A long and somewhat schizophrenic psalm

3 Jul

Psalm 89 begins as a hymn of praise and ends as a song of woe.  The psalm begins as a song that praises God for creation, for God’s faithfulness, and for the leadership of King David.  Immediately after saying that God will never abandon the line of David, it says that you have abandoned Israel.  As I said, kinda schizophrenic.

I read the first verse of the psalm and thought, this is my kind of text.

1-4 Your love, God, is my song, and I’ll sing it!
I’m forever telling everyone how faithful you are.
I’ll never quit telling the story of your love—
how you built the cosmos
and guaranteed everything in it.
Your love has always been our lives’ foundation,
your fidelity has been the roof over our world.
You once said, “I joined forces with my chosen leader,
I pledged my word to my servant, David, saying,
‘Everyone descending from you is guaranteed life;
I’ll make your rule as solid and lasting as rock.’”

I think the idea of continually telling everyone how faithful God is and how God’s love is greater than anything on this earth, or in the cosmos for that fact.    I enjoyed and identified with the line “Your love has always been our lives’ foundation your fidelity as been the roof over our world.”

The psalm lulled me into a happy state of mind.  The next 33 verses are a re-telling of Israel’s history, of course Egypt is mention and there is more praise of David’s rule.  There is a confident assertion that God will never, never ever leave the line of David.  Verse 37 says, “His family tree is here for good,
his sovereignty as sure as the sun,
Dependable as the phases of the moon,
inescapable as weather.”

So, imagine my surprise when verse 38 says that God did go off and leave the people!!

But God, you did walk off and leave us,
you lost your temper with the one you anointed.
You tore up the promise you made to your servant,
you stomped his crown in the mud.
You blasted his home to kingdom come,
reduced his city to a pile of rubble
Picked clean by wayfaring strangers,
a joke to all the neighbors.
You declared a holiday for all his enemies,
and they’re celebrating for all they’re worth.
Angry, you opposed him in battle,
refused to fight on his side;
You robbed him of his splendor, humiliated this warrior,
ground his kingly honor in the dirt.
You took the best years of his life
and left him an impotent, ruined husk.
How long do we put up with this, God?
Are you gone for good? Will you hold this grudge forever?
Remember my sorrow and how short life is.
Did you create men and women for nothing but this?
We’ll see death soon enough. Everyone does.
And there’s no back door out of hell.
So where is the love you’re so famous for, Lord?
What happened to your promise to David?
Take a good look at your servant, dear Lord;
I’m the butt of the jokes of all nations,
The taunting jokes of your enemies, God,
as they dog the steps of your dear anointed.

The line that says, “You robbed him of his splendor, humiliated this warrior, ground his kingly honor in the dirt.”  The next phrase sounds like a disgruntled spouse; “You took the best years of his life and left him an impotent, ruined husk.”

Obviously, this is a psalm written during the years of Israel’s exile, when the leadership had broken the covenant of God, gone after foreign gods, and left the people in horrors enslaved by another country.  Yet it is interesting the way the psalm begins.

Then the ending: Blessed be God forever and always!  Yes. Oh, yes.    How weird is that? It is like the last 13 verses never happened.  Well, if you can figure it out, let me know.

For now you can choose the part of the psalm you enjoy; the praise part or the sense of abandonment part.



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