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Even though Jesus explicitly told His followers about His crucifixion, it was clear on that Friday on Golgotha that they didn’t fully grasp what was going on.
We see the same thing in Heman’s maskil of Psalm 88: The faint hope that his Savior would rescue him from death, but still not fully grasping what was happening. Just as Jesus cried out, “It is finished” and His disciples thought the darkness had fallen, Heman ends his psalm with, “You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend” (Psalm 88:18).
There is the reality of darkness in this world—but it is only temporary darkness. This is why I entitled our look at Psalm 88 as “The reality of temporary darkness” because, in the second part of this couplet of maskil psalms, Ethan moves right into the light of Resurrection Sunday: “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever” (Psalm 89:1).
Consider this Good Friday-to-Resurrection Sunday thought from Jesus: “…In the world you will have tribulation; BUT be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This tells us of both the temporary darkness and the conquering Light. But also notice that Jesus said our peace would come from knowing that both darkness and light are realities: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” Whether we are in temporary darkness or looking forward to the eternal light, our peace is only found in Jesus.
When the followers of Jesus came to His tomb on Sunday morning, the angels asked them a penetrating question, “Why are you looking for a living Person in a place where there are dead people?” Then they began to stimulate their memory to get them to recall Christ’s words. Finally, we read, “THEN they remembered” (Luke 24:5-8). Then they had to choose to obey the word of God.
Ethan recalls God’s words and uses his “will” three in the opening two verses.
The disciples also could bank on Christ’s words, just as Ethan chose to bank on Jehovah’s words. The central part of Psalm 89 is God speaking: Check out His assurance in the “I will” statements within the quotation marks in verses 19-37. Then we are called to Selah to let that soak in.
Notice what radiates out from this foundational assurance:
- Ethan uses the pronouns You/Your 20 times in reference to God to assure us that God is in sovereign control (vv. 8b-14). Then he tells us of the blessings of God’s favor on our obedience to His word (vv. 15-18).
- On the other side of the central quotation from God, Ethan again uses the pronouns You/Your 13 times in vv. 38-45, but then he tells us of the blessing of God’s discipline on our disobedience.
- Radiating out further, Ethan asks seven questions—much like his brother Heman did in Psalm 88—in verses 5-8 and 46-48.
- Finally, we see the psalm both opening and closing with praising God as we remember His covenant word (vv. 1-4, 49-52).
Remember we said the darkness cannot prevail. The darkness is temporary (Romans 8:18) but Ethan repeatedly reminds us of God’s foreverness (vv. 1, 2, 4, 29, 52).
- The Selah after v. 4 is to pause in wonder at God’s words and break into rejoicing!
- The Selah after v. 37 is again to pause after remembering God’s covenant, and to reflect on our own obedience or disobedience.
- The Selah after v. 45 is a pause to mourn and repent from our disobedience.
- The Selah after v. 48 is to pause to reflect on the forgiveness purchased on Calvary and the eternal light and life that bought.
- Finally, v. 52 harkens back to v. 1 as the praise is restored and the cycle begins all over again. In fact, the praise of God’s light continues forever!
Heman and Ethan both remind us of this important truth—
My dark days are meant to get my attention. Are they dark because I live in an evil world, or because I have sinned? In either case, my only remedy is to rely on God’s covenant promise fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find a complete list by clicking here.
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