coming to God in this plea to restore the house of David.
It has been threatened. It looks like everything is going to fall apart, and he is calling upon God to solve that problem and fulfill His promise. It’s a serious, serious threat.
Last week I was still wrestling with what events in the life of David could that relate to. I don’t think there were any that were that serious.
I talked about the fact that there were commentators who would suggest either the invasion of Israel by Shishak who was the Pharaoh of Egypt, or later on the invasion by the Babylonians.
It’s interesting, nobody mentions the invasion of the Assyrians. I’m going to suggest something else as I have gone back and read this.
It relates to the invasion of Shishak as a possibility. And since Ethan seems to at least be, in some sense, a contemporary of David and Solomon, I think this threat has to come in that general period of the end of the united monarchy and the beginning of the divided monarchy.
When we asked the question, who are these people? They are identified as the sons of Mahol. Who is he? If you do a search on his name this is the only time that he is mentioned. But, it’s not the only time these four men are mentioned together.
If we look at 1 Chronicles 2:6 it talks about the sons of Zerah. Zerah lived a long time before so there are no numbers here. This just talks about the descendants of Zerah. It’s not another name for Mahol.
It is talking about an ancestor, and it mentions five people. Zimri, who is not mentioned in the Kings passage, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara.
There is a slightly different spelling, probably a textual issue where it was miscopied, a ‘d’ was left out. In 1 Kings 4:31 there is Darda and they just dropped out the d, a copyist error, in 1 Chronicles 2:6.
What this suggests, again, is that these were a distinctive group of men who were known for their skill and their wisdom.
Some have come along and see similar names in the musicians among the Levites. You can’t sustain that. That is a different family, even though there were some names that were similar.
So, as we look at this and we think this through, as I was saying earlier, it seems as if it’s very possible that since Solomon dies when he is sixty, that Ethan could’ve lived much longer than he did.
The perspective of the writer is simply telling his audience, in comparison to the wisdom of these men, Solomon’s wisdom was greater. That doesn’t give us any chronological information other than very, very early in that period of Solomon’s reign, or just after, it would be when these men lived, and their lives would’ve overlapped.
So what I want you to do now is turn with me to a record of this period in 1 Kings 12. The first part of 1 Kings deals with the reign of Solomon, the building and construction of the temple, and then we learn about Solomon’s basic problem—he marries a lot of women.
He has six hundred wives and three hundred concubines. They influence him to depart from God and to build idolatrous temples to all of their gods. He succumbs to the temptation of idolatry. As a result of that, idolatry permeates the culture of Israel.
This is really important to understand. I was having a conversation just a little while ago and there is something that everybody seems to miss in the variety of historical interpretations.
You can look at numerous writers, numerous authors on various topics. One thing that they all have in common is that they look to some factor in creation as the causative issue of why things go the way they do.
Why a nation rises, why a nation falls. The one thing they leave out is God, because most secular historians, if not all secular historians, know little, if anything, about theology.
They have little, if any, interest in the theology, the belief system, of the significant people in the world. What drove them to do what they did?
Biblically speaking, we must understand that the key causative issue in history is not economics, it is not military. It is not technology. It’s not education. It’s your view of God, because that gives you your whole view of reality. When you change your view of God, it changes everything in your culture.
If you don’t believe it, just look at the history of the United States in the last sixty years. We have had a major shift in the way the culture views ultimate reality and God. The result of that is that we’ve lost our moral foundation. We have lost our moral compass. We don’t know what is actually right and what is actually wrong.
We are motivated now for things that have totally finite significance. We are motivated to get more money. We are motivated by material things. We are motivated by emotional things. We are motivated by guilt.
A lot of what happens in the world as we look at the poor, we look at the disenfranchised, and we are motivated by guilt rather than by reason. The consequence is that we go in a lot of different directions. But, it all boils down to the fact that we have left the God of our ancestors.
We’ve departed from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the Bible as a base. What made American culture great was the fact that it was built on the foundational principles of the Word of God. That doesn’t mean everybody was a believer, but they had a theistic worldview. And they thought in terms of that theistic worldview.
However they thought of that, God created everything and everybody is accountable to God for the way they live. And everybody’s going to face that payday someday. Everybody.
That affected their educational philosophy. That affected economics. That affected the political theory. That affected their view of the judiciary. It affected their view of punishment and of jails, and the whole penal system. Everything in life, marriage, family—all of this is determined by your view of God.
Once that changes, everything else starts falling apart. That’s exactly what we see taking place in the latter part of Solomon’s reign.
After he died there was a tax revolt, and so I want to direct your attention to 1 Kings 12. In 1 Kings 12 we see Rehoboam being crowned and installed as the king of Israel. He goes to Shechem, which is located about forty miles north of Jerusalem in the hill country of Samaria.
In 1 Kings 12:1 we read, “And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel—all the tribes united—had gone to Shechem to make him king.” This is his installation.
1 Kings 12:2, “So it happened …” What happens in 1 Kings 12:2–3 is that we discover that there is not unity among the tribes. There is dissatisfaction. When Jeroboam, the son of Nebat heard about this—he’s been in exile, living in Egypt because he had angered Solomon because he was challenging Solomon’s ethics, especially when it came to taxes and labor.
You just thought issues related to labor and taxes were new. This goes back as far back as we know in history.
The issue is that Solomon, in building the temple, and building his palace, and doing all the great things that he did, he overtaxed the people. He overworked the people. And they want less of that.
So Jeroboam comes back and he goes to Rehoboam and he tries to negotiate so that they can reduce the workload and the tax load on the people.
Rehoboam says, “give me three days, I’m going to go to my counselors.” He goes to his counselors. He talks to the older men who served Solomon, the men who have wisdom and experience and have dealt with so many issues.
They said, “Make the load easier for them. Don’t increase taxes, don’t increase the workload. Let’s relax things for a while. This is going to make everybody more prosperous and happy, and this is going to be a much better deal.”
Then he talks to his young advisors. They are all filled with arrogance, as a lot of younger leaders are. They are filled with arrogance and ambition. They want to control things, and they convince Rehoboam that “No, no, no, don’t decrease taxes. Don’t decrease the workload. Increase the taxes, increase the workload. Demonstrate that you are the one in control. Bring everybody under your authority.”
This is the decision that he made, and the consequences were that the kingdom split. The splitting of this kingdom was the fulfillment of a prophecy. This was divine judgment on Israel.
Just as the chaos that we see in our culture today is part of divine judgment on our country, because we have departed from the Judeo-Christian heritage, the biblical heritage, on which this nation was founded.
Many of the sins that we see that are so prominent today are sins that, according to Romans 1, God allows to take place. He takes away the restraints and turns people over to these things. That is a judgment on a nation.
This prophecy had already been announced and it was a prophecy that was given to Ahijah the prophet in 1 Kings 11:29–39. This is the last part of the previous chapter, so you can just look across the page, probably, and you can see what gets laid out.
In 1 Kings 11:29 Jeroboam has already angered and irritated Solomon. This is at the time when he’s leaving Jerusalem and going down to Egypt to find protection from Shishak.
We read in verse 29, “Now it happened at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met him on the way; and he had clothed himself with a new garment, and the two were alone in the field.”
That is Ahijah who clothed himself with a new garment. 1 Kings 11:30, “Then Ahijah took hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces.”
What do you think those twelve pieces refer to? The twelve disciples? No, the twelve tribes of Israel. I just want to make sure you are listening.
He tears the garment into twelve pieces. This is a very dramatic scene. He is ripping this new expensive garment. It’s valuable.
That is Israel. Israel is valuable to the Lord. He tears it into twelve pieces because he is going to show that that ten of these pieces will be separated from the other two. Those ten pieces will become separate, as a separate nation. And their God is going to divide the kingdom.
If you read down into 1 Kings 11:32 he gives the reason for this. Why did God divide the kingdom into the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom?
1 Kings 11:32 he says, “(but he shall have one tribe for the sake of My servant …” This is what I want to point out. As he is announcing this judgment to Jeroboam, again and again there is a reference to David and God’s promises to David and the house of David.
I think that is just as much a viable reality that the crisis for the house of David wasn’t the invasion of Shishak. It’s not the invasion of Assyria. It’s not the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar. The crisis is brought on by the idolatry of the nation that led to divine discipline in the split of the nation.
David is mentioned again and again throughout this section. 1 Kings 11:32, “(but he shall have one tribe for the sake of my servant David …”
Why is that there? To remind us that God is still going to be faithful to His promise to David.
“... and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel),”
In 1 Kings 11:33, He gives the reason for the discipline, “because they have forsaken Me, and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites—he is one of the idols that would have his arms out in front and have a furnace in his arms, and they would bring their children and burn them alive in the arms of Chemosh—and Milcom the god of the people of Ammon …” Moab and Ammon are in the area of modern Jordan today.
And he says, “… and have not walked in My ways to do what is right in My eyes and keep My statutes and My judgments, as did his father David.”
What we see here is, problem number one and indictment number one. They have left the God of the Bible. They have departed from God. God is no longer the central focus and they are worshiping other gods. This happens in so many different cultures that end up in collapse.
We have all kinds of idols in our culture. They may not be physical idols like they had at that time, but they are idols that have to do with our own self-sufficiency. They are idols that have to do with material things, idols that have to do with success and prosperity. Not that those things in and of themselves are wrong. It is when they become more important than God. And you’re looking to those things to find meaning, happiness, security, and solutions to problems, rather than looking to God and the Word of God.
At the end he says they have not walked in obedience to the Law. This is the first half of the Ten Commandments, all related to their relationship to God, “Thou shalt not have other gods before Me,” a prohibition of idolatry.
They depart from the first part of the Law and go after idols. Then on the second part of the Law, “they are not walking according to My ways and doing what is right in My eyes.”
Jesus summed it up in Matthew 22:37, the most important commandment is loving “the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” And, Matthew 22:39, number two is “love your neighbor as yourself.”
The second part of the Law focuses on loving others as you love yourself, honoring your parents, being a faithful witness and not a false witness, not stealing. These are all ways in which you honor other people. So, that’s the summary here in 1 Kings 11:33.
And notice at the end, he says, “as did his father David.” Again, a subtle reminder of the importance of David and God’s promise to David.
Then in 1 Kings 11:34, we read, “ ‘However I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand—out of Rehoboam’s hand—because I have made him ruler all the days of his life—why?— for the sake of My servant David ...’ ” Once again the reason that is given is the Davidic Covenant. “… whom I chose because he kept My commandments and My statutes.’ ”
Then in 1 Kings 11:36 he says, “ ‘And to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David—again, fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant—that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for Myself to put My name there.’ ”
1 Kings 11:37, “‘So I will take you, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel.’ ”
Speaking to Jeroboam, God makes a promise to him, 1 Kings 11:38, “ ‘Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, and keep My statutes and My commandments as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.’ ”
That is the Northern Kingdom. Funny thing that happened. Jeroboam was disobedient almost from the get-go. In fact, every king in the Northern Kingdom is disobedient to God, and Jeroboam is the one that led them into idolatry at the beginning.
For every king in the Northern Kingdom after this you get the same chorus, the same line—“and he did evil in the sight of God. Evil, according to the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” Over and over and over again. This sets it all up. That’s the background of 1 Kings12.
Let’s skip down to 1 Kings 12:16, “Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen …”
This is back to the scenario where they had brought a petition, they had sought to negotiate with Rehoboam, the king who is supposed to be king of all the tribes, and he doesn’t listen to them.
In fact, he is going to increase the workload. He’s going to increase the taxes. That’s what happens when taxes are increased, you have to work more to pay your bills.
A study was done and in the late 60s, some of you can still remember those years. If a father, the head of the household, worked forty hours a week, he provided a certain income and standard of living for the family that was equivalent to the family of four working the farm back almost 100 years before that.
That was the family I grew up in. My dad would get up every morning about 6:30, by 7:15 he’s on the way to the bus stop to catch the bus downtown. He was an engineer working for Tenneco.
He got downtown, ate breakfast, worked all day, caught the bus home and was home by 5:20 every day. My mother was home and took care of all the domestic chores. She didn’t work outside the home. Laundry was done, house was clean, grocery shopping, all the errands done. He would come home, relax, we’d have dinner and plenty time to go to Bible class at night. No pressure no stress. Nothing. Everything was done.
By 1980, twelve years later, you’ll remember the late 80s when Jimmy Carter brought us double-digit inflation, and home owner mortgages with a 12, 14, 15% interest rate.
Can you imagine that, those of you who are younger? That was horrendous. All of a sudden that created a huge social change. Why? Well, because families want to have a house to raise their kids. That meant mom had to go to work.
It took mom working sixty hours a week, and dad working sixty hours a week to make the same income and have the same lifestyle that one wage earner, that dad, did in forty hours in 1968. Think about that. Some of you remember that you had time to go to Bible class five nights a week because you had all this free disposable time.
I remember when I was in college in the early 70s. You go to sociology classes, and they talked about how we were headed for a thirty-hour work week, and we would be making more money than we did working forty hours a week. We were on the verge of this incredible utopic prosperity. What happened to that?
You see, everything changed. You get inflation. You start jacking with the currency and all this government control destroys the economy. Taxes are raised, people take home less money so now they have to work more. They make more, pay more taxes, but have to work more to increase their standard of living. It becomes a horrible endless cycle.
The Northern Kingdom wants to get out of that cycle and Rehoboam is not going to let them. So they are going to split off and do their own thing.
Look at how they respond. In 1 Kings 12:16, “Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king …”
That is Rehoboam who will become the king of Judah, but right now he is their king. This is the key time when they split. “… saying ‘What share have we in David?’ ” This goes right back to the Davidic Covenant. What share do we have in the house of David? That’s what they’re saying. You are the house of David.
“ ‘We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel!’ ” A battle cry: everybody, let’s go home. Let’s leave. Let’s depart from the Southern Kingdom. “ ‘Now, see to your own house—that’s the tribe of Judah—O David!’ So Israel departed to their tents.”
I think that’s the more of the crisis and threat to the house of David than the invasion by Shishak.
Now we get into that when we look down at the end of 1 Kings 14. There is a statement there about what happens with Shishak in 1 Kings 14:15–27. It really doesn’t tell us a whole lot about Shishack there, it talks more about Rehoboam.
But in 1 Kings 14:25–26 we read, “It happened in the fifth year of King Rehoboam …” This is just a short time. So if Ethan the Ezrahite lived five years longer, if he was born at the same time Solomon was, or close to it, and lived five years longer, beyond the years of somebody who was sixty, then it wouldn’t be difficult. He could still be alive at this time. And he certainly would have been alive at the split that occurred between the north and the south.
But let’s just review what happened to Shishack. “It happened in the fifth year of King Rehoboam that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. And he took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house; he took away everything. He also took away all the gold shields which Solomon had made.”
Remember all the gold and silver that’s in the furniture and all the decorations, the shields, the candlesticks, everything that is in the temple. Billions of dollars disappears out of the Israel.
1 Kings 14:27, “Then King Rehoboam made bronze shields in their place …” He’s got to substitute something not quite as good to try to keep it looking just as good as it was before. And what is the problem?
The problem is his idolatry and the idolatry in the nation. So now they go to a counterfeit religion, and just a counterfeit façade to make it look like they’re still doing the same thing. And inside there’s nothing. That pretty much ends with verse 29. But if we turn over to 2 Chronicles 12 we have 12 verses that go into a little more detail about what happened when Shishack came in.
Egypt attacked Judah in this section, and you can read through that later. You’ll see all that transpired. Shishack comes up with a huge army (2 Chronicles 12:3), 1,200 chariots, 60,000 horsemen. That is a tremendous army coming in. It’s a trained army, it’s a professional army. Israel doesn’t have that. And not only that, they had just split so they are just in a state of collapse as a nation.
It also talks about how he took the fortified cities of Judah. 2 Chronicles 12:5, “Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam ….”
We had Ahijah the prophet, Shemaiah the prophet, these could have been writing prophets who are writing portions of 1 Kings and 2 Kings during this overall time period.
“Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah, who were gathered together in Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD: “You have forsaken Me, and therefore I also have left you in the hand of Shishak.” ’ ”
Why are they going through foreign domination? Why are they going through what will collapse their economy? Why are they going through all of these social problems? Because they departed from the Word of God. They departed from the worship of God, and they’ve gone into idolatry.
How do they respond? Well, they respond the way they ought to respond. They humbled themselves. They basically are going to confess their sin. They recognize they have been disobedient to God.
2 Chronicles 12:6, “So the leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves, and they said, ‘The LORD is righteous.’ ” They said, “We have been unrighteous.”
2 Chronicles 12:7, “Now when the LORD saw that they humbled themselves …” He is going to change the degree of discipline, but not the fact of discipline.
When we commit sin, when we live in sin, when we are living a life in rebellion against God, and we confess that sin, God is going to do one of three things.
- He may just simply forgive us and cleanse us and there aren’t going to be any consequences. That happens a lot for all of us. We ought to be on our knees thanking God that He doesn’t deal with us according to our sins all the time.
- The second thing God can do is just say, “Well, I’m going to let this hit you in various degrees. Maybe not so much, but you’re going to see some consequences for your bad decisions because you need to learn to walk in obedience.”
- The third way is that God not only lets us feel the consequences of our sin, but then He ratchets it up a little bit and adds another layer of His divine discipline to it.
In this case what He’s doing is relaxing some of those consequences. 2 Chronicles 12:7–8, “Now when the LORD saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the LORD came to Shemaiah, saying, ‘They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some—notice, not total deliverance, but some—deliverance. My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. Nevertheless, they will be his servants, that they may distinguish My service from the service of the kingdoms of the nations.’ ”
They have to learn some things, so it’s going to be really tough for a while as they become servants of Egypt. They are going to be subjugated and ruled over by the Egyptians. And it goes on much the same way that the 1 Kings account does.
I think this gives us a much better context of the writing of Ethan the Ezrahite in Psalm 89. In my opinion it is not the invasion of Shishack. My opinion is that it is the threat to the house of David. That threat is a result of the civil war and the split that occurs in Israel.
But whatever the problem is that precipitated this, the solution is the same. And that’s one of the things that you have to learn as a basic reality in the spiritual life.
I kind of chuckle right now because Dan was telling me about his experience when he was in Israel at the Yad Vashem leadership course. There is always a wide spectrum of Christians that are in the group. When I went I was fortunate because there were a number of men there who were pastors who thought a lot like we do. There were six or seven in the group, I think.
But there were a lot of others that were just kind of strange. They have prayer times and they get out of control. The charismatics just get out of control. And if somebody is ill or sick, and somebody in the group, not Dan but somebody else, had been diagnosed recently with cancer, and they were just casting out demons, and doing this and doing that.
What happens in this whole metaphysical spiritual warfare false teaching that has come into Christianity in the last fifty or sixty years is a failure to recognize how God uses problems in our lives. Whether it’s health problems, or wealth problems, or whether it’s just dealing with people problems, or whatever it may be, the solution is not to expect God to automatically remove all of these kinds of things.
The solution is to trust in God, to claim promises, and to keep persevering in obedience even in the midst of all of the difficulty. What so often happens is that when we face problems so many people say, “It must be demons, it’s the angelic conflict.”
Well, ultimately almost everything is the angelic conflict, but it’s not a direct attack by Satan. Ninety percent of what we encounter is just living in a fallen world, with fallen people, in fallen societies, cultures, governments, and structures, and that’s what we have to deal with.
The solution is always the same solution. It doesn’t matter if we’re being attacked by Satan. It doesn’t matter if you’re being attacked by a demon. It doesn’t matter if the assault is coming from the world system. It doesn’t matter if the problem is your own sin nature.
The solution is always the same. It’s to trust God, and obey Him, and walk with Him. It’s summarized well in a classic hymn, “Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way.”
It’s really simple. The Christian life isn’t that hard. It is to trust God, know His Word, claim His promises, and walk more closely with Him today than we did yesterday. That’s it. If you get that down, you’re going to go forward in your spiritual life.
It’s not looking for some other special divine miracle or intervention. It’s what the psalmist in Psalm 89 is doing, “God, You made this promise. I’m going to hold You to that promise. Right now the house of David is in a state of collapse and I’m going to claim Your promise. I’m going to remind You of the promise You made to David, and to fulfill it, and to raise up the house of David and sustain it just as You said. And just as You promised.”
That is the focal point when we get into Psalm 89. Let me just remind you of the basic organization and breakdown of Psalm 89. We saw that in the first 18 verses, the focus is on God’s love and faithfulness.
We talked about those words, chesed, that is sometimes translated in this passage in the new King James and King James as mercy. In other places, towards the end of the psalm, it’s translated as lovingkindness.
Some English translations translate it as God’s loyal love, His steadfast love. Sometimes it’s translated compassion.
The other word that is used in tandem with it throughout this psalm is God’s faithfulness. That is the focus of those first eighteen verses.
They are praising God for who He is. Because when we face problems, when you face the collapse of the culture around you, when you see the education system in the universities no longer educating the young people that are going off and are being brainwashed into pure liberalism and socialism, then you just wonder, is there going to be any kind of future?
Put yourself in the place of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Mishael, Azariah, Daniel, at the time of the first invasion of Hezekiah. How do you think they felt? It’s all going to fall apart. How unstable can it be? But, they had stability because they internalized the Word and that gave them hope.
It gave them confidence that no matter what may happen around us, even if we are deported to another country, even if they’re going to try to force us to eat all that non-kosher food. God still in control. God is going to provide for us. His plan and His purpose is going to be realized.
Every problem needs to be, first of all, addressed by going to the character of God. Going to His grace, His loyalty, His power, His majesty. All of these things. His righteousness, His love. All these attributes are brought out in this section.
The second section, Psalm 89:19–37, is a review of God’s promise to David as the foundation of the psalmist’s petition, of Ethan’s petition to God. He’s claiming that promise so we will look at that.
Then in the third section he brings it to a conclusion. He petitions God to remain faithful to those promises He made to David, even though there’s been sin in the house of David. Even though God has brought all this divine discipline upon them, and He’s not going to cancel His covenant. That’s the last part of the Psalm 89:38–52.
We are in that first section just looking at the first two parts of the first four verses. The focus is on God’s covenant loyal love and His faithfulness, and praising Him.
The second part, that God’s character is unique. It is just amazing the number of passages about the uniqueness of God. I think next time I go through the Word of God and I’m reading through it, I will start writing down all the passages that talk about the uniqueness of God.
There is no one like God. There is nothing like God. There is no other god like God.
Over and over again we hear these promises. I made a list of some that we will review. But this is what the focal point is here in this first section, and the praise of the Lord for His unique and awesome attributes. That’s a basic outline that we were getting into the last time.
Slide 15 (skipped)
We also looked at these words chesed and ’emunah. Just to remind you, chesed: lovingkindness, God’s faithful, loyal love. He’s true to His promises. He’s true to His covenant. When you memorize promises you can claim them because you know God is going to fulfill His promises and His Word.
The second word, ’emunah, is very close in meaning. You get the idea from the translation of 2 Kings 18:16 that one of the cognates of this word has the idea of the foundation of the pillars. That’s what doorpost is. It’s the foundation of the pillar, it’s unshakable; it’s bedrock. You cannot shake it. God’s promises are that way.
Then we went through the psalm and saw places where these are parallel, especially in the opening. Psalm 89:1–2, “I will sing of the mercies—that’s chesed, the faithful, loyal love—of the LORD forever; With my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, ‘Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.’ ”
Then a number of other verses use these in parallel. Psalm 89:14 and Psalm 89:24.
Slides 19 and 20
Psalm 89:28, Psalm 89:33, Psalm 89:49. Again and again these themes are reiterated.
Then I came to the end and we just briefly went through the three steps in the faith-rest drill. Faith means to trust God. You hit a crisis, a difficulty, a speed bump. It can be health, wealth, people; it can be any number of things.
You need to train yourself that as soon as this happens, I need to think of a promise. That’s why I have broken them down into some different categories in God’s Powerful Promises book that I have.
There could be a lot more but I didn’t want to build an exhaustive list of promises, but one that would be handy as a starting point.
We claim a promise that. Now that’s an interesting phrase. I’m thinking a lot about language lately because as you know, Daniel Smolyar is getting ready to come here and you have to help him with English. We use so many idioms.
I remember the first time that I was teaching this in Ukraine. I said, “Claim a promise.” The translator looked at me and said, “What in the world does that mean?” What does it mean to claim a promise? Where does that idiom come from? Does anybody have any idea?
You go to the goldfields and you find gold and you stake a claim. You say, “This is mine.” That’s kind of the background on this whole idiom. We are going to claim something; this is ours. We are going to put a claim in. This is a promise to me. You’ve made it to me.
But that’s just an idiom. So we are going to make this claim, going to stake our claim, on this verse in God’s Word—that You made it for me, and I’m going to hold You to it. We mix faith with the promise, that’s the idea. You’re saying, “God, You made this promise to me and I’m going to hold You to it.”
Sometimes we think of a whole promise. Sometimes we just think of a phrase or a sentence in the promise. Sometimes we think of a principle. But the real examples that we have of people in the Scripture doing this are like what we have in this psalm.
We see him quoting the phrases of God from the covenant He made with Abraham. He’s not quoting abstract principles.
When Jesus is dealing with Satan and the temptations in the wilderness, He quotes Scripture. He doesn’t just say, “Well, according to My theology, doctrine such and such.”
No, He is quoting Scripture. Now there’s nothing wrong with extrapolating from that. That happens in Scripture as well.
There are prayers. For example, in the early parts of Acts there are a couple places where people are praying for Peter and John who are in prison. What they are doing is taking psalms and working them over in order to pull out what the key promises and principles are.
They’re using that to argue in a legal sense to establish a basis for God to act. “This is what You promised. This is how we would like You to act. You made a promise and we can hold You to it.” That is the first step.
The second step is to think through the doctrinal rationales. There is a rationale, or a chain of reasoning, a logic chain that is embedded in every promise. That’s just the nature of language.
You can’t have language without logic. One of the first things you learn if you take a course on logic is that you have to understand grammatical structures of propositions. Every sentence, and everything that we say, is built on an understanding of certain logical relationships within the clauses and phrases of a sentence. If logic didn’t provide the underpinning for a statement, then our statements would become meaningless, just gibberish.
So we think it through—this is part of what the Bible refers to as meditation—and then we come to a conclusion. “Well God, if You said this then I’m not going to be afraid. I’m going to relax.”
Pam was telling me that when she was in Guatemala this last couple of weeks that there was one lady who came in who was supposed to have some surgery. She was anxious and worried. She couldn’t sleep. Pam walked through the promise book with her.
She sat there, she read through the promises, and the next thing you know, she is sound asleep. That’s reaching a conclusion, and God is in control. Then you are asleep.
This is what’s going on in the text of 2 Samuel 7:12, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you …” This is claimed in Psalm 89. God is reminded of what He will do. God promised, “I will establish his kingdom.”
2 Samuel 7:13, “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne…” These statements are all stated as promises.
“I will set up your seed after you.” “I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
2 Samuel 7:14. “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him …”
2 Samuel 7:15, “My mercy shall not depart from him …”
Those are all straight promises.
In 2 Samuel 7:15–16 there is a conclusion that is reached in the covenant, “But My mercy—that is My chesed—shall not depart from him.” So, when the psalmist starts off what does he say?
Psalm 89:1, “I will sing of the chesed of the LORD forever.”
He is taking the verbiage straight from the covenant. “And God, it’s Your mercy. You said that Your mercy would not depart. I will sing of Your mercies forever.”
So you see how he is taking what God has said and he’s praising Him for that.
Then in 2 Samuel 7:16, “And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” This is what is going to be the subject of the prayer.
Slides 24 and 25
So, we get to Psalm 89:1. I color-coded this and used underlines. I used three different things, a blue color, a purple color, and an underline, to point out the parallels in thought. That’s what makes it good poetry, there’s a repetition of ideas.
That is called synonymous parallelism. Sometimes the second line is the opposite of the first line. That’s called antithetical parallelism.
The third most often kind is where the second line takes something in the first line and expands it, and that’s called an emblematic parallelism. We will see examples of those as we go through here.
In Psalm 89:1 he is saying, “I will sing ...” In the second line, which often the second line expands and enhances the first line, he says, “with my mouth I will make known …” How is he going to make it known with his mouth? Through singing. That is one of the things that we do.
It is interesting that the first thing mentioned for those who are being filled by the Spirit is that they will sing hymns, and psalms, and spiritual songs. That doesn’t mean just in the congregation. But one of the reasons that we sing a lot of hymns frequently is so that we can learn them well enough to where we don’t even need to look at our hymnal.
How are you going to sing of the mercies of the Lord when you can’t remember the words to the hymns when you’re driving down the freeway?
Golly! He wants me to memorize Scripture and now he wants me to memorize the lyrics to the hymns. Ahh, it’s so much work in the Christian life!
“I will sing” is parallel to “with my mouth I will make known.”
What’s he singing about? What is he making known? In the first stanza it’s mercies. It’s chesed, it’s “Your faithful, loyal, love.”
The parallel in the second line is Your ’emunah, Your faithfulness, Your steadfastness. That expands it. Faithful, loyal, love is a broader concept. Your faithfulness is a narrower concept.
Why am I going to sing? Why am I going to make this known? That is indicated by that first word in Psalm 89:2, “For—that’s giving the explanation of the first verse—for I have said—this is close to saying I’ve made a vow, he doesn’t use that language, but it’s close—‘Mercy shall be built up forever. Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.’ ”
I did not highlight it, but mercy and faithfulness are parallel. That’s clear because I’ve underlined it.
What is the next parallel? The next parallel is “lovingkindness shall be built up forever.” I want you to notice, is it built once and stays there, or is it continuously added to?
The translation here makes it clear it’s something that is continuously built up. God’s faithful loyal love is enhanced from event to event, century to century.
“For I have said, ‘Mercy shall be built up …’ ” There is a fabulous word there, banah. It is the word to construct something. Men, I’m sorry, but you are just made, women were built. That’s what the Holy Spirit used the word for. It’s a more detailed construction. Men are just put together, women are built. That’s the idea there.
“ ‘Mercies shall be built up forever and Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.’ ”
“Establish” is a word that talks about something that is foundational. If you’re reading this and you key in on the word for construction, for being built up and being established, what’s the sense that you get? You go by these skyscrapers that are being built around Houston, and you see them lay the foundation—that’s stability.
So, the verbs here are talking about the stability, the certainty, the steadfastness, of God’s chesed, and God’s ’emunah, His faithful, loyal, love, and His faithfulness. It’s rock solid.
We get into the next verse, Psalm 89:3, “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David.”
And then look at Psalm 89:4, “Your seed I will establish forever—there’s our word establish again—And build up your throne to all generations.” On the one hand he’s weaving in the concepts of faithfulness and loyal love. But, he is complementing that with verbs of stability, to build up and to establish.
You should come out of these opening five verses with a sense that God’s just unshakable. This is something that is rock solid.
There’s nothing in this world, nothing in my life that can shake God. He’s never surprised by anything. His purpose for your life is never upset by anything that comes along. No matter what transpires, no matter how much you may fail and God forgives you, He will provide for you.
His purpose is not destroyed. You are not greater than God. God will take care of things, you can trust Him. And it’s rock solid.
Psalm 89:3 says, “I have made a covenant with My chosen …” and that is parallel to, “I have sworn ...”
The point I want to make there is that what enacts a covenant scripturally is the swearing of an oath. It’s not the sacrifice. There are covenants that are made where there’s no sacrifice.
Was there sacrifice in 2 Samuel 7? No. There is later, when David goes and gives a thank offering to the Lord. But there is not a sacrifice to cut the covenant, because a covenant is grounded on an oath, not on the sacrifice.
That has a lot of implications, but I just want you to remember that. And, “My chosen …” is parallel to “My servant David …” “I have made a covenant with My chosen …” is a more general statement.
The second line, “I’ve sworn to My servant David, Your seed—that is your descendant—I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations.” That is another keyword that we see—all generations.
Let me back this up to Slide 26. “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever …” That is parallel to “to all generations” at the end of Psalm 89:1. It’s eternal.
Psalm 89:2, “For I have said, ‘Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.’ ” Heavens is eternal, shamayim. The heavens are eternal.
So, you get this eternal stability that comes out of looking at all of these different words.
We will stop here at the end of verse four and next time we’ll start getting into the next section, Psalm 89:5–18, which really focuses us on the attributes and the character of God.
“Father, thank You for this time we’ve had to think about these things, to be reminded that You are the center of everything. You are the ultimate cause of all things. And I don’t mean that in an efficient cause sense, but how people obey You, how people think about You, what they do with You, that affects everything in our life. You are at the center of everything. Your absence changes everything. Your presence transforms everything.
“Father, we pray that we may come to grips with this. That no matter what heartache, or problem, or challenge, or difficulty we face, You are stable, Your plan is stable, You are rock solid. You are our fortress. You are our shield. You are our bulwark. You are our rock.
“That means that only in You is there stability in the midst of a shifting, changing, chaotic world.
“We pray that we make grow to love You and to trust You. And we pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”