God’s Awesome Power
2 Samuel 7:18–29; Psalm 89:5–10
Samuel Lesson #172
May 28, 2019
“Father, we’re grateful that we have You to come to; we’re grateful that in Your omniscience, You know everything that’s going on in our lives. You know our innermost thoughts. You have known these things from eternity past. Nothing we do surprises You. Nothing we do is anything that upsets the plan that You have for us. You are overseeing, overwriting all things, and Father we’re so thankful that we have You to guide, direct us, to protect us even when we’re disobedient and even when we are in profound spiritual rebellion and failure. Nevertheless, You are always watching over us, caring for us, and working to bring us back to a close union of fellowship with Yourself as we walk with You.
“Father, we pray for our country. We pray for our leaders. We pray for their wisdom. We pray that You might keep us secure as a nation and give an understanding of that to people who are in leadership. We pray that judges that oversee these vital cases related to the First Amendment would understand the issues and continue to protect and uphold the Founders’ meanings in the First Amendment and all of the amendments.
“Father, we pray for us tonight that we as we study Your faithfulness, as we study about the way in which You have worked to preserve and protect Israel in the past, it gives us great confidence in how You will work to preserve and protect us today, and we pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Let’s open our Bibles to Psalm 89. We’re continuing our study of the Davidic Covenant and the implications of the Davidic Covenant, and especially in this particular psalm as we’ve studied in the previous couple of weeks. It was written by Ethan the Ezrahite. Last time, I talked about the fact that he is a contemporary of Solomon. We don’t know exactly how their lives overlapped, but by the time the writer of 1 Kings is writing things down, he knows his audience is aware of who Ethan is, and he compares Solomon’s wisdom to that of Ethan the Ezrahite, that it’s much greater. So, we know that he is a man listed in Chronicles as well, and that he was a spiritual leader in Israel.
God the Holy Spirit breathed the Scriptures out through him on the basis of his experience, and it is a reflection on the Davidic Covenant. He is doing something that he may have observed in Solomon—we’ll see tonight in terms of taking the promises that are in the Davidic Covenant and praying to God about those promises—talking about his concerns, his worries, his anxieties that God’s promises were being threatened, and calling upon God to intercede in the historical affairs of Israel, so the house of David would be secure, stable, and protected. Its’ a great model for us in understanding the faith-rest drill, that is, our trust in God.
The term, “faith-rest drill”—three words—emphasize three different things brought together: The first is faith, which is trusting God, where we are mixing promises with our faith—we’re trusting God.
The second word “rest” doesn’t mean we’re just completely passive; it means that we’re resting in God’s provision. We are waiting upon Him, but in the meantime, we are doing what God says for us to do. The somewhat mundane illustration is you can pray all day long that certain chores around your house that you really don’t want to do will get done. Maybe it’s cutting the grass or painting the house, whatever it may be, but at some point, you have to engage in performing your responsibilities and God’s going to take care of the of the rest of it. Prayer and faith always involve putting into God’s hands that which belongs in God’s hands, but on the other side, we fulfill our biblically defined responsibilities. We’re resting in Him to bring about the outcome, but that doesn’t mean we just sit on our hands and do nothing.
And third, it’s a drill because it’s something we have to learn to practice over and over and over again; whenever there’s a circumstance, no matter how minor, we learn to practice that. You claim promises, which of course, implies that you know promises and that you are ready to apply them.
Slides 3 and 4
So, we’re looking at the Davidic Covenant. Remember, there are three components to the Davidic Covenant: a promise of an eternal house, a promise of an eternal kingdom, and a promise of an eternal throne. This means that there are specific promises stated that God would do for David and that God would do for his descendants, culminating in an eternal Descendent who would rule over an eternal kingdom from the throne in Jerusalem.
Ethan is taking these promises that are in the Davidic Covenant, and he’s applying them to his specific circumstances. So, when we structure Psalm 89, the first part of the psalm, the first 18 verses are focusing on God’s character: Who God is and what He has done in the past that demonstrates that character.
What we’ll see whenever we have these examples in the Bible— whether it’s Moses, Abraham, David, or whomever—when they are praying promises to God, they always talk about what He has done in the past, how He has fulfilled His promises in the past as a part of their rationale or their argument in presenting their case to God, why He should act today.
There is a focus on the attributes of God and on His character. The love is His chesed love, His faithful, loyal love, specifically, usually in relation to covenant promises. So, it’s a love that is promise-based, that God has limited Himself in such a way that He is going to make promises, and then He is binding Himself to complete and to fulfill those promises.
The next division goes from Psalm 89:19–37, where the psalmist is looking at the promises in the covenant itself, and he is using those as the basis for his request to God stating his petition. Then in the last part, there’s that cry to God that though there is a situation that threatens the monarchy, threatens the line of David, that God is called upon to remain faithful to His promises to David, even though because of sin and because of failure in the line of David or in Israel, God is still going to fulfill that covenant, and He will not cancel that covenant.
We’re still in the first section of Psalm 89, and I had thought we would get through that section fairly quickly, but there’s a lot in this psalm. I intuitively knew that from reading it in the past— which is one reason why I really didn’t think I would get into it to begin with—and today was one of those fun days when I said, “I think I can cover that in 10 minutes and started studying.” Then an hour later, I thought, “Oh, I’ve got to really speed up my studying today because there is so much here that I think I’m going to have to cover.”
So, we have this first section, the first 18 verses. Psalm 89:1–4 we covered last time, which emphasizes and parallels God’s covenant loyalty, His covenant loyal love, to God’s faithfulness.
Then in the second section, Psalm 89:5–18, we’re going to see how this is tied to His attributes—how God’s omnipotence is connected to His faithfulness. Then we’re going to see how the focus of Ethan takes God’s faithfulness and His omnipotence, and he connects it to the angelic conflict.
All of a sudden, we realize that all of these covenants with Israel, God’s whole relationship with Israel, is an integral part of the angelic conflict, and that what is often the ultimate enemy of God’s plan, generates first and foremost with Satan.
So, we get into Psalm 89:5–18. Psalm 89:5 is really a call to praise God, that He will be praised because of His character, because of who He is. Then in Psalm 89:6–8, He is praised for His omnipotence, His unique and awesome power, and His incredible works and how this displays His greatness over all of the angelic hosts—the fallen angels as well as the holy angels.
Then in Psalm 89:9–14, we’ll see how God is praised for His omnipotence and His sovereign rule over all His creation including Satan and the fallen angels. If we get down to verse 10, it will be a miracle, but I think that we’re going to get into a lot of good, new material. Then, in the last four verses, we have, “The Lord blesses those who walk with Him and glory in His righteousness, and strength.” That brings us to a conclusion for these first 18 verses.
Slide 8 (skipped)
So, we’ve covered the first four verses, and we’ve looked at the faith-rest drill: claiming a promise where we mix our faith with a promise. We quote the whole Scripture, or maybe we just know a phrase or a line or sometimes we haven’t learned that; we haven’t memorized Scripture as we ought, and we’re just capturing some principle that is derived from Scripture. But whenever we look at examples in the Bible of the faith-rest drill, we see people quoting Scriptures, quoting Scriptural phrases; they are holding God to what He has said.
What’s important there is you have to make sure that you’re reading your own mail. You don’t want to read somebody else’s mail—God’s promise to your next-door neighbor—and claim it for yourself. That often happens when you hear people claiming Old Testament verses, and you go back and look at the context and realize: that wasn’t written to the church; that it is specifically a promise that is based on the Davidic Covenant or the Abrahamic Covenant or the Mosaic Covenant. It really doesn’t apply directly to Church Age believers; however, there may be implications there, certain general principles, that can be transferred over.
The second step: we then think through what the doctrinal rationale is. We’re going to look at Psalm 89 tonight. We’re going to go back, and we’re going to look at some things in Job. We’re going to look at Psalm 74. We’ll never get to Psalm 77; not tonight, but we’ll get there, and we’ll see—over and over again—how in all these passages, we’re going to see the same thing.
We’re even going to take a trip along with 1 Kings 6 and the parallels over in 2 Chronicles and see how often this same rationale is used that is related to the essence of God: looking at His character and then building our petitions to God on the basis of His character. Then we apply those to our situation with the conclusion where we’re basically calling upon God: “This is what You said; this is the situation; this is how it applies, and this is what I expect You to do.” We’re not telling God what to do—It’s not a name it, claim it kind of thing—but it is building a case for why your prayer ought to be answered. We see the same kind of thing happening in the New Testament.
Slides 10 and 11
This is where we’re starting. We’ll be mostly in this section Psalm 89:5–18: God’s unique and awesome character, especially His righteousness, faithfulness, justice, and omnipotence are extolled. So, we’ll begin with Psalm 89:5 where the Lord will be praised and then in verse 2 getting into its relationship in verses 6 through 8 with the angelic hosts.
In Psalm 89:5, we read, “And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord; Your faithfulness, also in the assembly of the saints.” Now that is a packed verse for a number of reasons. As we get into this, what we’re going to see is this comes out of those first four verses which have focused on two attributes. We talked about the synonymous parallelism of the Hebrew poetry here where the first verse states a more general principle, [Psalm 89:1] “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever.”
In the second verse, it reinstates those ideas, but with terms that are usually a little more specific: “singing” is a little broader than “With my mouth I will make known ...” So, that’s the focus of singing: it is to make something known. It is related to the idea of revelation, so that what we are singing—and this has application to hymns that we sing—expresses what God has revealed and what He has done. [Psalm 89:1] “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; With my mouth. I will make known Your faithfulness.” So, mercies of the Lord, that’s chesed—it’s a broad term for God’s covenant, faithful loyalty.
Then you have the word “faithfulness,” which is a narrower term, and again you have those same synonyms in verse 2: mercy and faithfulness.
It’s interesting how “faithfulness” is picked up again and again throughout this whole psalm, and here, it is seen as a subset of God’s chesed. Chesed is the broad term and then “faithfulness” is the narrower term, so He’s faithful in His love. That is the first thing that is being stated. How is that expressed? He made a covenant with His servant David, so he entered into a covenant or contract. God made a legal agreement with David just as he had with Abraham, as he had with the nation in the Mosaic Covenant, and then what that Covenant stated is, in Psalm 89:4, “Your seed I will establish forever.”
We saw last time that all through here, the word “faithfulness”—’emunah—comes from a root word that has to do with the foundation of something. It was a term that was used of the foundation stones that were set up under the pillars of Solomon’s Temple. So, it gives stability; it is that upon which of the temple pillars rested. That comes over to us that in the faith-rest drill: because of God’s character, we can rest and relax in what He has provided. It’s paralleled with the term “to build up.”
We have all this language here that should leave us with the impression of the strength and the power and the stability and the certainty of God. Then we come to this next section, Psalm 89:5–8, and what happens as we get into this section is, we’ll see that after verse 8, there is a definite shift in the focus. Down through verse 8, the focus is on God and His uniqueness: God is one-of-a-kind. The biblical word that is often used to express that is the word “holy”.
Holy is one of those Bible words, one of those spiritual words that people lose the sense of, and they often think it means to be morally pure. But it has the fundamental idea of being unique or distinct or set apart. So that’s what is being developed in Psalm 89:5–8.
Then there’s a shift to how that was manifested, because unlike verses 1–4 where mercy and faithfulness were juxtaposed, now what we have in Psalm 89:5 is, “And the heavens will praise Your wonders, O Lord; Your faithfulness also in the assembly of the saints.” So, faithfulness is now a part of this concept of the wonder, the awesome power and acts of God. We’ll have to look at that particular word, and we will in just a minute.
Psalm 89:5 starts off with the phrase, “And the heavens.” Now I want to make some initial observations as we approach these four verses. The first thing is that the term “the heavens” is not talking about the physical, spatial universe, which is filled with the stars and the galaxies and all the different things that we see with our eyes out in the universe. It is talking more about the space-time continuum in which all of those things exist. But it goes beyond the physical space-time continuum to that which was the eternal abode of God that is from eternity.
The Bible really breaks things down terms of three layers of the heavens. There is the first heaven, which is the Earth’s atmosphere, and it deals with just that which envelops our planet. The second heaven is the physical universe that is out there, and then, the third heaven is the abode of God. So, this [the third heaven] is where he’s talking about because it’s parallel to what I have colored in blue. It’s parallel to “the assembly of the saints.” Now that’s a bad translation in the new King James because when you and I think of the saying of a saint, we think of a Christian, Church Age believer. But it’s the same root idea, which is a holy one—someone set apart to God.
What we have here is a figure of speech that is called a metonymy. You probably didn’t learn that in high school or even college English. A metonymy is a figure of speech where one noun is used in the place of another noun, and it may involve a lot of different categories, but this is called a metonymy of subject where one noun, which is the place, is substituted for what inhabits the place.
So, who inhabits the heavens? The angels inhabit the heavens. This is not anything that is really strange. For instance, when Moses calls upon Israel for the covenant to be witnessed by the heavens and the earth, he is not talking about the physical planets and stars, he’s not talking about the ground—the land of the earth, the soil of the earth and the trees and the flowers in the grass and the weeds—he’s talking about the inhabitants of the heavens and the inhabitants of the earth. So, this is a very common figure of speech that we have. We use it all the time, even in our own language. That’s the focus here of metonymy.
So, the heavens here is the place where the assembly of the holy ones takes place. That’s described in Job 1 and Job 2 where there are these convocations in the heavens where all of the angels—they’re called in that passage the sons of God, bene ha Elohim. Elohim is the word that’s used for God there, which is sort of a generic term in Hebrew and Aramaic for God as opposed to His personal name, which is Yahweh. And it’s the assembly of the saints that is qadosh that is the word there. It ultimately means “that which is distinct” or “set apart to God,” and it has the idea when applied to God also of “one-of-a-kind” or “unique and distinct,” which really comes out in all of these verses that it is expressing that idea that there is none like God; He is one-of-a-kind. Those who dwell with Him are also one-of-a-kind because they serve the Lord. So, it is talking first and foremost about God in His relation to the holy ones, to the angels.
In the NET note—I do not necessarily advocate or endorse the NET Bible; it’s the New English Translation—it was done by a lot of faculty members at Dallas Theological Seminary—the New Testament faculty and the Old Testament faculty. One of the things that’s nice about it is that it indicates where there are translation problems or there are other problems in dealing with and expressing the text. In a lot of ways, I disagree with their solution—especially the New Testament, not always in the Old Testament—but I always have a caveat here because I don’t endorse this for people to purchase it and use it unless they have some knowledge of Greek and Hebrew to begin with, because it can lead them astray on some of these notes.
But the note here states in its translation note that the Hebrew is literally “in the assembly of the holy ones.” In the NET translation, in the latter part, it translates “the holy ones” as “the angels;” whereas, the New American Standard translates “the holy ones” as “the holy ones.” In the King James, it translates it as “the saints.” So, it’s literally correct in the New American Standard, but the they captured the sense in the NET: it’s talking about the angels.
We see this in passages such as Daniel 4:13, where Daniel says, “I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed,” so, it’s a vision that God gives him while he is on his bed, and he sees an angel—here called a watcher and defined as a holy one. It’s in the singular. It’s the same word we have in Psalm 89. This is used quite a few times in Scripture to describe the angels.
So, “the heavens—those who abide in the heavens, the angels—will praise.” That is, they will boast, they will extol your wonders of the Lord. Now this is a fun word. This is the Hebrew word pele‘, and it is used, I think, almost exclusively for God. It is used in a very well-known passage in Isaiah 9:6 where it talks about the fact that God’s name will be called “Wonderful.” It is a unique title given to God; your name will be called, [Isaiah 9:6] “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God.” All of these are titles for God, so it relates to that which God has done.
Now it is interesting that the Masoretic Text, which is the standard Hebrew text, has it as a singular, in which case it would refer to God’s character: “and the heavens will praise Your wonder,” that You are wondrous. However, in the ancient versions, it has it in the plural in the translations.
When I went to Dallas Seminary and was taught Hebrew—this gets into a lot of detail, but the bottom line was—they basically said the Masoretic Text is good, you can you can go with it; but that has changed in a lot of other circles. I first was alerted to this through reading Michael Rydelnik’s book on The Messianic Hope, where he challenges that and then, not long after that, I became aware of an Israeli scholar named Emanuel Tov who has a superior position, I believe, on doing textual criticism—not for the same reason as Rydelnik.
Rydelnik only argues that the Masoretes had an anti-messianic bent, so they changed things, changed words in places, and you could do that in the Hebrew by just messing with the vowels. It would make the word into something else, and the vowels were not inspired. It was the consonants that were inspired. So anyway, Rydelnik questioned it because it changes Messianic prophecy.
Emanuel Tov challenges it because various manuscripts have been found in the last hundred years. We’ve found the Dead Sea Scrolls; we’ve found all kinds of other translations that were not known 200 years ago, and they are different: the Septuagint, the Samaritan Pentateuch, some older Greek versions, the Syriac version. His principle is that when these other versions agree, then that’s probably a superior reading than the one that was preserved in the Masoretic Text. So, that would indicate if this is a plural, that the focus is on God’s acts. His wondrous acts, His awesome acts demonstrate His faithfulness. I think we could support that in the text itself.
When we get down to Psalm 89:8, it starts to talk about His faithfulness, that He rules the raging of the sea, when the waves rise, He stills them. So, His faithfulness is demonstrated in His acts, in His powerful miraculous acts.
Then it will talk about, [Psalm 89:10] “You have broken Rahab in pieces.” What’s that all about; I don’t remember reading that in Joshua 2. So we’ll have to talk about that. [Psalm 89:10] “You have scattered your enemies with Your mighty arm.” This is talking about God’s miraculous acts in history. So I think that both on external evidence in terms of the many different versions that have a plural as well as the context that the plural reading would be superior, which is how it was translated in the New King James version. Now that is a parallel to the word for faithfulness.
What we saw in the first opening verses is that “God’s mercies” is the big term, and the smaller term is His “faithfulness.” So, the faithfulness of God is a part of the manifestation of His loyal love, but it’s not limited to that. It is also an example of His awesome work in history because it is the acts of God in history and in our lives that demonstrate His faithfulness to us.
Even when we are disloyal, He is loyal to us. Even when we deny Him, He does not deny us. Even when we are faithless, He is faithful. God always fulfills His promises and fulfills His Word.
So, the wonders of God are the wonders that demonstrate His faithfulness to us: His stability, His certainty; we can count on Him. And then, that last phrase is talking about [Psalm 89:7] “in the assembly of the of the holy ones.” All of this, in many ways, is talking about God’s loyalty to His covenant, God’s faithfulness to His promise, that He is going to do what He claims to do, and He is going to fulfill that.
Before we get into that, one last thing I want to point out to you is that when we look at this section from Psalm 89:5–8, it starts off talking about faithfulness twice; notice it mentions faithfulness twice in the opening four verses, and that was to focus our attention on faithfulness as an aspect of His chesed love, His covenant loyal love. Here we have faithfulness mentioned in Psalm 89:5, and then it’s mentioned a second time in Psalm 89:8; the other verses are sandwiched in between.
Now you know what it’s like to make a sandwich. You have two pieces of bread and so the top bread and the bottom bread are faithfulness, and the real goodies are what’s in between; that’s what it’s going to get spelled out in Psalm 89:6–7.
But what we see here in these next sections is that this is going to focus on God’s relationship to the angels. In verse 6, they’re referred to as “the sons of the mighty.” In Hebrew, this is the phrase bene elim, not bene elohim. Elohim is the name of God, and elim has to do with those who are mighty; it is used to refer to the angels in numerous other places which we will see. But before we get into that, as an introduction to the uniqueness of God which is brought out, for example in Psalm 89:8, “O Lord of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds You.” The point is, the answer is “no,” no one is faithful like the Lord.
I want you to take a little rabbit trail here. So, let’s turn to 1 Kings 8. This is King Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple. This is while Solomon is still spiritually faithful and loyal to the Lord in 1 Kings 8 and 9—just as phenomenal prayer of dedication. If you work your way through it, what you realize is that Solomon is exercising the faith-rest drill. He constantly is quoting from the Mosaic Law and from the judgments, from the punishments.
He says, “Okay God, when Israel disobeys and does this, then when they turned back, You promise to do that and to restore them, and I’m asking you to do that.” That’s what it means to claim a promise. So we see the evidence of this in 1 Kings 8:15–21, and it’s paralleled in 2 Chronicles 5 through 7. It just so happened that this week as I was reading through the Bible chronologically, that I was reading through these chapters, and I thought, “boy, this is just such a great illustration of what I’m teaching right now in 2 Samuel,” so let’s look at starting about 1 Kings 8:15.
Here, Solomon is making this speech to Israel, and he says in 1 Kings 8:15. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to my father David.” What’s he doing there? He’s getting ready to reiterate what was in the Davidic Covenant. So, here he is applying the Davidic Covenant to the circumstances. He says, [1 Kings 8:16–18] “Since the day that I brought My people Israel out of Egypt,—so here, he is quoting what God said in the Covenant—Since the day that I brought My people Israel out of Egypt, I’ve chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house that My name might be there; but I chose David to be over My people Israel.”—Davidic Covenant stuff.
“Now it was in the heart of my father David,” Solomon says, “to build the temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel. But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, You did well that it was in your heart.’ ” Notice that God gives him credit for what he wanted to do even though God said, “You’re not going to do it.” See that?
I think that has application for us in that God honors our desires to do something, but it’s not within His permissive will. So, we are still going to get credit for that at the Judgment Seat of Christ. We wanted to do the right thing. God just said, “Not today; not at all.” So, David was prohibited from building the temple.
1 Kings 8:19, “ ‘Nevertheless, you shall not build the temple, but your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My name.’ So, the Lord has fulfilled His Word which He spoke; and I have fulfilled the position of my father David.” What’s he doing here? He’s looking at what God promised, and that which had already been fulfilled. And he’s looking at God’s historic faithfulness because he’s going to use that as leverage with God for future fulfillment to maintain His Covenant loyalty in the future. Then Solomon talks about the fact he’s made a place for the ark of the covenant, and he’s built the temple and then in verse 22 we start with the dedication.
In 1 Kings 8:23 he says—and this is Solomon praying: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You.” What’s he saying? He’s saying God is unique. He’s one of a kind. He is expressing the concept of holiness. [1 Kings 8:23] “There is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.” So, he’s using the term “mercy”, which is chesed, His covenant loyalty, that God keeps His covenant, and He’s loyal to it. He starts with the character of God as the foundation of the prayer that he is about to pray.
He does the same thing in 2 Chronicles 6:14–15. He said, “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven on earth like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts. You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; [the Davidic Covenant] You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day.”
So, he’s rehearsing what has been said and what has been done. Now, if we were to go on in 1 Kings 8:24, this is what Solomon does. He reminds God what he has fulfilled. He says, “You have kept what you promised your servant David my father; You have both spoken with your mouth and fulfilled with your hand, as it is this day.”
We read the parallel in 2 Chronicles 6:25. “Therefore,” therefore what? After he’s reiterated what was said, what was promised by God, after he goes through how God has fulfilled this promise in the past, now he draws a conclusion—that’s that doctrinal conclusion in the faith-rest drill—he draws a conclusion, and he says, [1 Kings 8:25] “Therefore, Lord God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk before Me as you have walked before Me.’ ” He’s saying, “Be true to Your promise that You will keep a descendent of David on the throne.”
Then in 1 Kings 8:26, this is the focus of his prayer: “Now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father.” I think there is a little word play there on “true” because the root word for true and the root word for faithfulness are the same; it depends on context and word form as to exactly what it means.
That takes us to Psalm 89:6, “For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord [Yahweh]?” Who can be compared to the covenant God of Israel? “Who in the heavens—so that’s talking again about the angelic hosts that are in the heavens. In fact, he’s going to refer to God as Yahweh of hosts, that is, the armies of the angels—For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord?”
So, you have two lines two statements in each strophe. “Who in the heavens,” that relates to the angels; they’re identified as “the sons of the mighty,” in the second strophe. “The sons of the mighty,” is not the phrase bene elohim.
It’s not the sons of God; it is the sons of those who are mighty. This is similar to what is sometimes translated with lowercase “gods,” but it’s talking about the angelic powers as we see here in Exodus 15:11.
Again, Moses here is emphasizing the holiness, the uniqueness of God. [Exodus 15:11] “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods?” Are there any other angels like You? I think he’s tweaking Satan in stating it this way. You have this way of stating it several times where David, Moses, or somebody says, “Who is like You among the angels?” See, Satan wants to be like God. That’s Isaiah 14:12–14; his five “I wills.” The last one, “I will be like God.”
So, here we see again and again stated in Scripture, “No one is like You among the elim,” which are the mighty powers, that is, God. [Exodus 15:11] “Who is like You, glorious in holiness,—no one—fearful in praises, doing wonders?” There’s that word pele‘ again—doing wonders, doing awesome deeds.
Some other verses that emphasize the uniqueness of God we find in Isaiah 46:5, “To whom will you liken Me and make Me equal—says God—and compare Me that we should be alike?” Who are you going to compare God to? There’s nothing in God’s creation, there’s nothing anywhere in the universe or outside the universe that is analogous or comparable to God. He’s unique. He’s one-of-a-kind. He’s distinct—that’s the word holy.
[Isaiah 46:5] “To whom will you liken me, and make me equal And compare me, that we should be alike?” [Isaiah 46:9] “Remember the former things long past, for I am God and there is no other.” “The former things long past”: “Remember what I’ve done when I brought you out of Egypt with the 10 plagues? All of those different plagues: from turning the water into blood, from the lice and the flies and all of the other things that happened, the fiery hail—all of these different things.” Only God could do that. No other gods could do this.
In each plague, He was showing that He was more powerful than the gods of the Egyptians. He says, “Remember those things and how I brought you out and brought you to Sinai, and I spoke and you heard Me, and I gave you the Law? Remember the former things long past, for I am God and there is no other.” That’s it. He is.
“I am God, and there’s no one like Me.” And what does He do? Then we have these wonderous acts: [Isaiah 46:10] “He declares the end from the beginning.” He can tell everything that is going to happen in the future and everything that has happened in the past. [Isaiah 46:10] “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’ ” It sounds like Ephesians 1 doesn’t it—the same sort of language there. It’s almost like the same Person was behind the writing of all 66 Books of the Bible.
Deuteronomy 33:26, “There’s no one like the God of Jeshurun,—Jeshurun is another name for Israel—who rides the heavens to help you, and in His Excellency on the clouds.”
Psalm 77:13–15. “Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders;—there’s that word again indicating His awesome acts in time and in history—You have declared Your strength among the peoples.—Your power, bringing in omnipotence; You have declared Your omnipotence among the people—You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph.”
I want you to notice as you think about how you pray and how we make petitions to God, how there is this intertwining in different ways in all of these psalms between the wonders of God, the greatness of God, the uniqueness of God, and His omnipotence, His strength among the peoples. This is what we praise God for, what He has done.
Psalm 86:8, “Among the gods—little “g”—there is none like You, O Lord; Nor are there any works like Your works.” Nothing like You; you can’t compare it. [Psalm 113:5] “Who is like the Lord—Yahweh—our Elohim, Who dwells on high.”
Isaiah 46:5, “To whom will you liken Me,—God says,—and make Me equal And compare Me, that we should be alike?” Jeremiah 10:6, “Inasmuch as there is none like You, O Lord (You are great, and Your name is great in might).” There it pulls in omnipotence. So, all of these passages are emphasizing the greatness, the power of God.
Then we come to Psalm 89:7, “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints.” That word “to fear” is a little bit different word from the one we’ve looked at before. It’s not yirah; it is tzaratz, which means “to dread” or “to tremble,” and this isn’t in in a negative or bad sense. This is in the sense of Isaiah 6 where Isaiah has his vision in the temple, and he is before the throne of God. Suddenly, he is completely aware of his sinfulness, of his unworthiness, of all that he has done. He has no reason to be there, and he just cries out, [Isaiah 6:5] “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” That’s the sense of “dread” and “to tremble” that we see referred to in Psalm 89:7.
Then we come to Psalm 89:8. All of this is sandwiched together: We’ve seen the meat now, which is about the power of God’s wondrous deeds, His uniqueness, and His omnipotence. We see this here addressed in His title “Yahweh Elohim Sabaoth.” It’s not the term Sabbath; it sounds like it, but it’s a different spelling. “Sabaoth” is what we have in A Mighty Fortress is Our God; it means “the Lord of the armies.” Hosts is an antiquated term for military force. [Psalm 89:8] “O Lord God of hosts, Who is mighty like You, O Lord?” That is, “Who is omnipotent?” There’s only One who is omnipotent; it is Yahweh.
“Your faithfulness [’emunah] also surrounds You.” This idea of His faithfulness in relation to His omnipotence now is what is sandwiched in between Psalm 89:5 and Psalm 89:8. It went from the parallel of faithfulness and chesed in verses 1 and 2, to faithfulness as a manifestation of His wonders, that is, a wondrous act of God—that He is faithful to His covenant—and here, His faithfulness as a manifestation of His omnipotence and of His power. He is omnipotent.
God is so powerful that He can be faithful to fulfill every promise to you; think about that. God has made these awesome promises to us, and He’s powerful enough that He can actually carry it out and fulfill it, so we don’t have to be concerned, we don’t have to worry about it at all. So, Psalm 89:8, “O Lord—Yahweh—God of hosts,—God of the armies—Who is mighty like You, O Lord?—Who has the power that You have?—Your faithfulness also surrounds You.”
Now we’re going to shift gears. I don’t know how far we’ll get into this; we may just start and then come back and develop it more next time. This is a topic that I bet you have not been taught in the past. I know I have not touched on this at all, and I know that very few others have taught it. I have heard some of my seminary professors teach it, and I think they taught it wrong. We did have a paper that was presented at the Chafer Conference back around 2007 or 2008 by Pastor Mark Perkins of Front Range Bible Church who had done a lot of work on this topic. That was also published as a two-part article a few years earlier in the in the Chafer Theological Seminary Journal. Mark did an outstanding job handling this whole issue, and it’s introduced in Psalm 89:9, and it’s a manifestation of God’s power.
Now we’re getting into examples of the might of God, and how He uses that might over His Creation. If you read this as the average pew sitter without a lot of comprehension of what was going on in the ancient world or what was going on in the history of Israel, you may not catch what’s really being said here. [Psalm 89:9] “You rule the raging of the sea; When its waves rise, You still them.” In the Hebrew, the word here is the word yam. A yam is a saltwater sea, and so there’s a picture here of saltwater sea.
There’s no saltwater sea in the eternal state and in the future kingdom; it’s all freshwater. Saltwater seems to be associated to some degree with evil. The sea itself is associated with evil. We can think about prophetic passages such as in Daniel 7. It is these creatures that come out of the sea, and those creatures represent the four basic kingdoms of man in their viciousness, in their tyranny, in their evil.
We get into passages in Revelation, and we see the same things in Revelation 13, these same beasts. It’s developing the imagery of Daniel 7:2. The same beasts come out of the sea. The sea is the source of these evil nations that seek to domineer and tyrannize man, but God is the One who rules over them. So, the sea in some passages simply means the sea, but in other passages, there’s a negative spiritual overtone to the sea as the source of evil, as the source of chaos.
Then it says, [Psalm 89:9] “When its waves rise, You still them.” So, the subtext here is that God is in control of even the evil forces that oppose Him, and that is what’s developed in the next couple of verses.
[Psalm 89:10] “You have broken Rahab in pieces, as one who is slain; You have scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm.” So, if the second line, “You’ve scattered Your enemies with Your mighty arm,” is an explanation and is parallel to the first line about breaking Rahab into pieces, then “breaking Rahab into pieces” is talking about an enemy that has been scattered. So, we have to ask this question: Who in the world is Rahab?
The Rahab that most people think of, when they look at our English spelling and the English word, is Rahab the prostitute back in Joshua 2. But that’s not this Rahab. This Rahab—if you can see what’s up here on the slide—there’s a difference between the middle letter in the Hebrew here; there’s an opening at the top of this middle letter [he points to the orange box, top line, first word]: that is the Hebrew letter hey; it’s like our letter “h.” The proper name of the lady in Joshua 2 is Rachav, and it’s a hard “ch”; it is the Hebrew letter chet, and so that is a difference. This is a proper name.
Also, the Masoretes added different vowel points. So, the vowels are different—the difference between Rachav and Rahav would be how you would distinguish that pronunciation. So obviously, this Rahab is completely different from the person that is identified by her name back in Judges. This [Psalm 89:9] is speaking about something related to evil.
So, what can we learn about this Rahab, because you’ll see it show up in several passages? This term shows up in Job 9:13—we’ll have to look at that—Job 26:12, Psalm 89:10—where we are, also Isaiah 51:9.
Most of the time when you read it, what you do when you read that is say, “I don’t understand it. Move on.” You just skipped over it, and “I’m not sure what that means.” And that’s how you should do things that you read in Scripture because we all learn and grow at different rates at different times, so now you’re going to get this down, and those who aren’t here are just going to miss it. So, this term in its noun form, in its verb form, has to do with someone who is proud and arrogant.
Pop quiz time: Who’s the most arrogant person in the Bible? I’ve already talked about Isaiah 14:13–14, “ ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ ” It’s Lucifer/Satan. This was his great sin of arrogance. He wanted to replace God. So, the most arrogant proud person in the Bible is Lucifer. So, Rahav becomes a term that is an allusion to Satan.
This is where we get into this whole idea of the angelic conflict. Ethan has already introduced us to the angels. Now he’s going to introduce us to this individual who is the source of all of this particular evil. I’ve got a quote up here from The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament about the verb that says, “The verb occurs only four times in the Old Testament and signifies storming at or against something. The fundamental idea of rahab appears in the proverb, [Proverbs 6:3] ‘Make sure thy friend’ literally, storm him.” This just seems like a really strange translation concept here, and the writer here says, “It denotes a tempestuous, and then an arrogant attitude.”
I have Proverbs 6:3 up here. The first one is the New King James; the second is the NET. I’ll read the whole thing to you: “So do this, my son, and deliver yourself; For you have come into the hand of your friend: Go and humble yourself.” And then it’s translated “plead with your friend,” which certainly seems a far cry from anything related to arrogance or tempestuousness, but it has the idea, the NET translates it, “appeal firmly to your neighbor.”
We’ll go to the translation note in the NET, which explains that it has an idea of being bold, and it can be an arrogant boldness. It says, “The verb rahav means to act stormily; to act boisterously; or to act arrogantly.” This, in a positive sense, is somebody who’s going to plead his case, and he’s not going to back off, and he’s going to make sure he’s listened to.
The idea here, that is in relation to this verse in Proverbs 6:3, is a strong one: storm against your neighbor—importune him; plead with him. The meaning is that he should be bold and not take “no” for an answer. So the NIV translates it “plead,” the English version: “beg him to release you.” That’s the idea. But the noun has the idea of being proud or arrogant.
I will stop here because when we get into the next area, we’ve got to tie about four threads together. We’re going to look at the yam, the sea; we’re going to look at Leviathan, the Tannin, sometimes translated sea creatures; we’re going to connect this to Pharaoh in Egypt; we’re going to connect this to a number of other things, and tie it all together so that when you read Rahab here, you’re going to understand its significance; it’s not going to be a word that’s just, “Well, I don’t understand that.” You’re going to catch the whole significance of this. So, we’ll come back and start here next time to work our way through this whole particular section.
“Father, thank You for this time we’ve had tonight. Thank You for Your faithfulness, Your omnipotence. Thank You for Your faithful, loyal love to us, that no matter how we may fail You, no matter how we may disobey You, no matter how we may deny You, even You are always faithful. You are always loyal to Your Word, to Your covenant, to Your promise, and You will never leave us or forsake us. You will never take away that precious gift of eternal life that You have given us. It is grounded in the stability of Your character. You are never shaken.
“You are unlike anything that we can even imagine. You are the one-of-a-kind God who rules over His creatures, and who has made it possible for us to be saved, and to be in union with Christ, and to be in fellowship with You, and for that we are grateful. May we not forget it. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”