1 I will extol the LORD’s great love for ever; your faithfulness to all I will proclaim. 2 I will declare your love stands firm for ever; your faithfulness in heaven you maintain.
3 You said, “I made a cov’nant with my chosen, and to my servant David I have sworn: 4 ‘I will ensure your line shall last for ever, your throne to generations yet unborn’.”
5 O LORD, the heavens praise your mighty wonders and to your saints your faithfulness declare. 6 For who is like the LORD among the angels, or who in heaven can with him compare?
7 For God is feared within his holy council, more awesome than the angels all around. 8 O God, the LORD Almighty, who is like you whom such great might and faithfulness surround?
9 O LORD, your rule controls the surging ocean; you still the raging waves upon the seas. 10 You crushed to death the great sea monster Rahab; with your strong arm you rout your enemies.
11 The earth is yours, to you belong the heavens; you made the world and everything therein. 12 By you the north and south were both created; Tabor and Hermon praise your name and sing.
13 Your arm, O LORD, is filled with mighty power; your hand is strong, exalted high above. 14 Your throne is built on righteousness and justice; in front of you go faithfulness and love.
15 How blessed are those who learn to sing your praises, who walk before you in your light, O LORD! 16 All day in your great name they are rejoicing; they praise your righteousness with one accord.
17 For you, LORD, are your people’s strength and glory, and honour to our sovereign you bring. 18 Indeed, from God the LORD comes our protection; to Israel’s Holy One belongs our king.
19 There was a time you told us in a vision; this to your faithful people you made known: “I have bestowed my strength upon a warrior, a young man whom I raised up to the throne.
This Psalm works rather well to the tune normally used for Lord for the Years.
Nations pass through political upheaval. Even well-ordered countries know periods of flux and uncertainty – leaders die, other nations’ crises have knock-on effects, the electorate votes for a change which some long for and others abhor. ‘Twas ever thus, and certainly for Israel and Judah. When King David ruled, all was relatively well. But then he died, and, in due course, the people were taken off into exile, robbed of religious and political identity.
At such a time perhaps Psalm 89 speaks for more than its authors. Might it even say something pertinent in this ‘Brexit month’?
In its opening verses, two of the key words of all Jewish and Christian theology appear: God’s ‘great love’ (chesed) and ‘covenant’ (berit). Chesed tells us about God’s inward nature, God’s disposition towards us, and berit speaks of God’s outward actions, keeping faith with the promises God makes.
For Israel, these qualities of God were given particular expression in King David, whom no enemy will outwit (89.22). When David dies, therefore, their national equilibrium feels vulnerable. Later in the Psalm we would even hear them wonder if God had repudiated the covenant: ‘what [now] of those pledges of faithful love?’ (89.49)
The Psalm doesn’t really hold out an answer. It’s a frank expression of the paradox of faith and doubt so many of us know. Yet we live within the new covenant. For us, Jesus Christ is the embodiment of God’s chesed and berit and the resurrection represents the reliability of God’s pledges of faithful love. So as 29th March beckons, we are invited to complement our political opinion with our religious faith; to trust God’s covenant, of which the Psalmist enables us to sing: ‘your throne is built on righteousness and justice; in front of you go faithfulness and love.’ (89.14)
That being so, maybe we should meet Brexit with berit, saying with Psalmist ‘Blessed be God for ever, Amen, amen.’ (89.52)
Eternal God, whose covenant love is resilient and trustworthy, we pray for the qualities of your Kingdom to be the hallmarks of our nations, that all may live in peace, prosperity and hope, because of Jesus Christ, Amen
The Rev’d Nigel Uden, Fulbourn and Downing Place United Reformed Churches, Cambridge; Moderator of the General Assembly