Psalm Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalms 87-89, The Faithfulness of God

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Psalm 87, Zion, Lovely Zion

Psalm 87 is a short psalm about Zion. Zion is described as being beloved above all else. In all of the places in Israel, Zion is loved the most. The second point of the psalm is that there is a blessing of being born in Zion. But notice who are the people born in Zion. They are people from the other nations who now know God. They are from the nations of Egypt (Rahab), Babylon, Philistia, Tyre, and Cush. The Gentiles are pictured as being of God’s registered people born in Zion. The final point of the psalm is found in the last verse where we see all the blessings of God are found in Zion. Springs and streams of water are used throughout the Old Testament as a symbol of God’s blessings (Isaiah 12:3; 41:18; 49:10).

This may seem like an irrelevant psalm because we are reading about the hope of the people being bound in Zion, the holy of city of Jerusalem. But it is important to first of all see how important Zion was to the people. The people understood this as a special privilege of God’s love to his people. The New Testament, based upon this understanding, describes these images in this psalm being fulfilled. People can come to God and be part of Zion, the holy city of God.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12:22-24; NKJV).

Notice how this psalm pulls from the imagery in Psalm 87. We have come “to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven.” This is what the sons of Korah are picturing in this psalm as they see the people of the surrounding nations knowing God and being registered with God. We are the ones who have this special relationship. We are the ones who have glorious things said about us because God dwells with us and loves us more than anything else. All of God’s blessings are with us.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3; ESV).

Psalm 88, Cry From Troubles

We looked in the last lesson at Psalm 86 where David is praying to God with arguments. In Psalm 88 we see a prayer that is an open discussion with God. The writer seems to have a life of sorrow. The psalm reveal the honest, raw emotions as he talks to God about his severe suffering.  The key point of this psalm is in the first two verses. In the midst of great despair and lack of understanding concerning what is happening, the psalmist still goes to God in faith. He asks God to listen to his cry as he prays to God. It is very difficult to trust God in such hard times, but it is our challenge. The central message of the book of Job is that Job was to entrust his life to God. In Psalm 88 we are reading about a person who is still turning to God, but is speaking to God with the true pain that he is enduring. It is important to remember that we should have a relationship with God that causes us to feel comfortable enough to share with him our feelings.

Psalm 89, God’s Faithful Covenant Love

Psalm 89 is a more lengthy psalm and it is the last psalm of book 3. I believe this psalm was written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC. Therefore, this psalm was written while Israel is in exile or after the exile when they return to the land. The psalm can be broken down into three key thoughts: (1) Trusting in God’s Faithfulness (1-18), (2) God Speaks (19-37), and (3) Lament and Call for Renewal (38-51).

Trusting In God’s Faithfulness (1-18)

The first two verses begins with the psalmist proclaiming God’s faithful love. The point of praise throughout these 18 verses centers around God keeping his covenant, and we will see why as we move through this psalm. In verses 3 and 4 we see recall of God’s promise to establish his offspring forever and the throne to be built up for all generations. This is probably a recollection of the promise made by God to David in 2 Samuel 7.  After praising God’s faithfulness, the psalmist continues by describing the power of God. Verses 5-8 describe God’s great power in the heavens. Verses 9-13 describe God’s great power over the earth.  Verses 14-18 describe God’s faithfulness and power toward his people.

God Speaks (19-37)

The second section is unique because it is God speaking about Israel. These are exciting texts when we get to read about what God himself is speaking in response. God first speaks about the process of selecting David as his chosen one. In verse 28 we see the psalm move back to God’s faithfulness to keep the covenant. God gives an explanation about what will happen to the sons of David.

If the sons forsake God’s instructions and disobey, then their rebellion will be called into account. They would be punished with the rod and their sins would be beaten with blows. Notice that this is picturing what parents are supposed to do to their children when they break the parents’ law: physical discipline. So also, God as the father is disciplining his children. However, God’s faithful love would remain even though Israel would require discipline for their rebellion. Verse 35 makes the covenant even more weighty because God has sworn by an oath by his own holiness.

Now there is a reason why the psalmist has been making all of these points about God’s faithfulness. The writer is taking us to an a particular argument that he wants to make in his prayer. God has promised to keep his covenant. Even if Israel sins and is punished, God was going to maintain his steadfast love.

Lament and Call for Revival (38-51)

The psalmist now points out the current condition of Israel, and specifically the city of Jerusalem. Verses 38-45 describe the terrible situation the people find themselves in. God has rejected the people because of their sins. The people have been plundered, the cities are in ruins, and the walls are broken down.

Verse 46 is the crux of the psalm: “How long, Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your anger keep burning life fire?” The question is simply how long will all of these things continue. How much longer will Israel endure the punishment? In verses 47 and 48 the psalmist makes the point that life is short, and by implication, he desires to see the restoration of Israel before his death. He wants to see the steadfast love of God just as it was in the days past.

So I want you to see where we have come from in this psalm to get to this point. The psalmist begins by declaring the faithfulness of God. Then he notes God’s power in heaven, on earth, and towards his people. He then quotes the words of God to show what God has promised concerning his covenant. Then the psalmist asks the question: how long will the punishment for their sins continue? How long will God’s anger burn against them? When will God restore his covenant to the people?

I believe the prophets answered this question and Peter also answered this question on the day of the Pentecost. The covenant would be restored at the coming of the Holy Spirit. This was the blessings of God returning to the people and God remaining faithful to his covenant promises.

Applications:

  1. The faithful disciples of Jesus are Zion, are registered in heaven, and are receiving the blessings of God dwelling with us.
  2. Turn to God in difficulties and tell him how you are feeling during the trial.
  3. God is faithful. We can ask God to act faithfully during times of difficulty.
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