How Long, O LORD?

How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?” (v. 46).

- Psalm 89:38–52

Having praised God in Psalm 89:1–37 for His steadfast love and power, particularly as it was manifested in the everlasting covenant He established with David and his line, the psalmist shifts his tone significantly at v. 38. We see that our author has been motivated to pen this hymn by a crisis in the Davidic monarchy. Although we do not know with certainty the historical background of this psalm, it is clear that the psalmist is writing in response to a great tragedy that has befallen the house of David. Destruction of property, looting by the enemies of God’s people, defeat in battle, and much more characterized the situation of Israel and her king at the time this psalm was composed (vv. 38–45).

Note that the Lord has brought these things to pass. His wrath had burned hot against David and his throne (v. 38). This indicates that at the time of writing, David’s line was suffering divine judgment for some kingly failure. After all, God promised to discipline David and his descendants for their sin (vv. 30–32; see 2 Sam. 7:14). Nevertheless, this discipline would not mean the end of the Lord’s favor upon David’s throne (vv. 33–37; see 2 Sam. 7:15–16).

This promise of everlasting love and faithfulness is actually what has motivated the psalmist to write. He cries out to God, asking Him how long His wrath will endure (v. 46). Note that the psalmist does not say that the suffering of the king and kingdom is unjustified. He does not downplay the sin of David’s line. Yet, he understands that the Lord’s everlasting commitment to David means that there must be an end to the suffering, that a point will come when the Creator’s wrath is satisfied. Thus, he can call out for deliverance and ask God to show His steadfast love and rescue the king from his foes (vv. 47–51). Though this portion of the psalm is set in a minor key, it does end on a note of confidence. In the midst of suffering, the author still finds a place to bless the name of the Lord (v. 52). We see here a hint that the psalmist expects God to intervene and rescue the king.

In light of the person and work of Christ, we understand why this psalm belongs to the category of messianic psalms. Our Savior endured God’s wrath in the place of His people, bearing the sins of David’s line and the sins of His chosen ones (Rom. 3:21–26). He was likewise insulted by His enemies (Matt. 27:27–31). In receiving this wrath in our place, Jesus revealed the steadfast love of God for David and for His people, and in raising Jesus from the dead to reign forever, God fulfilled His promise to David (Phil. 2:5–11).

Coram Deo

If we want tangible proof that God always keeps His promises, we need look no further than His promises to David regarding the work of Christ. Our Creator has kept His covenant with David, raising Jesus from the dead as proof of His steadfast love to the Davidic line. The resurrection of Jesus proves, among other things, that our Father is always faithful to His Word. May we trust Him to keep all of His promises to us.

Passages for Further Study

Psalm 119:50
2 Corinthians 1:20

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