But you have rejected, you have spurned,
you have been very angry with your anointed one.
You have renounced the covenant with your servant
and have defiled his crown in the dust.
You have broken through all his walls
and reduced his strongholds to ruins.
All who pass by have plundered him;
he has become the scorn of his neighbours.
You have exalted the right hand of his foes;
you have made all his enemies rejoice.
Indeed, you have turned back the edge of his sword
and have not supported him in battle.
You have put an end to his splendour
and cast his throne to the ground.
You have cut short the days of his youth;
you have covered him with a mantle of shame.
How long, Lord? Will you hide yourself for ever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire?
Remember how fleeting is my life.
For what futility you have created all humanity!
Who can live and not see death,
or who can escape the power of the grave?
Lord, where is your former great love,
which in your faithfulness you swore to David?
Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked,
how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations,
the taunts with which your enemies, Lord, have mocked,
with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.
Praise be to the Lord for ever!(Ps. 89:38-52 NIV)
Amen and Amen.
When we come to this third part of the Psalm it is hard to believe that it is part of the same Psalm as the previous two parts. The Psalm up to this stage has been about God’s covenant love and faithfulness. The promises of the Lord do not match the reality that he sees around him. This third stage begins, ‘But You!’ The depth of the emotions are evident in the verbs that the Psalmist uses: ‘rejected,’ ‘spurned,’ ‘very angry,’ ‘renounced,’ ‘defiled,’ ‘broken through,’ ‘reduced to ruins,’ ‘put an end to,’ ‘cast to the ground,’ ‘cut short,’ and ‘covered with shame.’ Whether this is exile or some other national humiliation is not clear. The Psalmist is surprised by the suffering he sees around him. How could God do this? The Psalmist’s ire is reserved for the Lord, rather than the enemies. The Lord is accused of rejecting the covenant, of being very angry with the king, defiling the crown and destroying the strongholds. God is seen as the perpetrator of all these acts. The issue is how can this destructive activity be reconciled with God’s love, faithfulness and covenant?
God has permitted the enemy to plunder the possessions of the king, and has handed victory over into the hands of the enemy. When God was fighting for His people they were invincible, now that the Lord is fighting against His people, their defeat is inevitable. Instead of the king being clothed with the garment of praise he is shrouded with the mantle of disgrace.
V 46 seems a strange question, ‘how long will You hide Yourself forever?’ It is as if the answer is in the question. The Psalmist often uses hyperbole, where the emotion defies the logic of the statement. Lord Your ‘long’ could be my ‘forever’. The Lord is removing the external trappings of the covenant, like the temple and the city, from the control of the people of God, so that the people of God are left with only God.
The Psalmist’s anger is not hidden from God. The anger is more exasperation than rage. He cannot resolve the character of God with this current set of circumstances. We need to be careful with what words we use to God in prayer, considering the holiness of God and remembering that God is God and we are not. The Psalmist’s inability to grasp the judgement of God may rest in his inability to understand what sin and disobedience does. What would the behaviour of the people of God rightfully deserve if God was giving the full punishment that it warranted?
The difference between the earlier part of the Psalm and this part is that, in the earlier part the Psalmist was saying what he believed, but now he is expressing how the reality that he sees around him appears to conflict with what he believes. Our lives are like that. We learn theology through reading a Systematic Theology book, learning the Catechism or listening to preaching, and we learn what the Bible says about God and His relationship with us. But then things happen in life and we wonder ‘how does that relate to what I have learned?’ Sometimes it is difficult to resolve this. The answer is to be honest with God and try and express how we feel. We need to be reverent with God, but we also need to be honest. This Psalm shows that the issue does not always get resolved immediately. It may take more time for the Psalmist to be ready for the answer. The Psalmist knows that the answer lies in the book of Deuteronomy. God made it clear what would happen if the hearts of the people were turned away from God. We may sometimes know the answer but not be willing to face it. Still an honest description of how we feel before the Lord is important. The lesson we learn here is how important it is to bring the current state of the church before the Lord in prayer.
V52 is a doxology for the third book of the Psalms and this Psalm. Despite having unanswered questions, the Psalmist affirms the necessity to praise the Lord.
Our God and Heavenly Father, we love the glory of the Gospel message. But why are so few getting saved? Why are thousands of people walking the streets of Hounslow and there are only a handful of Christians? Lord why have You chosen to withhold Your hand of salvation in our nation? Lord God we love the Gospel, we love the Christ of the Gospel, but we long that others would bow and acknowledge Christ as their Saviour. Lord in mercy come and revive Your people that we might be witnesses of the power of Christ in the Gospel, because we pray in Christ’s name. Amen.