Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 89:1-52. Of Ethan—(See on Ps 88:1, title). This Psalm was composed during some season of great national distress, perhaps Absalom's rebellion. It contrasts the promised prosperity and perpetuity of David's throne (with reference to the great promise of 2Sa 7:12-17), with a time when God appeared to have forgotten His covenant. The picture thus drawn may typify the promises and the adversities of Christ's kingdom, and the terms of confiding appeal to God provided appropriate prayers for the divine aid and promised blessing.
1. mercies—those promised (Isa 55:3; Ac 13:34), and—
faithfulness—that is, in fulfilling them.
For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.
2. I have said—expressed, as well as felt, my convictions (2Co 4:13).
I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant,
3, 4. The object of this faith expressed in God's words (2Sa 7:11-16).
with—or literally, "to"
my chosen—as the covenant is in the form of a promise.
Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.
And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.
For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?
6, 7. This is worthy of our belief, for His faithfulness (is praised) by the congregation of saints or holy ones; that is, angels (compare De 33:2; Da 8:13).
sons of the mighty—(compare Ps 29:1). So is He to be admired on earth.
God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.
O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?
8-14. To illustrate His power and faithfulness examples are cited from history. His control of the sea (the most mighty and unstable object in nature), and of Egypt (Ps 87:4), the first great foe of Israel (subjected to utter helplessness from pride and insolence), are specimens. At the same time, the whole frame of nature founded and sustained by Him, Tabor and Hermon for "east and west," and "north and south," together representing the whole world, declare the same truth as to His attributes.
Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.
Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain; thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.
The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them.
The north and the south thou hast created them: Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.
12. rejoice in thy name—praise Thy perfections by their very existence.
Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.
Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.
Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.
15. His government of righteousness is served by "mercy" and "truth" as ministers (Ps 85:10-13).
know the joyful sound—understand and appreciate the spiritual blessings symbolized by the feasts to which the people were called by the trumpet (Le 25:9, &c.).
walk … countenance—live in His favor (Ps 4:6; 44:3).
In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.
16, 17. in—or, "by"
thy righteousness—Thy faithful just rule.
of their strength—They shall be adorned as well as protected.
our horn—exalt our power (Ps 75:10; Lu 1:69).
For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted.
For the LORD is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.
18. (Margin). Thus is introduced the promise to "our shield," "our king," David.
Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
19-37. Then—when the covenant was established, of whose execution the exalted views of God now given furnish assurance.
thou … to thy holy one—or godly saint, object of favor (Ps 4:3). Nathan is meant (2Sa 7:17; 1Ch 17:3-15).
laid help—literally, "given help." David was chosen and then exalted.
I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him:
20. I have found—having sought and then selected him (1Sa 16:1-6).
With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him.
21. will protect and sustain (Isa 41:10),
The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him.
22-25. by restraining and conquering his enemies, and performing My gracious purpose of extending his dominion—
And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him.
But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: and in my name shall his horn be exalted.
I will set his hand also in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers.
25. hand [and] right hand—power (Ps 17:7; 60:5).
sea, and … rivers—limits of his empire (Ps 72:8).
He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
26, 27. first-born—one who is chief, most beloved or distinguished (Ex 4:22; Col 1:15). In God's sight and purposes he was the first among all monarchs, and specially so in his typical relation to Christ.
Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.
My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.
28-37. This relation is perpetual with David's descendants, as a whole typical in official position of his last greatest descendant. Hence though in personal relations any of them might be faithless and so punished, their typical relation shall continue. His oath confirms His promise, and the most enduring objects of earth and heaven illustrate its perpetual force (Ps 72:5, 7, 17).
His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.
If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments;
If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;
Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.
Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.
My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.
35. Once—one thing (Ps 27:4).
by my holiness—as a holy God.
that I will not lie—literally, "if I lie"—part of the form of swearing (1Sa 24:6; 2Sa 3:35).
His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.
It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.
37. It shall … moon … heaven—literally, "As the moon, and the witness in the sky is sure, that is, the moon."
But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed.
38-52. present a striking contrast to these glowing promises, in mournful evidences of a loss of God's favor.
cast off—and rejected (compare Ps 15:4; 43:2; 44:9).
Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.
39. An insult to the "crown," as of divine origin, was a profanation.
Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin.
40-45. The ruin is depicted under several figures—a vineyard whose broken "hedges," and "strongholds," whose ruins invite spoilers and invaders; a warrior, whose enemies are aided by God, and whose sword's "edge"—literally, "rock" or "strength" (Jos 5:2) is useless; and a youth prematurely old.
All that pass by the way spoil him: he is a reproach to his neighbours.
Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice.
Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword, and hast not made him to stand in the battle.
Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground.
The days of his youth hast thou shortened: thou hast covered him with shame. Selah.
45. days of his youth—or, "youthful vigor," that is, of the royal line, or promised perpetual kingdom, under the figure of a man.
How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire?
46. How long, &c.—(Compare Ps 13:1; 88:14; Jer 4:4).
Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?
47. These expostulations are excited in view of the identity of the prosperity of this kingdom with the welfare of all mankind (Ge 22:18; Ps 72:17; Isa 9:7; 11:1-10); for if such is the fate of this chosen royal line.
What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.
48. What man—literally, "strong man—shall live?" and, indeed, have not all men been made in vain, as to glorifying God?
Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?
49-51. The terms of expostulation are used in view of the actual appearance that God had forsaken His people and forgotten His promise, and the plea for aid is urged in view of the reproaches of His and His people's enemies (compare Isa 37:17-35).
Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;
50. bear in my bosom—as feeling the affliction of the people (Ps 69:9).
footsteps—ways (Ps 56:6).
Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.
Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen.
52. Blessed, &c.—denotes returning confidence (Ps 34:1-3).
Amen, and Amen—closes the third book of Psalms.