Daily Family Worship

Psalm 89 – The Covenant Psalm

by | Jun 2, 2024

psalm 89

Many Psalms that begin with complaint and prayer end with joy and praise; but this one begins with joy and praise and ends with sad complaints and petitions; for the Psalmist first recounts God’s former favors, and then the consideration of them aggravates the present grievances. It seems likely that the Psalm was penned by Ethan, who outlived both David and Solomon, and who lamented the great disgrace done to the house of David in the next reign, by the revolt of the ten northern tribes of Israel from under the hand of King Rehoboam.

In the joyful and pleasant portion of the Psalm, Ethan gives glory to God and takes comfort to himself and his friends. This he does briefly at first, mentioning God’s mercy and truth (verse 1) and His covenant (verses 2-4); and then more largely in the following verses. There he adores the glory and perfection of God (verses 5-14), and he pleases himself in the happiness of those who are admitted into communion with Him (verses 15-18). Then he builds all his hope upon God’s Covenant with David, who was a picture and a foreshadow of the promised Messiah (verses 19-37). But in the part of the Psalm which is more melancholy, he laments the present disastrous state of the prince and the royal family (verses 38-45). He expostulates with God upon it (verses 46-49), and then he concludes with a prayer for redress (verses 50-51). As we study this Psalm, we must have high thoughts of God, a lively faith in His Covenant with the Redeemer, and a sympathy with the afflicted members of His Church.

But this Psalm extends far beyond the time of David, Solomon, or their heirs on the throne of the nation of Israel; for it is also a remarkable prophecy concerning Jesus and His Kingdom. Ethan speaks of the Church as a “kingdom in the heavens.” Here, indeed, he takes hold on the promise made to David about the Messiah Who was to descend from him; and opening that promise in a wonderful manner, he describes the riches of His spiritual Kingdom. The temporal kingdom of the Jews was promised to that people upon the condition of a law that was given to them; if they obediently kept that law, nationally as a people, they would be preserved and blessed. And in the same way also, all the kingdoms of the world are given to their people under a similar condition; to a degree, in proportion as they are good and obedient, God preserves them. But the immense and glorious riches of Christ’s spiritual Kingdom – namely, the forgiveness of sins, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and victory over death and the devil – are promised and held forth to the Lord’s people without any condition of a law! In short, the remission of sins is promised freely – not only to those who have done nothing to deserve it, but even to those who have done everything to forfeit it! The throne of Jesus is not a throne of angry and destroying majesty, but of grace alone! It is not founded on the basis of our good works and merits, for we have none; but rather, it is established on the pure and spotless righteousness of Christ. And this provides a great and marvelous consolation to the afflicted consciences of poor sinners.

However, after the prophetic Psalmist has described the flower and glory of this Kingdom and Church of Christ; he deplores, on the other hand, the desolations and destructions of it. Just as the Apostle also foretold, Ethan speaks of how this Kingdom shall be so disturbed and torn to pieces by the forces of the anti-Christ, that it shall seem as if God had entirely forgotten His promise unto it! In fact, as if acting contrary to the Word of His promise, it shall seem like He is doing nothing except showing His wrath against this Kingdom.

But all these things are written for a consolation to the people of God – especially unto us who, in these last days, have witnessed such abominations and persecutions against the Church of the Lord Jesus. These things are written for our comfort, so that we may not be broken-spirited or terrified. Let us not be driven to despair, although wickedness seems to have the dominion for a short time; and although Satan tries to subvert all things, both human and Divine – even to the point that there sometimes seems to be no remains of Jesus’ Kingdom left on earth. And yet despite the abominations and tyrannies and persecutions of all the forces of the devil, a remnant of Christ’s Church always has and always will exist, although she is often greatly despised and oppressed.

Lord Jesus, help us to rest upon the full assurance of all Your covenant-promises that Your Word and Your Kingdom shall endure forever and ever! Amen.

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