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  • Writer's pictureVicar Matt Doebler

Matins Devotion: December 13, 2023


The psalm we sang responsively this morning was just one small section of Psalm 89. Psalm 89 is a very interesting—and very important psalm in the overall arrangement of the Psalter. But to start to fully appreciate how important Psalm 89 is, we have to back up for just a moment and get a sense of how the entire Book of Psalms is arranged.


So what I want you to do is imagine that you’ve just read this amazing epic story—full of heroes and villains, royal intrigue, daring adventures, dark nights of the soul where all seems lost, and triumphant victory cries. So imagine that you’ve just read an epic novel series that has all that and more—and you think to yourself. “This would make a great movie. Peter Jackson or someone like that should turn this story into a series of epic films.” Well, how would someone go about doing that? There’s too much story to put into just one film. So let’s say that there’s enough material to develop five films. Which means that in each of those films we’re going to focus on the themes, characters, and images that relate to that specific part in the story—even though we’re really just telling one great big story.


That’s kind of how the books of Psalms is arranged. The book of Psalms is arranged around one master narrative that tells the story of how God is the ultimate righteous and just king who rules for the good of his people and vanquishes their enemies. The entire collection of Psalms tells the story of how God will overcome evil. How he will heal the broken. How he will judge the wicked. How he will restore creation.


But to tell that master narrative, the entire book of Psalms has been carefully arranged into 5 sections—or Books. So Books 1 and 2 focus a lot on how God rules his people through his servant, David. Book 3 focuses on the failure and faithlessness of most of the kings who came after David. Book 4 envisions God remembering his promises and leading his people out of captivity in a new exodus. And Book 5 is full of praises for the fact that God is raising up a new king who will do what none of the previous kings could do—rule in perfect righteousness and faithfulness. That’s why Book 5 is full of “Hallelujahs.”


Which brings us back to Psalm 89. Psalm 89 is the last psalm in Book 3—that book which points out the failures of God’s servants to live up to his commandments. Psalm 89 begins on a positive note. It reminds God of his promise to David. It proclaims God’s sovereignty over all of creation and over his own people. It reminds God of his promise that David’s line would endure forever.


But then it goes dark. Real dark. It accuses God of renouncing his covenant. Of letting Israel’s enemies defile the crown of David in the dust. It asks God, “How long will your wrath burn like fire?” It asks God, “Lord, where is your steadfast love of old?” It ends with a one-line doxology, “Blessed be the Lord.” But this is more like a quiet whisper than a triumphant shout.


Psalm 89 is that psalm that we can pick up and read when it feels like our life is in the middle of the movie. When we’re in that dark night of the soul. When we know the promises of God, but the consequences of sin—both our own sin and the sins of others—threaten to drown out the sound of those promises. Psalm 89 teaches us how to pray in those moments. How to cling to God’s Word in the face of adversity. How to say “Blessed be the Lord.” Even if it only comes out in a whisper. Psalm 89 helps us to remember that we’re only in the middle of the movie. Our King is coming. As John writes, "Behold, he is coming in the clouds, and every eye will see him…he is the Alpha and the Omega—who was, and is, and is to come, the Almighty…the first and the last…the living one…the one who died and now is alive forevermore, the one who has the keys to death and hell." (Rev. 1)


Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.

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