“I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations. For I have said, ‘Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.’” Psalm 89:1–2
I have memories of singing psalm eighty-nine verse one as a praise chorus that date back to when I was a little boy. It’s been a long time since I’ve had a chance to sing it in a group, other praise choruses have taken its place in the list of songs popularly sung, but if I recall correctly we would sing this verse in a round with one part overlapping the other as we sang the words over and over.
Verse two continues to extol God’s mercy by boasting that, “Mercy shall be built up forever; Your faithfulness You shall establish in the very heavens.” For the next thirty-five verses the psalmist, Ethan the Ezrahite, continues to recount God’s blessings and promises and the covenant he made with David to establish him and bless his sons after him if they would be faithful in leading the nation of Israel to be faithful to God. Then in verse thirty-eight Ethan abruptly changes the theme from praise to a lament with the words, “But You have cast off and abhorred, You have been furious with Your anointed. You have renounced the covenant of Your servant; You have profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.”
It would be easy to know what events Ethan was referring to if we knew exactly who Ethan the Ezrahite was. But we don’t. It’s most probable that he was a Levite serving in the temple during the reign of David in which case this psalm may have been written during the rebellion of Absalom, but this is speculation.
Regardless as to the exact nature of the disobedience God has been compelled to respond to with his punishment one thing becomes clear when you compare the promises God made in his covenant with the actions of his people; God keeps his word.
We may be variable and inconsistent when it comes to our faithfulness but God is not. His mercy provided in advance blessings to encourage continued reliance and obedience, as well as punitive measures to discourage persistent waywardness. Sadly, sinful man seems determined to squander and take for granted the blessings God’s given. He seems equally determined to explain away any disciplinary measures God takes to bring about repentance and reform, so that he can feel justified in continuing to pursue the sinful course he’s chosen. The track record of man’s inconstancy seems to be just as consistent as God’s faithfulness.
But God does not give up. His faithfulness endures forever. His love never fails. From the multitudes of the peoples of this world he will glean for himself a remnant that will be faithful to him and follow him wherever he goes. His call to us today is to chose him. To chose his mercy. Before the course of intervention shifts from discipline to judgement chose the grace of Jesus. Chose mercy.