Meditations on the Psalms #177

Psalm 89 Part 4

The great plea of scripture, “How Long, Lord,” (v46) finds its fulfilment in Revelation, when the same question is asked and the ultimate end is declared. Hear Ethan is praying for a speedy rescue from a present crisis. The mention of shortness of time and the futility of life add a sense of urgency and even desperation to the request.

V48 is an example of parallelism, (a common Hebrew poetic device,) where the same line is repeated in different wording for emphasis. The answer to this rhetorical question, “can any man deliver his soul(life) from the power of the grave (Sheol),” is of course, no. Apart from Jesus, no mere man can deliver his own life from the grave and its power. Without Christ, we are mortal and miserable. Men often wish to forget their complete dependence upon God regarding the life to come, but the psalmist urged us to remember it often, emphasizing it with ‘Selah.’ The problem of these verses cries out for the gospel’s answer.

In the final verses (49-51) Ethan again made honest, heartfelt inquiry from a season of crisis and the apparent triumph of God’s own enemies. The request shows that he would not allow himself to stay in the belief that God had cast them off or renounced His covenant. He could still appeal to God on the basis of what God promised to David. This rings of satan’s apparent triumph of the crucifixion, where he demonstrated that he would, if he could, put God Himself to death. But crucifixion Friday turned into resurrection Sunday, and “sorrow was turned into joy.” Sheol – the grave or place of the dead – had been defeated and can no longer hold those who are joined to “the author of life.”

IN v52 Ethan the Ezrahite concludes this song with a hard-fought declaration of praise. This came from a man who knew God’s promises and trusted them, all the while honestly pouring out his pain before God in his present distress. He ended where he began, after sailing around the world. This verse is the doxology that forms the end, not just of psalm 89, but of book 3.

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