A story in two parts

But God’s greatness is not always evident

Psalm 145:4-6 Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts, [Lord]; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness.

Psalm 89: 33-35, 38-40, 46 [God said] But I will never stop loving David nor fail to keep my promise to him. No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said. I have sworn an oath to David, and in my holiness I cannot lie. [Ethan replied] But now you have rejected David and cast him off. You are angry with your anointed king. You have renounced your covenant with him; you have thrown his crown in the dust. … O Lord, how long will this go on? Will you hide yourself forever?

In the first 37 verses of Psalm 89, the psalm appointed for today, the poet Ethan fits right into Psalm 145, praising God for his power, his unfailing love, his faithfulness, righteousness, and justice.

But in verse 38 there’s a jarring shift. Ethan suddenly reveals his broken heart, his doubt, his agonizing questions about what has befallen his beloved king, David. Ethan a musician appointed by David to sing in his choir, was known for his wisdom (see 1 Kings 4:31), but at this moment all he can see is God’s apparent betrayal evident through the disloyalty of some of David’s beloved sons and most trusted friends. You can read the stories in 2 Samuel 7 and on.

Psalm 89 doesn’t resolve the situation. It ends in lament. And this is the only psalm identified in our canon as written by Ethan. What happened next? Did Ethan sound the bronze symbols (1 Chronicles 15:19) during David’s song of praise in 2 Samuel 22? Was he present to hear David’s last words in 1 Chronicles 29, able to praise God along with his beloved sovereign?

We don’t know. Sometimes situations can’t be neatly tied up with a bow. You’ve seen that in your own life, right? I have. These tough things challenge us to dig deeper and sit longer before the Lord, saying with Ethan, “How long, O Lord? Where is your unfailing love?” (verse 49).

Perhaps we won’t receive answers until we reach Heaven. With Ethan then we have two choices: to turn away from God, reject him because we don’t understand, and allow bitterness to grow in our hearts. Or to continue believing there are answers, even though we don’t understand them, and trust God enough to share our deep grief with him, allowing him to comfort us even when we’re not capable of seeing things from his point of view. Like a two-year-old who can’t possibly understand the painful medical interventions he must undergo in order to treat the cancer the adults have detected in his body, yet clings to his mother for comfort.

The ability to lament, to bare our souls before the Lord, is a gift. Imagine yourself as that two-year-old, climbing into his mother’s lap, weeping his distress within the secure circle of her embrace.

Shutterstock: DimaBerlin

The Lord is merciful and compassionate … The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads … The Lord is close to all who call on him (Psalm 145:8, 14, 18).

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