Theme: Recounting an Old Testament Story
This week’s lessons teach us about God’s faithfulness, promised in his Word and demonstrated in our own experience of his covenant love.
Scripture: Psalm 89:1-37
There are as many attributes of God as there are names of God, one for each day of the year, according to ones writer’s collection. But of all these divine attributes it would be hard to find one as important to us as faithfulness. Men and women are unfaithful. We make promises and break them. We want people to rely on us, but we cannot be relied on ourselves. God is utterly faithful. What he promises, he performs. This is what Psalm 89 is about. It is about God’s faithfulness. Yet with an honesty found consistently in the psalms but often lacking in ourselves, it also describes a situation in which God has not seemed to be faithful, and it asks, “Where is your faithfulness?”
Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with thee….
That is what we sing, and it is true. God is faithful! But it is also true that there are times when he does not seem to be. We are going to look at God’s faithfulness in this two-part study of Psalm 89.
Psalm 89 is an unusual psalm in that the first part of it (vv. 1-37) is an exposition of an Old Testament story. In 2 Samuel 7, after King David was at peace with the neighboring warring kingdoms, we are told that he had the idea of building a temple for God in Jerusalem. “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent,” he said (v. 2). The prophet Nathan told David that whatever he had in mind to do he should do. But that night the Lord spoke to Nathan, giving him a word for David in which God said that instead of David building a house for God, God would build a house for David, that is, a dynasty:
This is what the LORD says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?…The LORD declares to you that the LORD himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:5, 11-16).
This important Old Testament passage is the account of God’s making a covenant with David, according to which David’s throne was to be established in the line of his descendants. “Forever” is the critical word, and it is one of the words from 2 Samuel 7 that occurs again and again in Psalm 89. It occurs eight times (in vv. 1, 2, 4, 28, 29, 36, 37, 46). Similarly, “faithfulness” occurs seven times (in vv. 1, 2, 5, 8, 14, 33, 49; see also v. 24). “Covenant” is found in verses 3, 28 and 34.
Psalm 89 is said to be by Ethan the Ezrahite, who is mentioned in 1 Kings 4:31 and probably 1 Chronicles 2:6. This is the only psalm that has his name affixed to it. However, like some or all of the psalms of Asaph, this must mean that the psalm was by Ethan’s school of composers or descendants, since the problems expressed in the poem’s second half did not develop until after David’s time, when the original Ethan lived.
Why is Psalm 89 unusual? What is its source?
What did David want to do for God? What was God’s answer?
What message did God relay through Nathan? Describe the covenant God made with David.
Reflection: Perhaps you are going through an experience that is causing you to question God’s faithfulness. Recount evidences of the Lord’s faithfulness to you in the past. Look up and make a list of Bible passages that talk about God’s faithfulness.