Today’s passage: Psalm 89
Today’s chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans topped with Justin’s Almond Butter
It’s your birthday. You come home to your dark house, and just as you’d expect, as soon as you turn on the lights, everyone jumps out and yells, “Surprise!” Except it’s not your friends. It’s strangers, and they strip you naked and beat you with baseball bats and cart your most expensive appliances out the door. As they leave, from your new vantage point on the floor, you suddenly notice: there actually is a birthday cake on the counter. That’s Psalm 89.
Psalm 89 starts off looking like a psalm of orientation, and I could not have been more fooled. From the first line, “I will sing of the lovingkindness of the Lord forever” (1), to the next thirty-seven verses, the psalm’s author Ethan the Ezrahite is extolling God’s faithfulness to the dynasty of David, God’s uniqueness, his authority as creator, his power against Israel’s enemies, and so on. And then comes verse 38 like a brick to the head: “But You have cast off and rejected, You have been full of wrath against Your anointed.” A record scratch is too mild a sound effect. Try shattering glass, or a detonating bomb.
Israel has apparently suffered a major defeat, but whatever its enemies do to it here, the psalmist attributes to the hand of God. “You have profaned his crown in the dust…You have brought his strongholds to ruin…You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries” (39, 40, 42), he recites. And while theodicists typically make a distinction between God causing suffering and God permitting suffering, the way the psalmist puts it here makes a rhetorical point: one way or another, God has put his stamp of approval on these events. Israel’s defeat is his will. So he asks, “Where are Your former lovingkindnesses, O Lord, which You swore to David in Your faithfulness?” (49). He asks God to be mindful of man’s short life on this earth, of Israel’s suffering and shame, hoping that God will be moved to restore his people.
And then it gets really weird. Suddenly the song turns back to praise: “Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen” (52). And then it just ends.
Question of the Day: In vv.46-51, is Ethan the Ezrahite attempting to remind God of something that he believes God has forgotten? Does he think that God has broken his covenant of love with Israel?
Also Question of the Day: What the crud is going on with that ending?