According to its superscription, Psalm 89 is intended to be instructive. Ethan’s Maschil focuses on Jehovah’s mercy and faithfulness; this is introduced at the outset: “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. I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: ‘Your seed I will establish forever and build up your throne to all generations’” (vv. 1-4). This theme of mercy and faithfulness echoes throughout the rest of the composition (vv. 5, 8, 14, 24, 28, 33).
Jehovah’s uniqueness is praised in verses 5 to 18. “For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord?…O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty like You, O Lord? Your faithfulness also surrounds You…Blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! They walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all day long, and in Your righteousness they are exalted. For You are the glory of their strength, and in Your favor our horn is exalted. For our shield belongs to the Lord and our king to the Holy One of Israel” (vv. 6, 8, 15-18).
Jehovah’s mercy is demonstrated in His selection of David (vv. 19-37). He made a covenant with him and promised to seat one of his descendants (i.e. Jesus) on his throne to all generations. He shall be made Jehovah’s firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth (v. 27). This seed of David “shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me; it shall be established forever like the moon, even like the faithful witness in the sky” (vv. 36-37).
Jehovah’s faithfulness is demonstrated by the fact that He kept His promise to David and his sons that “If they break My statutes and do not keep My commandments, then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes” (vv. 31-32). Ethan laments: “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. You have broken down all his hedges; You have brought his strongholds to ruin. All who pass by the way plunder him; he is a reproach to his neighbors. You have exalted the right hand of his adversaries; You have made all his enemies rejoice. You have also turned back the edge of his sword and have not sustained him in the battle. You have made his glory cease and cast his throne down to the ground. The days of his youth You have shortened; You have covered him with shame” (vv. 38-45).
Behold the mercy and faithfulness of God! Because of the riches of His mercy, He makes covenants with imperfect mortals like Abraham and David. Because of His faithfulness, He keeps His promises of blessing and cursing.
“Blessed be the Lord forevermore! Amen and Amen” (v. 52).