Theme: Responding to God’s Attributes
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
Having moved from heaven to earth and from nature to the specific event of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt, the writer now turns to the faithfulness of God to his people generally (vv. 14-18). At this point he brings in many other attributes of God which his people have experienced and for which they praise him. These attributes are added to faithfulness as basic to God’s character and as a foundation for faith in his faithfulness. God has the power to be faithful, but does he want to be? Is God willing? These attributes assure us that the answer is “Yes.”
The first new attribute of God is righteousness. Righteousness is the underlying principle of justice, which is mentioned next, for without righteousness there can be no justice. Justice, the next term, is giving to everyone what is due to him or her, acquittal for those who are innocent, condemnation for those who are guilty. Justice is the application of righteousness. Love has already been mentioned in verses 1 and 2, where, as in verse 14, it is linked to faithfulness. The Hebrew word hesed actually means steadfast, faithful or covenant love. Faithfulness is the attribute of God we have been looking at all along. It means that he can be counted on to do what he has promised to do. The final three attributes are introduced as possessions of God’s people: glory, strength and favor (that is, “grace”). But these are the people’s only because they are first of all God’s. He alone is glorious, strong and gracious; it is because he is that we, his people, experience these graces ourselves.
What is the proper response of people who have come to know and partake of the blessings of such a great God? It is to praise God and rejoice in him. This is what verses 15 and 16 say: “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you…They rejoice in your name all day long.”
In verses 19-29, the fifth stanza, the covenant introduced initially in verse 3 begins to be discussed explicitly, for these verses are essentially a commentary on 2 Samuel 7. Or to look at it in terms of the psalm, they are a commentary on the summation of the covenant that appeared as verses 3 and 4 of the introduction. Verses 19-29 contain explicit references to the historical passage. They highlight six critical features of God’s covenant with David. We will look at the first three features today.
1. God’s choice of David to be king(vv. 19, 20). God’s covenants are established according to his own good pleasure and not on the basis of anything in the people who benefit by them. In this case, we are reminded that God chose David as king when he was just a young man without any claim on the throne or pretensions to kingship. The story of his choice by God and his anointing by Samuel is told in 1 Samuel 16:1-13. We remember that God chose us for salvation when there was no good in us. He saved us only according to his own good pleasure.
2. God’s strengthening of David for his work as king (v. 21). God does not abandon to their own strength or devices those upon whom he has set his love. In David’s case the covenant meant that God would equip him and strengthen him for his work as king. In the same way, God will also equip us for whatever work he has for us to do. Jesus said, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). But Paul added the other side of the truth when he wrote to the Philippians, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:13).
3. God’s protecting David from his enemies (v. 22). David had many enemies, but God promised to protect him from them. And he did! So also does God protect us. Jesus told Peter, “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:31, 32).
1H. C. Leupold lists some of the parallels: “If one would in a more detailed fashion note how this whole section is built on 2 Sam. 7, the following passages may be compared. Regarding v. 22 see 2 Sam. 7:10b. Regarding v. 25, 2 Sam. 8:3 and 13 may be compared—the only reference outside chapter 7. Regarding v. 26, 2 Sam. 7:14a. Regarding v. 30 see 14b; and regarding v. 33, 15a and 16” (H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969], p. 638). There are also references to other Scriptures. For example, verse 25 seems to echo Exodus 23:31, and verses 26 and 27 pick up on Psalm 2:7-9.
List and define the attributes of God the psalmist mentions in verses 14-18.
How does God’s selection of David parallel his selection of us?
Application: In what way and for what purpose has God strengthened you?