Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite. I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.
The blessing is not in the sound, but in the soul. It is the soul that knows the sound. Eloquence, that moves all hearts, is utterly unimpressive if the soul, capable of thinking and feeling, is not there. The same evangelisation spoke to the Hebrews in the tones of the silver trumpets as in our Christian service; it spoke to them of a family relationship with God, of a Mediator, of a Sacrifice, of worship of Him, the one only true God. It was joyful. It said, "Ye are God's husbandry; ye are God's building."
I. It was a joyful sound. It proclaimed Divine ordinances; it said, "Sin and tyranny have not all dominion over you."
II. It was a joyful sound. It proclaimed the possibility of a deeper union with God. It is this joyful sound which thrills the spirit as with the trumpet-call to victory. This sound becomes a strong compulsion in the being, till the free nature exclaims, "The love of Christ constraineth us."
III. "They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of Thy countenance." They shall be blessed in the present enjoyment, knowing whom they have believed, doing all for the glory of God. And how blessed is the anticipation, stirring the heart with even a deeper tide of joy, for the light of God's countenance shall not only be a present blessedness, but the source of yet brighter expectations.
E. Paxton Hood, Sermons, p. 264.
References: Psalm 89:15.—Spurgeon, Old Testament Outlines, p. 126; A. Maclaren, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 252; Outline Sermons to Children, p. 61; A. Watson, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 76. Psalm 89:16.—Ibid., 1st series, p. 92. Psalm 89:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. i., No. 11; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 23. Psalm 89:37, Psalm 89:38.—E. H. Gifford, Voices of the Prophets, p. 215.
Psalm 89:47I. The temptation to believe that man is made in vain. Everything rebukes vanity in man, since he himself, as well as the world, is vain. The idea that man is made in vain is made common property, not at all by sameness of experience, but by the universal feeling that, whatever the experience may be, it leaves man infinitely remote from his desires. This thought is painfully impressed upon us when we survey that large range of characters to which we may give the denomination of wasted lives.
II. Notice the structure of the question, "Wherefore hast Thou made all men in vain?" Is it possible to reconcile the vanity of man with the greatness of God? (1) I believe that Thou hast not a chief regard to Thine own power. Power is but one of Thine attributes. Canst Thou sport with Thy power? Canst Thou create beauty merely to mar it? (2) I believe Thou art not inattentive to Thy creatures' desires, though they seem to be mocked. It is an everlasting chase; we never realise. "Why hast Thou made all men in vain?" (3) I believe Thou art Thyself a pure Being. Thus Thou canst not be pleased only to contemplate evanescence and decay. "Wherefore hast Thou made all men in vain?" These are the soliloquies and cries of our nature; and the appropriate answer to all is, Man is not made in vain. There is something in him which God does not regard as vanity. The whole of our education here is to raise us to the assurance that "He who made us with such large discourse, looking before and after," could not have made us in vain.
III. "My times are in Thy hand." God's real way is made up of all the ways of our life. The hand of Jesus is the hand which rules our times. He regulates our life-clock. Christ is for and Christ in us. My life can be no more in vain than was my Saviour's life in vain.
IV. This truth rightly grasped and held, we shall never think it possible that any life can be unfulfilled which does not, by its own voluntary perversity, fling itself away.
E. Paxton Hood, Dark Sayings on a Harp, p. 21.
References: Psalm 89:47.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. ix, p. 321; J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. i., p. 203; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 21.
Psalm 89:49It was on the morrow of the profound humiliation of Jerusalem by Shishak, and amidst the political and religious ruins which it had brought with it, that the eighty-ninth Psalm was written. The writer was an old servant and friend of the royal house: Ethan the Ezrahite. He was one of those wise men whose names are recorded as having been exceeded in wisdom by King Solomon, and had long taken part with Heman and Asaph in the Temple's services; and thus at this sad crisis of his history he pours out his soul in the pathetic and majestic Psalm before us, and of this psalm the keynote is to be found in the words, "Lord, where are Thy former lovingkindnesses, which Thou swarest unto David in Thy truth?"
I. "Where are Thy former lovingkindnesses?" As he sings Ethan looks around him, and his eye rests on a scene of degradation and ruin. He suffers as a patriot; he suffers as a religious man; he suffers as the descendants of the old Roman families suffered when they beheld Alaric and his hosts sacking the Eternal City. What had become of the lovingkindness of God, what of His faithfulness, what of His power? Ethan, in his report of the promise, answered his own difficulty. The covenant with David was not an absolute covenant. It depended upon conditions. There is a difference between the gifts of the Creator in the region of unconscious nature and His gifts in the region of free, self-determining will. The former are absolute gifts; the latter depend for their value and their virtue on the use that is made of them. The race of David was raised from among the shepherds of Bethlehem to reign over a great people upon conditions—conditions which were summed up in fidelity to Him who had done so much for it. Ethan himself states this supreme condition in the words of the Divine Author of the covenant: "If David's children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments, ...then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their sin with scourges."
II. Ethan's cry has often been raised by pious men in the bad days of Christendom: "Lord, where are Thy former lovingkindnesses?" And the answer is, "They are where they were." "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Now, as always, the promises of God to His people are largely conditioned. If the gates of hell shall not prevail against His Church, much short of this may happen as a consequence of the unfaithfulness of her members or her ministers. Of this let us be sure, that if God's promises seem to any to have failed, the fault lies not with Him, but with ourselves; it is we who have changed, not He. The cloud which issues from our furnaces of passion and self-will has overclouded for the moment the face of the sun; but beyond the cloud of smoke the sun still shines.
H. P. Liddon, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 257 (see also Christian World, Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 120).
Reference: Psalm 89:49.—S. Cox, Expositions, 3rd series, p. 138.
For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.
I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant,
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?
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?
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.
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.
In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.
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.
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.
I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him:
With whom my hand shall be established: mine arm also shall strengthen him.
The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him.
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.
He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.
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.
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.
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.
But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed.
Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.
Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin.
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.
How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire?
Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?
What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.
Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?
Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;
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.