The Omnipotence of God
Samuel Lesson #177
July 2, 2019
“Our Father, we rejoice that we can come together this evening to fellowship around the teaching of Your Word and be reminded of Who You are, the greatness of Your power, and that You are more powerful than any problem, any situation, any circumstance that we face. You are the God of history.
“You are working out Your plan through history, and it is our privilege to serve You in the course of this history as it works itself out in relation to the angelic rebellion and bringing about Your glorification in this Church Age and on into the dispensations to come.
“Also, Father, we continue to pray for all these pastors who are faithfully serving You and teaching Your Word throughout this country. We pray that You would supply their needs, strengthen them, and give them listeners who would be ready to hear the Word and to apply it. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Psalm 89. We are back into the midst of this psalm. What I want to do a little bit at the beginning is to reorient us to what we’re studying and where we are going. It has been about four weeks since we were actually in Psalm 89, and that is just a portion of a broader study within our study of 2 Samuel.
We came to 2 Samuel 7, and we went through the passages related to the Davidic Covenant, specifically 2 Samuel 7, where God gave this covenant to David. It’s an unconditional covenant, an eternal covenant, a covenant that is foundational to the coming of the Messiah. We looked at that, and then we began to trace it—how the Davidic Covenant was used in subsequent books of Scripture.
We reviewed various Messianic prophecies in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Malachi, and then into the New Testament, tying all of these together. I only covered a few, but there are dozens and dozens of these allusions to the Davidic Covenant.
So, we studied about the Davidic Covenant.
Then we came back to Psalm 89. In Psalm 89, we have, actually, a prayer of faith. It is an example of the Faith-Rest Drill, as the writer of Psalm 89 is truly reminding God of the content of the covenant and calling upon God in a time of crisis. The house of David is being threatened, and the psalmist asks God to fulfill His promise to David, to fulfill His promise to Israel, to protect the line of the Messiah, and then ultimately to bring the Messiah to Israel.
This is the sense of this long psalm. It’s 52 verses long, and it has several key sections to it.
To review the general outline, the first part of this psalm is focused upon God’s character—on God’s love and faithfulness. His love is particularly nuanced in the sense of the verb that is used here: chesed, as opposed to ahav.
Ahav is a general word for love. If you’re telling somebody that you love them, that’s the word that you will use. But the word that is used here is often translated in different ways, depending on the translation you are using. Sometimes it’s translated lovingkindness. In the NKJV it’s translated “mercy” at the beginning, and then later it is translated “lovingkindness.”
As you know, I don’t like it when translations use different English words to translate the same word in Hebrew, because people don’t see the unity of the message when that happens.
At the beginning—in these first 18 verses that focus upon God’s character and that focus upon the faithful, loyal love of God—that is connected to His faithfulness. The word for His mercy is chesed, the word for faithfulness is emunah, and that seems to be the major connection here.
God’s loyal love is connected to His emunah, which has the sense of steadfastness and stability. It is from the same root as the Hebrew word ’amen. You can hear the similarity. Emunah/’amen. The core meaning of this word is used in another form to refer to the foundation under the pillars of the Solomonic Temple.
There were two huge pillars outside the entry to the first temple. The foundation that was laid is referred to in Chronicles by a cognate of this word. What that tells you is the root meaning of ’amen—which is usually translated as faith, or belief, or “I believe that,” or emunah (that is, faithfulness, stability)—is that the foundation is unshakeable. It’s reliable.
We believe it because it is certain and unshakeable. We’re certain about the faithfulness of God. His character is unshakeable. He is reliable. He is dependable. He will not waver. He will not be shaken.
These ideas are intertwined in Psalm 89:1–18. Then we get to the second division—Psalm 89:19–37—and it is a review of the promise. When we look at the Faith-Rest Drill, we’re calling upon God to fulfill a promise, so that’s what this writer is doing.
First, he reminds God of His faithfulness. In other words, he’s saying, “God, You’re going to be faithful to Your Word, faithful to Your promise. You’ll fulfill Your promise.” Then he goes through the details of the promise in Psalm 89:19–37.
If you recall, the covenant itself was only about five or six verses. So, this is a lot longer than the covenant. But he’s reflecting upon its implications and the need for God to fulfill His promise.
Then in the last section—Psalm 89:38–52—he calls upon God to remain faithful to His promises to David, even though the nation has been sinful, even though it’s a time of divine discipline and divine judgment. It looks like God may cancel the covenant. So, he’s calling upon God to be faithful.
There is a lot of application here for us, because it shows us how we are to pray. It shows us how we are to use promises, to claim those promises, and to petition God to fulfill those particular promises. So, we’re working our way through that.
In terms of the development of this opening section in the first four verses, there is an emphasis on God’s covenant loyalty. That’s what it means by mercy: His chesed, His loyal love, His faithfulness to His covenant. That is connected to the parallel term for faithfulness. That’s the praise in the first four sections. So, it’s a focus on God’s character, Who He is.
Then in Psalm 89:5–18, it expands on His character and brings in the attributes of His omnipotence, His strength, His power, His righteousness, His justice, as well as His loyal love. All of this is connected in praise, so that we have a profound view of Who God is.
If that’s broken down in Psalm 89:5, we have the statement that God will be praised. “And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD ….”
Second, we see that the LORD will be praised for His unique and awesome attributes. The emphasis is on His holiness, which means He is one-of-a-kind, He is distinct, He is unique. There’s none like the LORD. He is God alone.
Then in Psalm 89:9–14, the emphasis is on His omnipresence and His sovereign rule of creation. This section ends with a statement praising God that the people will be blessed because they walk with Him and they glory in His righteousness and His strength. So, the whole of these 18 verses is exceptionally theocentric.
When you think about this as a psalm, it was something that would be set to music and would be sung. All of the psalms become for us, as Church-Age believers, a pattern for the kind of lyrics that we should have in our singing.
A lot of contemporary music in churches is very shallow and superficial. When the pulpit ministry is superficial, the saints in the pew will have a superficial spiritual life. A believer in the pew cannot grow beyond the level of the teaching that comes out of the pulpit.
A church is like a one-room schoolhouse. There are some here who are babies, there are some here who are adolescents in their spiritual life, and there are some who are very mature in their spiritual life. Some have a tremendous familiarity with Scripture, and some are not so familiar with Scripture. Yet the pastor has to teach across a spectrum, just like in the frontier days of this country.
Everybody grew up in one-room schoolhouses, and you had everyone from about the age of four or five up to about fourteen or fifteen in one class. So, they were all taught. And everybody learned something as they went through it.
That’s what happens in the church. As the Word is taught, everybody can learn something. There are going to be some things that you don’t catch, other things that you may think, “Well, that’s pretty simple. I’ve heard it a thousand times.”
My experience is that if you’ve only heard it a thousand times, you need to hear it about five thousand more times, and then one day you’re going to go, “Oh! I finally figured out what that means.” If you haven’t had that experience yet, you just haven’t been around long enough. We study the Word. We read the Word. We become familiar with the Word.
One of the things that happened in the history of Christianity is you can go back and read about the lives of a lot of the men who wrote what are usually referred to as “traditional” hymns. Not all traditional hymns are qualitative. As I’ve said many times, it’s not about old versus new. It’s about quality versus something that is trivial or a cliché. It can be bad poetry, bad music, or maybe bad theology.
What we see, historically, when we look at men who wrote these hymns or wrote poetry, it reveals men who weren’t watching their iPhone every two seconds. They weren’t watching TV eight hours a day, they weren’t distracted by reading every news item that they could come up with every day, and they weren’t distracted by a lot of the things that we spend our time doing.
They spent their time reading the Bible, until the Bible had become internalized in them. They could write in the rhythm and the cadence of Scripture. They could put a line from this psalm with a line from an epistle with a line from an historical book and pull things together and express the essence of Scripture in a remarkable way that allowed people to think about God in a fresh way as they were singing. And it was biblical. It was grounded in the text.
The psalms are that way. This is a psalm that is written as a contemplation or a meditation on the Davidic Covenant, God’s faithfulness, God’s character, and how God would fulfill His promises to David. So, when you read this and read this, remember a lot of these folks who wrote these hymns had memorized chunks of Scripture.
Bible memory has fallen out of practice today. I know of people—Jim Myers is one—who are always emphasizing Bible memory. Jim has memorized large chunks of Scripture.
It’s really good if you’re a parent or grandparent to get a regular Bible memory program going with your kids. The earlier you can get them to memorize Scripture the better—not just one verse. Put three or four together. Put a chapter together. That will stick with them over the years, and God will use that. It saturates their souls with the Word of God before a lot of other garbage gets in there. Start very early.
You’ve heard me say many times, my mother said that the very first complete sentence I said in English was 1 John 1:9. I had that memorized very, very early—long before I was a believer. Never make the mistake as a parent of thinking that your kids are too young to hear something. Their brains are working with it.
They may not be able to understand it as an adult, but hearing the Word of God has an impact. Hearing anything has an impact—just read aloud, talk to your kids all the time. Their little brains are developing, processing, and working with all of that information. Don’t minimize the significance of it.
Also, never make the mistake of saying, “Well, I’m going to wait until they’re old enough, and then I’ll talk to them about it.” That is going to earn you a grade F in parenting. You start training them long before you think that they’re really capturing it.
We get into the Faith-Rest Drill. The first part is to claim a promise (that is, to pick a promise)—either a whole verse, part of a verse, or a statement of a verse—and you are saying, “God, this is what you promised me. If I would cast my care upon You, then You would take care of it, because You care for me. I’ve got this problem. I’m praying that You would solve that problem or give me the strength to make it through the situation. Because You say You love me, You’re going to strengthen me and give me the wisdom to face it.”
Connect 1 Peter 5:7 with James 1:5, “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God Who giveth liberally and upbraideth not.” As a result of that, God will give you the wisdom to handle the trial.
In the second step, you start thinking through the doctrinal rationale embedded in the promise. If you are memorizing these promises, this is what always hits me—to learn the promise and memorize it, I have to think through the logic of the promise, I have to think through the structure, what’s the condition, is there a condition, and what is the exact situation of the giving of the statement in Scripture. You think through all of that, so you come to understand what the teaching is that is embedded in that promise.
Then you appropriate that, you claim it, and you ask God to fulfill that promise in your life. That’s the essence of the Faith-Rest Drill.
When we got out of the introduction to Psalm 89—that’s the first four verses—then we shifted to the second part of that introduction starting in Psalm 89:5 going down to Psalm 89:18, which focuses on the character of God.
I want to remind you of how this is set up in terms of the structure, because for the last four classes, we were looking at figuring out how to interpret that one reference down in Psalm 89:10 with a reference to Rahav.
Read Psalm 89:5. “And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints.” In the NKJV, it’s “the saints”—and it’s not saints; it’s “the holy ones.” It’s talking about the angels.
The other day I was driving through Austin—out on the northwest side of Austin—and I saw a hospital named Saint David. I turned to my wife, and I said, “Would you remind me, who is Saint David? I don’t remember who that was. It’s not in my Bible.” That’s often what happens. You run into these kinds of things.
A saint—the term—is used in the New Testament for anyone who is a believer. This is not talking about human beings; it’s talking about the angels.
We know that because there is a structural parallelism between the first part of the first stanza—“And the heavens will praise …”
Well, the heavens don’t praise, but the inhabitants of the heavens praise. So, the habitation is put for those who live in it.
That figure of speech is called a metonymy. It is that the angels who inhabit the heavens will praise, and that’s made clear in the synonymous parallelism of the second stanza. “Your faithfulness,” which is parallel to “wonders,” “… also in the assembly of the holy ones.”
Right now, we’re introduced to an important facet of the angelic conflict. There are convocations, or assemblies, of angels before the throne of God. This is what we see in Job 1:6 when the sons of God—bene ha elohim—come before God, and Satan is among them.
Apparently, these angelic convocations still include the fallen angels. So, there is conversation there with God. This is talking about those angelic convocations where both fallen and elect angels are together.
“And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the holy ones.” Because this is focusing on those who praise God, obviously this is primarily focusing on those who were the elect angels, those who are set apart. That’s the Hebrew word here qadosh, and it has that main meaning of that which is set apart to the service of God, or something that is unique or distinct.
Those who are set apart to the service of God in Heaven are these elect angels. I want you to notice that in this verse, we have this emphasis on the heavens—that’s their abode—and those in the heavens are the assembly of the kedoshim, the holy ones.
Then we go to the next verse, and it says, “For who in the heavens”—it goes back to that same figure of speech, those who are in the heavens—“… can be compared to the LORD?” Who of those among the heavens? Who among these angels can be compared to the LORD? The answer is none of them.
This introduces us to three rhetorical questions, and the answer to all of them is “no one.” None. There is no one that can be compared to the LORD among all of those who dwell in the heavens.
The second line is a parallel to that. It says, “Who among the sons of the mighty .…” The Hebrew here is bene elim, not bene Elohim. Elim is not a diminutive form of God. It’s not talking about God. It’s talking about the sons of the mighty. This is a reference to God, but it is not the same as bene ha ’elohim. That shouldn’t be a point of confusion.
“Who among the sons of the mighty—that’s another term for the angels—can be likened to the LORD?” Who is like God? Who can be compared to the LORD? Who can be likened to the LORD? No one. That’s the answer.
We see again this parallelism. The place is in the heavens. The metonymy is talking about those who dwell in the heavens, the sons of the mighty—again, the angels. It’s introducing the angels, and this is important as a backdrop for understanding the Davidic Covenant.
One of the problems we have in a lot of theology is a failure to appreciate the significance of Satan’s angelic rebellion against God and how that impacts human history. When this writer of Psalm 89—Ethan the Ezrahite—is thinking this through, he starts off by bringing our attention to the angels.
In Psalm 89:7 he said, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the holy ones ….” So, we have a reference back to the second line in Psalm 89:5. This becomes a topical sentence. The phrase “the heavens” is the beginning of Psalm 89:6. The phrase “assembly of the holy ones” is the beginning of Psalm 89:7. Notice these are all those who are around Him. We’ll come back to that, but pay attention to that for a minute.
“God is greatly to be feared ….” The Hebrew word that is there for “greatly to be feared” is a word that almost means terrorized—to tremble, to be awestruck, to be fearful because you are in the presence of the mighty God.
It’s illustrated by that circumstance in Isaiah 6 when Isaiah is before the throne of God. When he sees God, he falls on his face and says, “Woe is me, woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips.”
He is terrified to be in the presence of a holy God, because he recognizes how profoundly sinful he is. He is not treating this as some sort of academic situation. Isn’t this interesting that there’s God and He’s holy, and here I am and I’m not. No, it strikes fear to the core of his being.
In that first stanza, “God is greatly to be feared ...” In the second line, “… and to be held in reverence …” Really that should be a reverential fear. So, God is greatly to be dreaded. That is one way to translate that.
“God is greatly to be dreaded in the assembly of the saints and to be held in fearful reverence by all those around Him.” That’s Psalm 89:7. If you look in your Bibles at Psalm 89:8, the next verse says, “O LORD God of hosts ….”
That brings again this whole angelic conflict to the forefront, because the word there for hosts is “Sabbaoth,” which is translated by an antiquated word in English: “hosts,” which means armies. He is the God of the armies of the angels.
Then, the writer introduces the key issue here. He says, “Who is mighty like You, O LORD?” That takes us to the omnipotence of God. “Who is mighty like You, O LORD?” Again, this is the third question. No one. No one has the power of God.
Then he says, “Your faithfulness also surrounds You.” This is that word that is used several times in the first part. Parallel with chesed is that word emunah, which emphasizes the faithfulness of God.
If you look at Psalm 89:1, it says, “I will sing of the mercies [or the chesed] of the LORD forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.” So, chesed—God’s loyal love—is parallel and synonymous with faithfulness. His loyal love is faithful.
Then in Psalm 89:2 we read, “Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.” So, those terms are synonyms, and they are expressing this close dependence and interconnection between God’s love and God’s faithfulness, His stability, His dependability.
In Psalm 89:5 we read, “And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O LORD; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints.” “Wonders” is synonymous to God’s stability. The wonders are His acts in human history—the miracles, the way He sustains everything, and provides for everything.
So, He is faithful in the way He oversees all of creation and the way He works in all of our lives. That comes under the category of wonders. I pointed out that the Hebrew word translated “wonders” is only used of God.
Then in Psalm 89:8, which is where we are about to arrive, “O LORD God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O LORD? Your faithfulness also surrounds You.”
What are the two terms that are parallel there? Now faithfulness is synonymous or parallel to His power. He is faithful in His power. His power is stable. His power is dependable. His power brings stability and certainty into our lives.
So, when you’re thinking your way through this, and you’ve got a problem, God’s power is greater than your problem. God’s power is always something you can depend on, something that is reliable and unshakeable.
We’re seeing that the idea of faithfulness is being built out here by these synonyms that the writer is using. We see an emphasis on God’s omnipotence.
Then we get to a really important section that led us into a side track. That is Psalm 89:9.
“You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, You still them.”
This is interesting. We talked about the fact that in Canaanite religion there is a sea god, Yam. Yam is the word that is typically used of the salt sea, of the ocean, of the Red Sea, of that nature.
He rules the raging of the sea. The raging has to do with the storms, the tempestuousness of the waves. This uses a Hebrew word, ge’uth, which means to rise up. Sometimes it’s talking about God rising up against His enemies. It has a positive sense. But in other passages, it talks about men elevating themselves in pride or arrogance.
When you hear this phrase, there is a primary meaning talking about God and His power over a raging sea. Can you think of an illustration of that in Scripture? The first one is Genesis 1:2, where the Spirit of the LORD is hovering over the deep. That is when God is bringing—there is disorder in the chaos of the deep, and God is in control of it.
That word tehom is a cognate to a Semitic word “tiamat.” Tiamat was the goddess of the chaos of the sea. There is a polemic here going on. A polemic is when something is stated a certain way to demonstrate the power of God over against the impotence of the pagan religions, the pagan gods and goddesses.
God is no respecter of religions. He is no respecter of persons who are disobedient to Him. He doesn’t want to put up with it. He doesn’t play nice. Snowflakes have to grow up and wake up to the fact that God doesn’t like those who disrespect Him.
In fact, if you read through some of the prophets, which a lot of liberals just don’t like, you’ll see an example. I was reading in 2 Kings 1:9–15, and you have a situation where in one instance the king of Israel is sending out troops to bring Elijah to him.
So, he sends out fifty troops. They come to Elijah, and the commander comes and says, “I need to take you to the king.” Elijah says, “No.” All fifty in that squad are killed. The king finds out that they never came back bringing Elijah, so he sends out a second detail of fifty men. They come up to Elijah. The commander comes to him and says, “I need to take you to the king.” Elijah says, “Nope, not today.” All fifty of them are killed.
A third man is sent out, and he takes another squad of fifty with him. He comes and bows down to Elijah, demonstrating great respect to Elijah as the spokesperson for God. He says, “Please pray that God will not take the lives of these men and that He will not take my life. As long as I am in charge and you are with me, you will be safe.”
The point is that those first two squads were made up of men who would have done physical harm to Elijah, because they had no respect for God. When you don’t have respect for God, God is going to make a big point out of it, and He took their lives.
That seems like harsh justice to the mind of modern man, but the reality is that God is teaching people that you don’t mess with God. You don’t mess with Texas; you don’t mess with God. He is to be treated with honor and respect, and He should be obeyed. He is the One Who stands and makes war against the proud.
When you look at Psalm 89:9, it’s not just the raging of the sea—that is, God’s control over these unrestrained elements—but it’s the sea, it’s the Yam, that becomes also a picture of the demonic forces. It shows God has control over the elements of chaos that have come about as a result of sin.
Jesus depicts that in the New Testament when He walks on water on the Sea of Galilee. Did you ever wonder why Jesus did it in the midst of a violent storm? All of His disciples are scared to death, and Jesus walks out on the Sea of Galilee.
He’s doing it to demonstrate—that’s the New Testament illustration of what was said in Job, that God treads on the waters. God is in control. It is a picture of God’s control over the chaos that is in our lives and in the world because of sin.
The writer here says, “You rule the raging of the sea.” The pride of these forces against God—when its waves rise, You still them. All of this is still related to this backdrop of the angels, and those who are praising God in the heavens.
You see the impact of that same word in Psalm 46:3, “… Though its waters roar and be troubled, Though the mountains shake with its swelling.” Some translations translate that as pride. That’s the same word that we have back here [Slide 9], “ge’uth.” That’s the swelling—the rising of the waters.
We come then to the next verse, Psalm 89:10, which we spent a lot of time on, trying to understand who this is. “You have broken Rahab in pieces, as one who is slain; You have scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm.”
When we looked at this, I pointed out that, even though in the English it’s transliterated as Rahab, it’s not the prostitute in Joshua 2. That’s the second word, and you can see that the middle letter is slightly different. There is a little gap at the top here, that’s not here. That makes it a different letter in the Hebrew. It should be transliterated as Rahav, and the name is Rachav.
So, this is talking about something completely different. We took the time to go back through the passages that talked about Rahav. Here’s a list. I filled out more verses. The other is just a representation.
Rahav is used in Job 9:13, where it’s translated as “the proud one.” That’s the meaning of Rahav. The core meaning is “the proud one.” We saw that the proud one in Scripture is Satan. He is the proud one. He is the arrogant one.
It shows up in these verses in Job, which is very early. Job is written about the time of Abraham and Isaac. It is before Israel is a nation. Jerusalem is not mentioned. Abraham is not mentioned. The Jews aren’t mentioned. It’s all Gentile-oriented, talking about why there is suffering in the world.
It starts off with this angelic convocation, including Satan, in Job 1 and Job 2. Throughout Job, there are these references to Leviathan, behemoth, the serpents, and Rahav. All of these were terms that were used in pagan Canaanite religion.
But that’s not the point here. They are also referencing literal creatures that God made to depict these Satanic forces. They’re using it that way. They become metaphors for that.
When we look at Psalm 89:10, “You have broken Rahab [the arrogant one] in pieces, as one who is slain; You have scattered your enemies ...,” there is a parallel between Rahav and your enemies. That tells you that Rahav, here, is an enemy of God.
Then it says, “You have scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm.” The arm of God, the hand of God—these are often anthropomorphisms to describe the power of God, the omnipotence of God, and His strength.
Rahav is often associated with Leviathan, who is a creature of the sea. The sea is that corporate entity of the demons. Remember that the beast comes out of the sea in Daniel 8 and also in Revelation 12 and 13. The sea is not something good; it is the source of evil. It is a picture of the corporate entity of Satan’s forces and the demonic forces.
So, the writer here is demonstrating the power of God over the forces of evil. I pointed out that in some passages, Rahav clearly refers to Egypt. As I also pointed out, going through these passages, each passage—whether you’re talking about Psalm 74, whether you’re talking about Isaiah 27, whether you’re talking about the passages in Job—you have to see what is the reference alluding to in each of those contexts.
You can’t just say, “Well, it’s Egypt over in Isaiah 27, so it must be Egypt here. Leviathan relates to Egypt over in Psalm 74 and the sea there also talks about the Red Sea, so that’s talking about the Exodus event, and that’s what it must be here.”
That’s the methodology that is often the case as scholars relate to this. It talks about the sea, it talks about Rahav, must be Egypt. But is there anything here, in this text, that tells you that this is talking about the Exodus event?
As I was studying this some more this morning, I looked at Allen Ross’s commentary on the Psalms, which is one of the best commentaries in print. He makes the observation there—he just states—this must be Egypt, because Rahav speaks of Egypt in several other places.
But then when he gets down to Psalm 89:11–12, he says, “In verses 11 and 12, the psalmist describes God’s work in Creation. The section may be a direct result of the theme of God’s sovereignty over the seas.” That would be relating to the deep in Genesis 1:2.
He says, “But the text simply declares that the heavens and the earth and all they contain belong to the Lord, due to the fact that He founded them.” That is found in Psalm 89:11.
The problem I have with that as an explanation, is that there is nothing in Psalm 89:9–10 (the raging of the sea and breaking Rahav in pieces)—which also in Job is indicated in something that happened much earlier than Job—that indicates it is talking about the Exodus event. In Isaiah, yes. In Psalm 74, yes.
Psalm 74 was written by Asaph, who may have been a contemporary of Ethan. But you don’t have the clear passages identifying Rahav with Egypt until you get into the Isaiah passages and a Jeremiah passage.
When you’re in Job, it’s clearly not Egypt. It’s talking about this individual who is opposed to God. So Rahav does not always refer to the same person overtly. But I think there’s a reference there.
Rahav speaks of “the arrogant one,” who is Satan. Rahav is applied to Pharaoh in the Isaiah passage, Psalm 74, and in the Jeremiah passage, because the real power behind the Pharaoh was Satan.
The power of Pharaoh over the Jews, his refusal to let them go, had everything to do with Satan’s attempt to destroy the Jews and keep them from going back to the land that God had promised them.
So, the Pharaoh is referred to not simply as Pharaoh, but as Rahav to let people know that it is talking about the force, the power that was behind the Pharaoh. Everything is related to the angelic conflict. That’s the emphasis here. It is to remind us of this original battle with Rahav.
When you get into Psalm 89:11, it’s clearly Creation. But why can’t Psalm 89:9–10 also be in relation to the original Creation? Nothing there would indicate that it was at the time of the Exodus.
In Psalm 89:11, the emphasis here is on God as the Creator of the heavens and the earth. “The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; the world and all its fullness ….”
The first line says, “The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours ....” That’s a merism, where you have, “God created the heavens and the earth” in Genesis 1:1. What else is there besides the heavens and the earth? Nothing. Night and day. That’s another merism, where you are talking about two opposites to include everything between them.
“The heavens are Yours, the earth is Yours ….” Then it’s summarized in the first part of the second line—or the earth part is expanded, actually—“… the world and all its fullness, You have founded them.” Now this is really interesting. The word there that is translated “founded” is the Hebrew word yasad, which means to lay a foundation or to establish. It’s the first thing that happens in a construction project.
“... the world and all its fullness, You have laid a foundation.”
This is the same word that is used in Job 38. Job 38:4, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” God is talking to Job, asking a series of rhetorical questions to expose his ignorance, his inability to understand all that God did.
Then the last line says, “… when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” This is pointing to a time when there is no disruption among the angels. They’re all shouting for joy. They’re all praising God at the laying of the foundations of the earth.
I believe this fits into a pattern where you have the original creation of the heavens and the earth. This is where Satan’s habitation was, according to Ezekiel 28:12–14. There is an angelic rebellion that takes place—Satan’s rebellion that takes place. This is when he is defeated.
This is then depicted in the language of Genesis 1:2, where you have the chaos of tehom. You have the darkness on the face of the earth; darkness is often a depiction of judgment. The tehom is the deep; it’s salt water. You don’t have salt water in the new heavens and the new earth.
All of this indicates something drastic, tragic, and catastrophic happened that caused a judgment on the earth. The idea that there is a gap of time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, when Satan fell, has been around at least as early as the early Middle Ages.
Custance went back and traced it to some early rabbinic writings. Nobody was making the earth old. Nobody. It wasn’t until the early 19th century that you had a Scottish theologian—he was the preeminent Scottish theologian in the early 1820s and 1830s—by the name of Thomas Chalmers.
He said, “Geology must be right. …” That was his first error. “Geology must be right. The earth is …” At that time, they were saying the earth was 50,000 or 60,000 years old. So, he is saying, “Well, find a place where we can put that into the Bible. We’ll put it there.”
People were already putting the fall of Satan there. In my opinion, that’s the only place you can put it. I have queried many, many people over the years. They can’t answer that exegetically. They just say, “Well, sometime in there.” But I think these passages related to Rahav and Leviathan indicate an original defeat of Satan, and that’s where it would take place.
That’s what this is alluding to. “You have broken Rahav in pieces …” It’s connecting this in the next verse to approximately the same time as laying the foundation of the earth.
Then we get into Psalm 89:12. “The north and the south, You have created them; Tabor and Hermon rejoice in Your name.” Those are two mountains in the north of Israel.
If you look at a map of Israel, this is the northern part of Israel. Most of this area here is the Galilee. Up at the very far north of Israel is Mount Hermon. This is where Mount Hermon is located. The area that’s tan is Assyria today. The distance from Mount Hermon to Damascus is about 40 miles. Damascus is closer to the northern border of Israel than we are to Galveston. Just think about that. That’s the border of Syria.
The other mountain that’s mentioned here is Mount Tabor, which is located right down here. This line right here, roughly, is the ridge of Mount Carmel. Just to the northeast of that is a valley—the valley of Esdraelon, the Jezreel Valley. On the other side, you have some different mountains. One of them is Mount Tabor.
Everything in between here—or most of what’s in between there—is a lot of timber, a lot of agriculture, a lot of the valley that’s around Mount Tabor here. The Esdraelon Valley is the breadbasket of Israel. This is where a lot of their agriculture takes place. So, it’s a depiction of the blessing of God on Israel to provide all of these wonderful, natural resources for Israel.
Here is a picture of Mount Tabor. It’s kind of an unusual looking and shaped mountain, so you can always spot it. Off to the left behind this ridge over here would be where Nazareth is located. Off to the right in the distance here would be where the Sea of Galilee is located.
Then if you go north, you go to Mount Hermon. This is what Mount Hermon looks like, probably in the early spring covered with snow. On the Israeli side, they have a ski lift. You can go ski Israel, if you get there in the right time of the year.
The psalmist is saying, “LORD, You’ve created this. You’ve created this wonderful land that You have given us. And it is a land of blessing.” When he personifies Tabor and Hermon in the second line, he is personifying them by saying that they rejoice. It is really the fact that as they look out over all of this wonderful land in Galilee that is so productive, that has so many great agriculture and natural resources, they rejoice in God’s name. What we’ve seen is that when you have these phrases referencing the name of God, it’s always a reference to His character. All of this demonstrates the Creation and demonstrates the character of God.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork,” Psalm 19:1.
We see this emphasis on the essence of God. These ten characteristics summarize the essence of God, that God is sovereign. He rules over His creation. That’s the backdrop of much of what is said here in these first 18 verses. God is sovereign.
It specifically states that God is righteous. If you look at Psalm 89:14, we read, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne. …” We’ll see righteousness and justice emphasized.
Love, in the sense of chesed—God’s loyal love—is emphasized all through the psalm. We see God’s omnipotence, His might, His power, the strength of His hand, the strength of His arm—these are also emphasized—and His immutability.
As you read through this psalm, you should be overwhelmed by what we learn about Who God is and the greatness of His power.
When we come to Psalm 89:13, we read, “You have a mighty arm; Strong is Your hand, and high is Your right hand.” Now, what is this talking about? Is God just a good weightlifter? Arm and hand are also figures of speech representing power, representing God’s omnipotence. He has a mighty arm. They are anthropomorphisms.
God doesn’t actually have an arm, doesn’t actually have a hand like we do, but it is with our hand that we make things and we produce things. It is with our arm that we lift things and move things. They represent power. This is found all through the Scripture, this kind of anthropomorphism.
For example, in Psalm 17:7, “Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand …” I chose that verse because it connects the right hand and His power to chesed, to His loyal love. His loyal love works through His power to bring about that which He desires, which He intends.
The psalmist says, “Show Your faithful, loyal love by Your omnipotence.”
“… O You Who save those who trust in You …” That’s how he is referring to God. God is our Savior of those who trust in Him. Save us “… from those who rise up against them.”
Psalm 18:35. “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; …”
We’re going to see the term shield, which is the Hebrew word magen. You have various forms of it. One of them is mogen. You have Mogen David wine, the shield of David. You also have Magen David in Israel, which is a form of the same phrase. That’s their ambulance service. That’s like their version of the Red Cross.
“You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up.” So, shield is parallel to right hand. God’s omnipotence is what protects us. He watches over us.
In Exodus 6:6, talking about the Exodus event, says that God redeemed them “with an outstretched arm.” It was God’s omnipotence that brought the ten plagues on Egypt that freed them and delivered them. The same God Who was able to free the Israelites from bondage in Egypt is the same God Who can solve your problem as well.
Deuteronomy 5:15 combines them. They were brought out “by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”
Then in Jeremiah 21:5, it refers to God’s fight against Israel. He’s talking about King Zedekiah, and he says, “I Myself will fight against you …”
He told Zedekiah to quit fighting against the Babylonians. Zedekiah says, “No, I’m going to fight. I’m going to defend my country.” God says, “No, you’re going to make it worse if you fight. Just surrender.”
Zedekiah refused to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, which made everything worse. God said, “If you disobey Me, I Myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm. I’m going to bring all of My omnipotence against you, Zedekiah.”
Jeremiah 27:5 uses the same phrase, but now it’s more literal. “… by My great power and by My outstretched arm …”
So, God has great power, but God doesn’t use it in an oppressive way. He’s not a tyrant. He’s not like the kings of the ancient Near East who lorded it over everyone and oppressed everyone like the Pharaoh, or like the Babylonian emperors, or the Persian emperors. He rules with righteousness and justice.
Psalm 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne …” What this is saying is that God’s rule over His people is based on righteousness and justice. Righteousness is the Hebrew word tzedek, which means that the righteousness is the perfect standard of God’s character.
The word mishpat is the word for justice here. That’s the application of God’s perfect standard of righteousness to His people. He’s perfectly righteous, and He knows all the details. So, He can judge in perfect equality. Everybody gets the same Judge, who knows everything.
Psalm 37:6 and other passages emphasize God’s righteousness. “He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.” Often these two terms occur together in the psalms.
Psalm 48:10, “According to Your name, O God, so is Your praise to the ends of the earth; Your right hand is full of righteousness.” The right hand is what will give blessings. So, it comes from His righteousness.
Psalm 96:13, “For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth.”
When we look at Psalm 89:14, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne …” Then it says, “… mercy …” that’s chesed, “… and truth …” emunah, “… go before Your face.” This is what goes before You. This is how You are applying this to the human race.
The result of this is going to be in Psalm 89:15, “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound ….” What’s the joyful sound? The joyful sound is the praise of the people who are thanking God for His blessings.
He is saying, “Blessed are those who hear the praises of God, who hear people singing praises to God.” “Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound …” Why? “… they walk, O LORD, in the light of Your countenance.”
Then in Psalm 89:16 we read, “In Your name they rejoice all day long .…” They rejoice in the character of God—what we’ve been studying: His righteousness, His justice, His mercy, His truth, His omnipotence, His stability, His faithfulness. They live in the light of God’s blessing, His countenance shining upon them.
Then in Psalm 89:17 we read, “For You are the glory of their strength ...” You are the essence of their strength. What makes them strong is Your character and their trust in You. That’s the same thing for us. His strength is what is the source of our strength.
Then it says, “… and in Your favor our horn is exalted.” The concept of horn, as a metaphor, refers to power. It’s saying that in Your grace, our power—our ability to handle the situations in life—is exalted.
Then it concludes in Psalm 89:18, “For our shield belongs to the LORD, And our king to the Holy One of Israel.” That sets things up to talk about the Davidic Covenant and the promise of an eternal king. It is God Who protects them. That’s the idea of a shield. You find this in several passages.
I just love the way these psalms talk about the protection of God. “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn—that is the power—of my salvation, my stronghold.” The word there is metsudah, where we get the name for the fortress in Israel, Masada—“my stronghold.”
Psalm 28:7 says much of the same thing. “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song I will praise Him.” Psalm 89 is teaching us how to trust in God, how to work it through in our minds, where we work through the essence of God and then we apply it to the particular situation.
Psalm 119:114, “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your Word.” The Word tells us how to trust in God and to hide in Him.
We finished up this first section of Psalm 89—the focus upon God. The next section, starting in Psalm 89:19, focuses on God’s promise to David.
“Father, thank You for the opportunity to work through this passage, to be reminded of how faithful You are, how loyal You are, how You yearn to protect us, provide for us, and fulfill Your promises to us. We need to learn how to pray more biblically, as we claim promises and present our petitions to You in our prayers.
“Father, we pray that You challenge us with what we’ve learned tonight. In Christ’s name. Amen.”