Permanence of God’s Covenant
Psalm 88 & 89 are sibling psalms, both of an ‘Ezrahite’ – a descendent of Zerah, one of the sons of Judah.
It is interesting to note their names. ‘Heman’ means ‘faithful’ and the author of Psalm 88 encourages us to remain faithful no matter how dark the night.
‘Ethan’ on the other hand means ‘permanence’ and lifts our eyes from the darkness to rest upon an eternal God, whose loving-kindness & faithfulness is forever.
V1 – God’s Character Extolled Forever
‘I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.’
Mercy is the great Hebrew word ‘chesed’ – described in the dictionary as ‘God’s lovingkindness in condescending to the needs of his creatures’. This is seen daily throughout our human experience in many ways, but most especially at the incarnation when ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Tim 1:15)
Truly, this alone is worth singing about, but there’s more …
V2 – God’s Character Exists Forever
‘Mercy shall be built up forever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.’
It is comforting to know that God is also faithful, steadfast, and true; His character unchanging and unending. And for this reason, God acts in mercy towards us on a covenantal basis.
V4 – God’s Covenant Established Forever
‘I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, “Thy seed will I establish forever, and build up thy throne to all generations”. Selah.’
There are numerous covenants in Scripture, but here the psalmist, Ethan, of the royal tribe of Judah, is focused upon the Davidic Covenant.
In 2 Samuel 7:12,13, the LORD God promises David that his seed will not end, but will reign forever. This is quite a promise. How can it be fulfilled?
Certainly it wouldn’t be if left to David’s seed alone. From Solomon onwards, there is failure leading to eventual exile.
Indeed, the closing section of this psalm (v38-52) refers to just such a time; the psalmist struggling to reconcile his knowledge of God’s character with the seeming break-down of His covenant,
But let’s look at the covenant in a more detail.
V28 – God’s Covenant Exercised Forever
‘I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him … Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. My mercy will I keep for him forevermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.’
From v20-28, we find God had one man in view: David himself, and God would exercise His covenantal promise personally in relation to David – kept ‘for him’, steadfast ‘with him’ – forever.
Note the previous language used. David is described as ‘anointed’ and ‘my firstborn’, language that would much more fully refer to the Lord Jesus Christ as we shall see.
V29 – God’s Christ Enthroned Forever
‘His seed also will I make to endure forever, and his throne as the days of heaven.’
First, we note that ‘seed’ is in the singular tense, and following the apostle Paul’s lead in Galatians 3:16 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we take it that God is not referring to David’s seed in general, but to one particular descendent, great David’s greater son, Jesus Christ.
Next, the word ‘also’ links us back to the language used concerning David. Jesus was not an anointed one – a christ- but ‘the Christ, the Son of the Living God’ (John 6:69).
You’ll remember at His birth, an angel could declare: ‘He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.’ (Luke 1:32,33)
V36 – God’s Christ Exalted Forever
‘His seed shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before me.’
It’s wasn’t that Jesus Christ was going to just sit upon an earthly throne, living forever. No, God had greater things in store for Him. His enduring was not just an enduring in life, but through death, to a heavenly throne, ‘as the sun before me’.
‘Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.’ (Hebrews 12:2)
V37 – God’s Christ Evinced Forever
‘It shall be established forever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.’
As we turn to the last book of our Bible, Jesus Christ is there presented to us as the ‘faithful witness’ to the LORD’s eternal mercy and faithfulness. Now it can be said:
‘Grace be unto you, and peace … from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness; the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.’ (Rev 1:5)
And so, we end where we began, with that eternal song of worship: ‘Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.’