Tag Archives: Psalm 89

Rug-Pulling Moments

Rug-Pulling Moments (CaD Ps 89) Wayfarer

You have put an end to his splendor
    and cast his throne to the ground.

Psalm 89:44 (NIV)

This past week Wendy and I enjoyed hosting both of our daughters and their husbands, along with our grandson, Milo. It was a first in many ways. Madison and Garrett just celebrated their first wedding anniversary and it’s the first time that all seven of us were gathered under our roof. It was a really fun week together as a family.

Wendy and I particularly enjoyed three-year-old Milo climbing into our bed early in the morning to cuddle with Papa and Yaya. One morning Taylor joined us one the bed with her cup of morning coffee. A short time later Madison walked in and climbed on the bed, as well. We got to talk, laugh, share stories, and reminisce. What a joy.

On New Year’s Eve, Wendy and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary. I couldn’t help but mentally juxtapose the week of being a family together in one house with this relational milestone. Fifteen years ago, the girls were young teenagers reeling from all the changes and turmoil that come when parents divorce and then remarry. It’s messy, and it’s hard when life doesn’t turn the way you planned, and the way you’d always trusted and believed that it would.

Today’s chapter, Psalm 89, is the final song in “Book III” of the compilation of ancient Hebrew song lyrics we know as the book of Psalms. It was likely written after the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians. Through the first half of the song the lyrics read like an emotional tour of the “glory days” of King David, of God’s blessing on David, God’s anointing of David, God’s covenant with David, and God’s assurances that the throne of David would be established forever.

Then, the songwriter does a 180-degree pivot. After building up the rosy picture of the Davidic monarchy in all its glory, he quickly yanks the rug out from under me as a reader: “But you have rejected, you have spurned”. It’s such a shocking change of tone that it felt unsettling as I read it in the quiet this morning. And, I couldn’t help but think that this was the songwriter’s intent, to have me feel the shock that he was feeling when life didn’t turn out the way he’d trusted and planned.

The psalmist foreshadows the misunderstanding that surrounded Jesus’ followers when the Messiah’s kingdom turned out to look nothing like what they’d envisioned, believed, and had been taught their whole lives. David’s throne was established forever, which is why the Christmas story we are currently celebrating took place in “the City of David” with a mother and earthly father who were descendants of David. God kept His covenant with David, it just didn’t happen the way everyone expected. As God tells us through the prophet Isaiah:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.

Isaiah 55:8 (NIV)

Today’s psalm reminds me of the very human reaction I tend to have whenever life doesn’t turn out the way I planned. Tragedy, unexpected death, life-threatening illness, divorce, job-loss, global pandemic and leave me reeling like having the rugged pulled out from under me. There is shock, there is anger, there is grief, and there are oh so many questions. Like the ancient songwriter, my prayers in these reeling moments on the road of life tend to sound bitter, blaming, and cynical.

I’ve found it to be part of the journey. Like I said in yesterday’s post, these are the stretches of life’s road that lead to digging deeper roots and growing spirit strength. It was hard for me to see it in the middle of the shame of a failed marriage and feeling the anger and disappointment of teenaged daughters. This was never the plan. This was not how it was supposed to work out. Oh, so many questions.

In the quiet this morning I’m reminded that as a follower of Jesus I need the rug pulled out from beneath me on occasion. Comfortably standing on my own illusions and expectations of what I think life should look like will never allow me to follow Jesus where He is leading me. And even though there are still times when it leaves me reeling for a time, I’ve learned that there are divine purpose in the rug-pulling experiences on this life journey. It usually makes no sense to me in the moment.

Then, down life’s road fifteen years or so, I find myself one morning on the bed together as a family. We’re cuddling the next generation, drinking coffee, swapping stories, and experiencing the joy of being together.

It’s No Wonder We Constantly Miss the Point

David with the Head of Goliath
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.