Lord, where is your unfailing love?
You promised it to David with a faithful pledge.
Psalm 89:49 (NLT)
On occasion I will like a song and, after getting to know the song for a period of time, I will learn that the song is really about a particular person or event. Having not known this when I became enamored with the piece, it will suddenly layer the song I thought I knew with new meaning. It may even cause me to dig in and learn more about the person or event that inspired the song. You begin to realize that you don’t truly know the song unless you understand the story behind it.
This is the case with Ethan the Ezrahite’s one hit wonder in Psalm 89. While there are certainly lines of the lyric that are inspiring in and of themselves, it is the larger story that strikes me most profoundly. In this case, the song is about King David. David (of David and Goliath fame) was chosen by God to be king and anointed such by the prophet Samuel. This didn’t happen right away. It took many years, but David eventually united the bitterly divided tribes of Israel, established Jerusalem as the capital, and became a hugely successful warrior king.
God sends word that He is establishing David’s throne for eternity and everyone prepares for a long and glorious reign through the centuries. But, as tends to happen with human governments, everything started falling apart within two generations. David’s kingdom fractured in two when his grandson took over the throne. The northern tribes established their own king which did not follow David’s line and continued to be known as the nation of Israel. The southern tribes continued to honor David’s line in keeping with God’s promise and became known as the nation of Judah (which was David’s tribe).
Fast forward a couple hundred years. Invaders like Assyria and Babylon have decimated the area. David’s descendants in Judah have proven faithless and weak. David’s kingdom is ended. Jerusalem is destroyed along with the temple that had been David’s dream.
For the first 37 verses of Psalm 89, Ethan revisits the glory of the warrior King David. He reminds us of God’s promise to establish David’s throne forever and those glory days when it appeared David and his descendants would have a successful earthly dynasty as had never been seen before. Ethan then waxes eloquent on God’s greatness in view of these wonderful times. Then we get to verse 38 and Ethan makes a painful 180 degree turn. The current reality for Ethan is horrifically different than what everyone had been proclaiming. David’s royal line appears to be all but snuffed out. The glory of the Davidic kingdom has been reduced to rubble. Ethan’s song suddenly becomes a screaming lament of disappointment and terrorizing questions:
What happened to the promises?
What happened to the glory of David?
How long will this go on?
Where is your love, God?
What happened to your faithfulness?
I have come to believe that what we think will happen rarely happens the way we think it’s going to happen and almost never in the time in which we believe it will happen. When people tell me how convinced they are that God is going to do this or that at such and such a time, I smile and politely acknowledge the possibility that they may be right. Quietly, however, I remember my history and the lesson of Ethan’s one hit wonder. What, how, and when we think something is going to happen rarely comes to fruition. God is the most amazing author. What you think is going to happen in the story rarely does, but then when you look back with 20/20 hindsight in later chapters you realize how simple it all seemed.
Today I am reminded that we see our own lives and times with such finite eyes. We perceive all around us with such limited, earthbound thinking. We tend to hear only that which we can easily process and compartmentalize.
It’s no wonder we constantly miss the point.