A devotion of Psalm 89:27-52 a maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite
Yesterday we learned that the beautiful name Ethan means ‘enduring.’ It’s root word means constant, continual, perennial, permanent, as well as hard, mighty, and strong. Ethan the Ezrahite was known for his wisdom. Wisdom is not just heady prowess, but skill applied in real life situations. Yesterday we saw God’s amazing favor over Ethan’s life. Towards the end of our study today we see him fall from favor into a worst case scenario. Words in bold reinforce ‘Ethanian’ concepts.
27 Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.
28 My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him.
29 His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven.
30 If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments;
31 If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments;
32 Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes.
33 Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.
34 My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.
35 Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David.
36 His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me.
37 It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.
An effective authority figure trains those under him such that the former need only speak once. A commanding officer should only have to command once before he is obeyed. A judge need only pronounce his judgement once. A parent should only need to speak once. Multiplied words dilute our authority. God swore once that he would not lie to David. He meant it and didn’t need to keep saying it. Father, teach us your ways of authority and help us to reduce the volume of words we use.
Where words are many, there is no lack of sin,
Fallen from Favor
38 But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed.
Ethan paints a picture of God finally snapping in anger. Full of rage and disdain, he casts him off like an irate man clears the contents of a table with a sweep of his violent hand.
39 Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant: thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.
Things are falling apart. The covenant of favor that was carefully drafted and agreed upon has been nullified. A royal crown is normally stored in laser protected glass cases and borne on the softest of velvet cushions before placed on the royal head. Imagine that diadem being grabbed and carelessly cast to the ground. It is an affront to our sensitivities. If that symbol of royalty can be treated thus, then the royalty and all they stand for find themselves at risk of being similarly manhandled and thrust to the ground.
40 Thou hast broken down all his hedges; thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin.
Personal space has a sacredness about it. We protect it diligently and choose carefully who may enter that space. Hedges exist for protection. They keep the good in and the bad out. They also indicate boundary lines and demarcate where one thing stops and another starts. Hedges imply the privilege of access to a person or their space. Broken down hedges speak of mayhem and tyranny. They mean that property, principles, and persons are trampled and violated.
The stronghold is a place of refuge. It is usually hidden, well-stocked, and a bastion of physical as well as emotional safety. Knowledge of its very existence offers a sense of stability and courage should life as you know it fall apart. Visualize running there in desperation only to find it has been discovered, ransacked, and destroyed.
41 All that pass by the way spoil him: he is a reproach to his neighbours.
To spoil, shasas, is to plunder, loot, and pillage. This is another symbol of anarchy and its accompanying distress. There is no more protection of your self or your property or space. You become a free for all. To reproach is to taunt, scorn, or shame. The object of reproach becomes a byword and is open game to insult from everyone, from the village drunk to insolent children.
42 Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice.
The right hand is a symbol of power and dominion. God determines who has power at any given time. He even allows the wicked to have it for a time. It is another affront to have enemies rejoice. Their derision adds insult to injury.
43 Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword, and hast not made him to stand in the battle.
Imagine putting on your reading glasses before reading a grand speech and finding that you’ve lost a lens. Imagine jumping off an aeroplane and going to pull on your cord and it breaks off. You are sunk. So it is to draw your sword to deal a deadly strike to a sworn enemy who is coming at you bent on your destruction, only to find that the edge of your sword, once sharp as a razor has been rolled in. You find yourself on the ground with his boot at your neck.
44 Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground.
Your previous life of favor and splendor flashes before your eyes. Toppled like you, is your grand royal throne, your once stalwart symbol of security and authority.
45 The days of his youth hast thou shortened: thou hast covered him with shame. Selah.
Your strength and vigor are no more. No longer are you in your prime with its foot-loose ways and joys. Your heydays are over. Bent over, you bear your past years like a heavy sack on your back. Creaky misery marks every stiff step.
46 How long, Lord? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire?
47 Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?
A moment of the Lord’s wrath feels like a lifetime to the soul. We live for the light of his countenance, so to seek him and not find his face provokes desperation that would drive one to their knees and make them rend their garments in psychic agony. If we knew when it might end, perhaps we could budget our meager reserves and endure. But the open-ended nature of the rejection seems insufferable. A moment of his wrath erases the memories and pleasure of a lifetime of favor.
48 What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.
Thus, a hoarse Job cried in anguish,
“Why did I not die at birth, Come out of the womb and pass away?
Why were the knees there in front of me, And why the breasts, that I would nurse?
For now I would have lain down and been quiet;
I would have slept then, I would have been at rest,”
49 Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?
50 Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;
51 Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Lord; wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.
52 Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen, and Amen.
To bless, barak, is to bow in adoration. It is astonishing that the curtain would close on this horror scene with that statemen. Paradoxically, this great lament ends with tremendous hope. Ethan invokes God’s impeccable memory. No matter his plight, no matter his end, he knows that the great Record Keeper is his only hope. Ultimately, God is his Ethan – his rock, his fortress and his deliverer; he is his shield and the horn of his salvation, his stronghold. Though he dies with his face in the dirt, he bows there, not to the enemy, but to Jehovah.
Unspoken is the knowledge that even though he should die at the hand of his enemy, he will yet live. He will only dip his toe in the icy waters of death but for a second. Then he can say in the land of the living or of the dead:
“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and I have been saved from my enemies.
The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help.
From his temple he heard my voice; and my cry came before him, into his ears.
He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me,”
Ps. 18:3-6, 16, 17.
And THAT is why you are unshakable, Ethan.
“Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”
Ps 62:1, 2.
I have set the Lord always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
or let your holy one see corruption.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.