Concern about the Covenant

The LORD’s promise to David in 2 Samuel 7, with all its dynastic implications, dominated Israel’s interpretation of their status and their understanding of the future of the kingdom, for there it records the LORD’s commitment to the king, “When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men” (2 Sam. 7:12-14). In this they rightly discerned the promise of an enduring dynasty built on a unique relationship; however, like their interpretation of the seed promise, they focused so much on the physical that the spiritual import of the promise escaped them. Therefore, when a descendant of Ethan the Ezrahite penned Psalm 89, he struggled to comprehend the meaning of this promise of an eternal throne (Psa. 89:1-37) with the events in Israel’s history that led to the seeming end of dynastic rule (Psa. 89:38-52). And yet, through it all, confidence in the faithfulness of God reigns supreme. An answer and resolution to the quandary existed. Of that the psalmist had no doubt. However, we have the benefit of reading the psalm from hindsight, but in doing so, we can see the beauty of God’s faithfulness as it unfolded in Israel’s history to extend even to us.

The LORD made a covenant with David on that day, and the faithfulness of God Himself secured it (Psa. 89:1-4). From the beginning, God had cared for His people and provided for their well-being, thus His record of faithfulness deserves praise and should build confidence (Psa. 89:5-7). Through His might He delivered Israel when no one else could, parting the Red Sea and defeating the might of Egypt, ultimately leading Israel to the promised land in proof of His character (Psa. 89:8-14). Throughout their early days, the LORD consistently rose to protect Israel when they called out to Him (Psa. 89:15-18). Amidst the failures of Saul, the LORD selected David as the new monarch to lead his people, having him anointed on the basis of his character and promising to be with him because of the relationship they shared (Psa. 89:19-23). He would prove victorious and rise in power because God made it possible (Psa. 89:24-27). And then came the moment of the covenant—those enduring words spoken provoking hope of an eternal reign (Psa. 89:28-29). Even if David’s sons should fail to follow in their father’s footsteps, the LORD’s covenant would remain firm (Psa. 89:30-37). Therefore, when the LORD’s wrath against Judah boiled over, sending them into Babylonian captivity (Psa. 89:38), Israel, who had relied on the covenant with pride, assuming it protected them from such a fate, had trouble reconciling the LORD’s promise to David with the capture of their king and the destruction of his capital (Psa. 89:39-40). Rather than the envy of nations, they had become a reproach (Psa. 89:41). Instead of protecting them from their enemies, the LORD had supported the cause against them (Psa. 89:42-43). Thus, despite the covenant with David, God Himself had brought that dynasty to its knees in punishment for their transgressions (Psa. 89:44-45). However, knowing the nature of divine faithfulness, the psalmist asks, “How long, LORD?” with confidence that their punishment was temporary and the promise endured (Psa. 89:46). The psalmist’s expressed uncertainty focused on his concern on whether he would live to see the LORD’s wrath subside and evidence of that covenant renewed (Psa. 89:47-51). Regardless, the covenant would endure, and for this the psalmist could confidently declare, “Blessed be the LORD forevermore! Amen and Amen” (Psa. 89:52). Whether he lived to see the end of captivity, we do not know, but his confidence in the covenant was well-placed, because the seed of David does indeed now sit on an exalted throne, and His name is Jesus (Col. 3:1-2).

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