Psalm 89 closes book three of the Psalter. It begins with a reminder, “You have said, ‘I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I have sworn to David my servant: “I will establish your offspring forever; and build your throne for all generations”’” (Psalm 89:3-4). God had made a covenant with David to keep his offspring on the throne of Israel. And the God who made this promise is no ordinary god like those of the peoples surrounding them. “For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him” (Psalm 89:6-7)? He is the Lord of the heavens and the earth.
It is by God’s favor that “our horn is exalted” (Psalm 89:18). The honor of Israel lies in the hands of almighty God. And he has honored them by lifting up David and making him king over his people so that they would be triumphant over their enemies. God’s promise to the king is, “My faithfulness and my steadfast love shall be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted . . . And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:24, 26). God had promised that David’s “offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me” (Psalm 89:36).
Yet the reality at the time of this psalm was that God had cast them away, indeed, God was “full of wrath against [his] anointed (Psalm 89:38). God had “defiled [the king’s] crown in the dust” so that “he has become the scorn of his neighbors” (Psalm 89:39, 41). The psalmist cried out, “You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with shame” (Psalm 89:45). The Davidic king is no longer dominant in the land. He has been carried away and it seems that God has totally cast him off.
“How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire” (Psalm 89:45)? This is the burning question. How long will God hide and Israel be full of shame? “Remember, O Lord, how your servants are mocked, and how I bear in my heart the insults of all the many nations, with which your enemies mock, O Lord, with which they mock the footsteps of your anointed” (Psalm 89:50-51). The end of book three in the Psalter is not promising. The king God had set on the throne had been covered with shame and thus the whole nation was put to shame.
But the good news comes in book four as we see the shift from the Davidic king to YHWH himself. God is the true king. We are to seek our refuge in God as our king. The one who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will be blessed (Psalm 91:1). Satan himself sees Psalm 91 as a reference to the Messiah when he quotes verses 11-12 to Jesus at his temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6). Note how God intends to honor this one who takes shelter in him, “When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him” (Psalm 91:15).
The shift in book four of the Psalter means to point us to God as the only one who can be the true Davidic King, the true Messiah who is able to deliver us from our enemies and keep us from being put to shame. In Jesus Christ we see how this comes together for he “was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:3-4). He is the one in whom dwells the whole fullness of deity bodily (Colossians 2:9).
We come to see that we need more than a Messiah, one who is anointed by God to save his people. We need God himself. And this is exactly what he gives us in Jesus Christ.
The Psalms make clear that shame belongs to those who turn away from God and seek vain idols. We see how God himself will put idolaters to shame. And we see that those who seek their refuge in God will not be put to shame. They will be exalted and brought near to him in relationship. The honor of creation will be restored and even enhanced as they dwell in his holy sanctuary, near to the one who is worthy of most honor.
Yet we also see that the path to honor is a path of shame. Ultimately it is our enemies who are put to shame, but this happens through the shame-bearing of the Messiah, God’s promised king who is nothing less than God himself. God’s honor is at stake in the salvation of his people. Thus he acts with great wisdom and might to remove the shame of his people so that they might be with him, relishing his glory forever and ever.
Read the other posts in this series:
Part 1, “Introduction”
Part 2, “What Are Honor and Shame?”
Part 3, “The Honor of Man”
Part 4, “The Shame of Sin”
Part 5, “The Honor of the King (God’s Anointed One)”
Part 6, “Honor Comes through the Shaming of Your Enemies”
Part 7, “Honor, Shame and Salvation”
Part 8, “Honor through the Shame of the Messiah”
Part 9, “We Need More than a Messiah”