I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations. For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever; in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.” (Psalm 89:1-2).
The Psalmist (Ethan the Ezrahite) sings of two indisputable characteristics of God: His steadfast love and His faithfulness. The Psalmist includes a list of examples of how God has demonstrated these two characteristics. He speaks of God’s covenant relationship with David and his offspring (89:3-4). He then speaks of the heavens and heavenly beings (89:6-9). He includes the earth and all the magnificence of His creation (89:11). The Psalm points to God’s power (13) and His righteousness (14) and His people (15). He continues to explain God’s steadfast love in choosing David as His anointed one and how He will be with him and establish his throne (19-29).
The Psalmist paints a picture how God has shown His steadfast love and faithfulness to David’s offspring, even when they abandon God, God has pursued them (89:29-37). God will chastise them in their disobedience and while God will humble those who disobey, He will also be faithful to His promise that David will have an offspring that will endure forever.
The Psalmist suddenly breaks from his “theology” of God to draw out a picture of the reality of how His people are experiencing God’s wrath (89:38-45). David’s descendants are seeing only His discipline and the judgment that has fallen on His people in various ways and means (39-45). The collateral damage is vast and unrelenting and it leads the Psalmist to raise some agonizing questions.
The Psalmist struggles under the weight of God’s wrath and judgment (46-48). He then questions God’s steadfast love and faithfulness (49-51). He strains under the helplessness and hopeless feeling of the moment and struggles with the temptation that God is not being faithful and they are not experiencing His steadfast love (46-51). In spite of this struggle the Psalmist “concede” that the Lord is to be blessed forever.
The Psalmist had an expectation of God based upon God’s promises to David. He appears to understand the theology in the first segment of the Psalm but the unrelenting struggles confuse him because these experiences contradict the thoughts of steadfastness and faithfulness. The other side of those promises was also the promise that if God’s people wander away from God, He will discipline them (2 Samuel 7:12-17).
How interesting that we love to declare how good and faithful God is when everything is going well. We want to extol God, praise Him for His goodness, and acknowledge His generosity, boast of His loving-kindness, and rehearse the many things He has done for us. It is easy to celebrate God when life is lived in the shadow of His favor.
But it is often a curious thing to us when God fulfills the other side of those promises. When His people have wandered away from God, worship idols, have become proud of their own accomplishments, and ignore Him. God promised to pursue His people to discipline them and draw them back to Himself. These situation are indeed difficult. It is hard to live in the shadow of God’s promises but experience something that feels very different and contrary to those promises. We, like the Psalmist, often question God and His steadfast love. We have a harder time questioning our faithfulness and steadfast love for God, so we end up questioning His faithfulness and steadfast love for us.