>Emotional Roller Coaster, Psalm 89

>I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.

That beautiful and personal confession is the first of the fifty-two verses of Psalm 89, which soars to the highest heights of reveling in the goodness of God’s steadfast love and plunges to the deepest depths of despairing in the shame of God’s bitter providence.

The first thirty-seven verses of the psalm are remarkable for their repetition of words like: steadfast love, faithfulness, and covenant. The psalmist eloquently extols these aspects of God’s relationship with his people as well as his almighty power and sovereignty over all creation and all events.

The entire psalm is marvelous reading, but I’m able to reflect on only some verses here. Let’s look first at verses 14-18.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you (14).

God’s throne is firmly founded on the twin pillars of righteousness and justice. But he does not execute justice to the exclusion of faithfulness; he does both what is right and what is faithful. He does not ignore our wrongs and he does not forget his promises. Righteousness and justice form the foundation of his throne, but his steadfast love and faithfulness go before him. The imagery portrays them as being actively pushed ahead, to reach needy people first. God’s steadfast love and faithfulness are not afterthoughts, pulled along behind in his wake.

Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face,
who exult in your name all the day
and in your righteousness are exalted (15, 16).

The “festal shout” implies the joy and energy of corporate worship. Those who are able to worship the Lord together in a formal service should count it a privilege. We should not long to sleep in on Sunday mornings or regret going out on a cold winter’s evening. We ought to anticipate worship services as festive occasions. I love that the Heidelberg Catechism refers to Sunday as “the festive day of rest” (Q & A 103). Perhaps the combination of “festive” and “rest” in the same phrase seem like an oxymoron, but “the festive day of rest” is a wonderful description for the one day each week God sets aside for us to rest from our regular work and come before him in corporate worship with a “festal shout.”

Those who participate in corporate worship are also those who walk every day in the light of God’s face. The beautiful Aaronic blessing asks the Lord to “make his face shine upon you” (Numbers 6:25).The Latin phrase Coram Deo wonderfully captures the concept of living every day “before the face of God.” Those who are blessed are those who walk in God’s light and exult in his name “all the day.” They walk in God’s ways and praise him, not just when they are groggy in the early morning or only when they are falling asleep late at night, but every part of every day. These people are not only blessed, but they are also “exalted.”

The reason they are exalted is because God is their glory. His favor strengthens and protects them.

For you are the glory of their strength;
by your favor our horn is exalted.
For our shield belongs to the LORD,
our king to the Holy One of Israel (14-18).

In the Bible, the image of a horn represents strength. God’s people can be exalted because God is the glorious source of their strength. He sets his people up in the positions of power he has ordained for them. That power may be over a fussy baby who spits out his sweet potatoes or it may be over a mighty army that fights to protect a nation.

Your position of power is very likely somewhere between those two extreme scenarios. God has ordained a place and work for each of us. We are able to fulfill our callings in his kingdom when we rely completely on him.

The Lord is both our power and our protector: “our shield belongs to the LORD.” A shield is used primarily as a defensive weapon. This language reminds us that we are to take up “the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16). Those who pick up and correctly wield the shield of faith do not merely knock away the darts, but actually quench their flames.

Just as our protection belongs to the Lord, so too do all our rulers (“our king to the Holy One of Israel”). Presidents, prime ministers, kings, queens, governors, representatives, senators, mayors, pastors, elders, deacons, fathers, and mothers all belong to God. They are authorities in our lives who are under God’s care and his sovereignty.

But Christ is the King of Kings, and it is his authority that God has established forever. Psalm 89 continues reveling in God’s steadfast love as it relates God’s covenant faithfulness in eternally establishing David’s throne.

Once for all I have sworn by my holiness:
I will not lie to David.
His offspring shall endure forever (35, 36a).

In verse 38, the psalm shifts from praise into lament as the psalmist bemoans God’s judgment on his chosen one.

But now you have cast off and rejected;
you are full of wrath against your anointed….
You have breached all his walls;
you have laid his strongholds in ruins.
All who pass by plunder him;
he has become the scorn of his neighbors….
You have made his splendor to cease
and cast his throne to the ground.
You have cut short the days of his youth;
you have covered him with shame (38-45).

The psalmist then begs God for deliverance in verses 46-51.

Remember how short my time is….
Lord, where is your steadfast love of old,
which by your faithfulness you swore to David?
Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked (47, 49, 50).

In spite of the difficult adversity in which the psalmist finds himself, he is able to end this roller coaster ride of a psalm with this confession:

Blessed be the LORD forever!
Amen and Amen (52).

We all have times when we feel deserted by God, when we feel as if he has turned his face from us. But we know that nothing can separate us from the love of God and all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8).

While riding the ups and downs of the emotional roller coasters in our lives, we can cling to God’s covenantal promises. His throne is founded on righteousness and justice. His steadfast love and faithfulness never fail. He is the glory of our strength. He is our power and our protection.

Let us sing of his steadfast love forever and make his faithfulness known to all generations!

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