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Warning and Hope - Psalm 89 Sermon, July Prayer Service

Warning and Hope - Psalm 89 Sermon, July Prayer Service

Text: Psalm 89
Theme: “Warning and Hope”. [1]
Intr – Psalm 89 goes along with Psalm 88 in its gloomy depiction of Israel’s unfaithfulness to God, and the somber consequences of this disobedience. Notably, it starts by proclaiming God’s faithfulness.

          Psalm 89 is one that we can read in two main ways: We can look to Hope in the midst of distress; or we can see a warning in the midst of Happiness.


1 – The second one is our first tackle: “Warning in the midst of happiness”. The author of this Psalm, Ethan, has been identified by some scholars as a later Ethan, in the kingdom of Rehoboam which was falling apart. Apparently, from an historical perspective authors living in David’s time wouldn’t write such somber songs like Psalm 88 and 89, since for most of the time that was an epoch of prosperity, and considerably stable happiness.  There is no reason we can’t think the other way around though. The Biblie is divinely inspired, so doesn’t matter the date, times, people, situation – it is always God the one who is speaking. This way it is totally possible that the Lord spoke through a song writer even in David’s time to send a warning during happy times.

          As mentioned before, David’s kingdom, even though with some periods of difficulty was overall a happy time to be alive. Now, here comes this singer guy to throw some bitterness at the height of the party. It looks like just a melancholic person bringing ugly comments when everybody is happy and enjoying their time.

          This type of people may be undesirable at times, but here we have someone who is sober, alert and watchful. He is pointing to what happens when happy people forget the source of their happiness. He is warning about what happens when happy people allow their feelings, their own thoughts, their vision of future intervene with God’s will and commandments. Results are always catastrophic as we have seen over and over again in the book of Psalms, and we see here again.

“30 If his children forsake my law and do not walk according to my rules,
31  if they violate my statutes and do not keep my commandments,
32  then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes;”

          When we hear all of this, we might consider agreeing with some translators that, when it  comes to the best verbal tense in English to translate verse 1 straddle between “I will sing”, or something like “I would like to sing, but I can’t”.

          As Christians we have many happy times. Here at Church, at home everywhere, when God blesses us with many accomplishments, wins, gifts and possibilities. In the midst of our happiness though we should never forget the warning of the Lord – that we are sinners and if we forget that God is the Faithful One giving us all things, we are on the brink of brokenness. We can learn from the author of Psalm 89 which, right off the bat, declares his intention of singing of God’s steadfast love – no matter the circumstance.

2 – The other way of reading it: Hope in the midst of distress.

          The scenario painted by the psalmist pertaining to human actions is not good. It is definitely not good. The text speaks for itself:

“38  But now you have ucast off and rejected; you are full of wrath against your vanointed.
39  You have wrenounced xthe covenant with your servant; you have ydefiled his zcrown in the dust.
40  You have abreached all his walls; you have laid his strongholds in ruins.
41  aAll who pass by plunder him; he has become bthe scorn of his neighbors.
42  You have exalted the right hand of his foes; you have made all his enemies rejoice.
43  You have also turned back the edge of his sword, and you have not made him stand in battle.
44  You have made his splendor to cease and cast his throne to the ground.
45  You have cut short cthe days of his youth; you have dcovered him with shame.”

          But Hope is there. Not because David is faithful, or any of his descendants, but because God is.

“but I will not remove from him my steadfast love or be false to my faithfulness.
34  I will not violate my kcovenant or alter the word that went forth from my lips.
35  Once for all I have sworn pby my holiness; “

          The promise that God makes here looks past Salomon and the immediate offspring to point to Jesus – the King of Kings, whose kingdom has no end, and whose faithfulness and love are praise even by nature, work of the Father’s hands.

          We also undergo real difficulties in our daily life. They may spring from many sources, such as health issues, broken relationships, lack of dialogue even with loved ones, lack of faith… This message of hope is for us too. We must never forget there is always Hope in the midst of distress.

          The psalmist here is struggling to reconcile the idea that in 1 Sm God promised that David’s throne would be established forever with the imminent destruction, devastation and terrible problems that are about to come upon it. Still the Lord proves himself faithful and loving. He doesn’t establish his faithfulness on our fidelity and behavior –we would be lost. As you look to your life you might have that same apparent cognitive dissonance – the promises of God versus the difficulties you undergo. Psalm 89 is here to help you, to calm you down, to bring you the Hope that God’s steadfast love and faithfulness in His Son shall never and will never pass. They are established forever.

          The double Amen at the end of the Psalm seals this assuredness: God’s promises will always come true.

Cc – As we close we are back to where we begun. The psalmist vows to sing of the Mercies of the Lord. That is what always comes as first, as last, at last. That is what sustains us along the entire middle of the road. So we can sing with the psalmist the mercies of the Lord. We don’t have the original tune, but a recent composition  rendered it easy for us to sing along with him:

“I will sing of the Mercies of the Lord forever,

I will sing. I will sing!

With my mouth will I make known

Thy Faithfulness, Thy faithfulness

With my mouth will I make known

Thy faithfulness through all generations!”



[1] References:

-BRUG, John. A commentary on Psalms 73-150, p.128-140
_The Lutheran Study Bible
_Keil and Delitszch. Psalms.