I read Psalm 89 and am again reminded of how much I want a story to have a happy ending. If Ethan the Ezrahite’s song had stopped at verse 37, that would have worked for me. If the pivotal phrase, “but now,” had been omitted, I’d be happy to glory in the greatness and goodness of God without trying to reconcile it with the struggles and sorrows we sometimes face.
But, praise God, I’m not the songwriter. And so, I’m left to noodle on this song that exalts the LORD, rehearses His promises, declares His steadfast love and faithfulness, and still asks the question, “How long, O LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever?”
And so, I’m left to chew on the reality of promises and circumstance.
The songwriter comes out of the gates with glorious praise. He sings of the LORD’s steadfast love and makes known His faithfulness to His covenant with David — themes repeated throughout the song (v. 1-4). He then shifts gears and transcends earth to consider the praise of the heavens. Awesome above all who are around Him is our God! The name of the LORD magnified for His mighty arm, His righteousness, and His justice (v.5-14).
And what of the people who walk in the light of the face of such a God? Blessed! That’s what they are. And so, the song shifts to the benefits of being the people of God. They know the festal shout. The exult in His name and, in return, are exalted in His righteousness. He is their shield. He is their help (v.15-18).
The song then returns to the opening theme and rehearses in full length the terms of the promise to David, and to his offspring, concerning his eternal throne (v.19-37).
And then . . . . Ethan slams on the brakes! Throws the wheel wildly to the left and spins the song 180 degrees from laud to lament, from worship to weeping, from praise to the problem. From promises to circumstance.
But now You have cast off and rejected;
You are full of wrath against Your anointed.
You have renounced the covenant with Your servant;
You have defiled his crown in the dust.
(Psalm 89:38-39 ESV)
Wait a minute! This isn’t where I thought this was going. This isn’t the crescendo I was looking for. Why bring in reality? But the songwriter mournfully pours out his petition before a seemingly silent God (v.38-51).
Don’t know exactly who Ethan the songwriter is, or the timing and occasion of his song, but he knew the promises made to David and was living out a dire circumstance befalling Israel. And it seems, at face value, like all bets are off. That the covenant must have been renounced by heaven as he sees the crown of David’s forever throne defiled and cast into the dust.
Lord, where is Your steadfast love of old,
which by Your faithfulness You swore to David?
(Psalm 89:49 ESV)
Such is reality, so often, when promises meet circumstance. When the pieces don’t seem to add up. When the story’s not going as we’d like it to. Whether because of sin or just a sin-marred world, our happy ending is interrupted by a cruel or difficult reality.
So what do you say when you don’t know what to make of things? When promises and circumstances don’t seem to line up?
Blessed be the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen. (Psalm 89:52 ESV)
That’s how Ethan wraps up the song. Blessing God who is God forever and ever. Knowing that His steadfast love and faithfulness prevail even when the promise seems swallowed up by the circumstance. Believing that what He has said will be accomplished will, in fact, be accomplished . . . punctuating that belief with a double amen!
Verily, verily! Truly, truly! So be it, so be it!
So, while the song didn’t progress the way I might have wanted it to, it finished just as God had intended. Calling His people to trust Him. Assuring His people of His steadfast love and His faithfulness in all the promises and circumstance.
Because of His unfailing grace. For His everlasting glory.
Amen and Amen?