Has God renounced the covenant?

The Living Word for week up to Sunday, December 24, 2017: Part 2 of 5

Tuesday, Dec 19: Psalm 89:1-4 and 19-26

The ‘headline’ to this late psalm of around 586 BC is in verses 38-40: walls broken, strongholds made ruins – and the covenant supporting the rule apparently renounced. In a lament it appeals to God for restoration.

1-2 I will sing of the Lord’s unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of Your faithfulness. Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.

  • Love connects with faithfulness, as one expression. Each of these words is repeated seven times, to make a point: It appears that God’s love and faithfulness is what has failed in His rejection of the king of Davidic line, and therefore covenant, 2 Sam. 7:16.

3-4 The Lord said, “I have made a covenant with David, my chosen servant.

  • This the point of the psalm. That covenant was established through the prophetic word spoken by Nathan to David. Unlike the covenant with Moses and people (Exodus 19-24) which was two-way and therefore conditional, this was essentially one-way and unconditional – provided that the Davidic dynasty remained loyal to God the covenant giver. The covenant held good – the Messiah was of David’s line – but the most severe curse implicit in the Moses covenant was also operating, Leviticus 26:27-39, Deut., 28:36-37, 45-48. Reference: NIV Study Bible page 21 table.
  • For further study: Five of the seven ancient covenants were of the Royal Grant or unconditional type: with Noah, Genesis 9:8-17; grant of land to Abraham, Gen. 15:9-21; with Phinehas the priest, Numbers 25:10-31; this covenant with David, 2 Samuel 7:5-16; and the New Covenant, below.
    The two conditional covenants were the second part of the covenant with Abraham as patriarch, and his descendants, Gen. 17 – conditional on consecration to the Lord; and the ‘Mosaic’ covenant with descendants of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all redeemed from bondage, Exodus 19-24, conditional on consecration to the Lord as His people, His rule and His purposes.
    The New Covenant, promised at the very time that Israel is about to be expelled from the Promised Land for breaking covenant, is an unconditional covenant of pure grace in which the law would be “written on hearts”. The only condition is accepting and receiving this covenant, in other words, entering into it.

I have sworn this oath to him: ‘I will establish your descendants as kings forever; they will sit on Your throne from now until eternity.’” Interlude

  • In an unconditional covenant, even if the party entering into it breaks covenant, God is committed to fulfil it. That is not to ignore the consequences of reneging on the covenant, which this psalm seems not to take into account.
    In the classic form of ancient Royal Grant covenant, a king would make a grant to a servant, whose heirs would continue to benefit from it as long as they maintained the same loyalty and service to the king. So it was unconditional, except in the sense that the essential condition of the covenant had to be maintained.
  • The classic suzerain-vassal conditional form of covenant was made between a great king and a subject king and it demanded total and exclusive loyalty and service, in return for the suzerain’s (great king’s) protection. Kings and Chronicles detail times when Israel worshipped other gods and sought the protection of other powers – both serious transgressions, the consequences of which the prophets spelled out.

19 Long ago You spoke in a vision to Your faithful people.

  • Or ‘Your godly ones”. People like the prophet Nathan, who God used to speak His words of covenant over David (2 Sam. 7:4ff above)

You said, “I have raised up a warrior. I have selected him from the common people to be king.

20 I have found My servant David. I have anointed him with My holy oil.

21-23 I will steady him with my hand; with my powerful arm I will make him strong. His enemies will not defeat him, nor will the wicked overpower him. I will beat down his adversaries before him and destroy those who hate him.

  • This was David’s experience, even when it seemed inevitable that he would be overpowered by the greater army and force of public opinion in Absalom’s uprising, 2 Sam. 14:28-18:33.

24 My faithfulness and unfailing love will be with him, and by my authority he will grow in power.

25-26 I will extend his rule over the sea, his dominion over the rivers. And he will call out to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’

  • References the promise of Exodus 23:31, that the Lord would give Israel the land between the River Euphrates and the Red Sea.

Application

God said that His faithfulness and unfailing love would be with David and his descendants. Not all the kings that succeeded him had this experience, but there were reasons, which the prophets were not shy of pointing out.

David was not of perfect character, or conduct. He was a warrior, and had been responsible for the deaths of many enemies. Yet he knew God’s extraordinary favour, summarised in 2 Sam 7:4-16 and recalled in this psalm.

How much more can we look to God for mercy and grace and favour, because of who we are in Jesus Christ, the position of adopted sonship we have gained through accepting the Lordship of God’s Son.

Discussion starter

  1. Why is it important as church to begin worship with declaring God’s goodness in praise? What reminder does that embed in us?

Also published on Medium.

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