Psalm 89, written by Ethan the Ezrahite, looks back at the events narrated in last Sunday’s sermon in 2 Samuel 7 where David receives God’s ‘no’ about building a temple for Him but gets an amazing promise about the future! The psalm looks at this promise: “Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—and I will not lie to David—that his line will continue forever and his throne endure before me like the sun; it will be established forever like the moon, the faithful witness in the sky.” (Ps 89:35-37) and the same sense of awe that David recounts in 2 Samuel 7 is reflected in Ethan’s words in this psalm too: “For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings?” (Ps 89:6) and then “Who is like you, LORD God Almighty? You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” (Ps 89:8)

The first half of the psalm is rooted in the historical revelation of who God is and what He has promised. Ethan talks about the faithfulness and love of God (see vs 1-2) and recounts the history of David and of Israel. The second half of the psalm (Ps 89: 38-51) has a very different tone, however. Ethan knows all about God’s nature and knows all about God’s promises. But he is having a hard time reconciling these things with what is currently going on in the nation. This is the time of the Babylonian captivity, where there was no king in Israel and God’s promises seem to have been forgotten: “So where is the love you’re so famous for, Lord? What happened to your promise to David?” (Ps 89:49, The Message).

Ethan is living ‘somewhere in the middle’ and this is the place we often find ourselves: confused, uncertain, hurt, bewildered, not sure at all what God is doing or how He is going to work things out in our lives. In the middle, we feel abandoned at times. In the middle, we feel confused. The facts of God’s power and character do not seem to line up with our experience. We recite the promises of God, but then we say in bewilderment, like Ethan:“But GOD, you did walk off and leave us!” (Ps 89:38)

When we are living in the middle, we can’t see the end of our story. But the Bible repeatedly teaches us that our lives fit into a wider context than what our eyes can see in the now. It teaches us that we are part of God’s story. As we look back in history, we can see how God works all things together for good: the years of captivity in Egypt coming to an end through the miracles of God, the miracles of God in leading Israel into the promised land, the provision of judges to lead Israel, the ongoing protection and provision of God over years and years of history; even, ultimately, the crushing of the Babylonian empire and the restoration of the Davidic kingdom through the line of the Messiah. We see that God’s faithfulness really did last forever and that His love could work even the apparent disaster of the crucifixion of His only begotten Son into something good. We can trace God’s hand throughout far more history than Ethan had at his disposal and still we see God’s love and faithfulness. There are many, many dark periods in that history – plagues, diseases, natural disasters, man’s inhumanity to man – but even in our own lifetimes we have seen God’s deliverances: the defeat of Nazism, the fall of Communism, kingdoms falling that seemed invincible and impregnable to the modern mind. That doesn’t mean we always understand God. Like Habakkuk, we are often bemused at how God works and find His methods incomprehensible. But through it all, we see God’s faithfulness.

Through it all You are faithful
Through it all You are strong
Though we walk through the shadows
Still You shine on (Matt Redman, ‘Through It All’)

Psalm 89 teaches us that we can rely on God’s love, faithfulness, mercy and promises even when we cannot see how these can possibly be worked out in our own story. Ethan may not have ever been able to see how things would work out; he simply ends the psalm by faith with ‘Praise be to the Lord forever! Amen and Amen!’ (Ps 89:52) We may not be able to see how things will work out in our story either, but God has promised us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28)