Appendix: Psalms that End with its Author Uncertain of the Outcome
In the chapter 8, the New Covenant, Dr. Belcher provides a very brief summary of Psalm 89, introduced by the section title: Where is God’s Covenant Faithfulness (Psalm 89)?
Where is God’s Covenant Faithfulness (Psalm 89)?
“Psalm 89 wrestles with these questions. It has three sections: a hymn to Yahweh for His faithfulness (89.1-18), a review of the promises of the Davidic Covenant (89.19-37), and a lament over the apparent failure of the promises to David in light of the condition of the monarchy (89.38-51). The song closes with a doxology (89.52) that marks the end of Book 3 of the Psalter (73-98).” [ch 8, pg 117, emphasis mine]
[It’s difficult to understand why Dr. Belcher’s treatment of Psalm 89 is found in his chapter 8 (the New Covenant) rather than the chapter 7 (the Davidic Covenant): it is, after all, a Psalm primarily about the Davidic Covenant.
An index search of the pages containing references to Psalm 89 direct us to the first reference (in chapter 8), which is that shown above. Moreover, it is introduced with the provocative title, Where is God’s Covenant Faithfulness (Psalm 89)? It is almost as if Dr. Belcher wanted implicitly to deemphasize the magnificence of the promises the LORD made to David because of the human doubts of Ethan the Ezrahite at the end of the Psalm.
Might this be because the glory of Psalm 89 and the certainty of the Divine promises to David do not fit well in the CT eschatology of the future of physical, national Israel?]
Dr. Belcher’s next two, and only mentions, of Psalm 89 in chapter 8 are here:
“The blessings to David (89.20-28) are also extended to his descendants (89.29-37), In line with the promise of 2 Samuel 7.36 that David's throne will last as long as the sun.” [ch 8, pg 118, emphasis mine]
“God's covenant commitment to the dynasty of David is expressed in 2 Samuel 7; but His promises appear to be in jeopardy in the destruction of Jerusalem, including the temple and the monarchy, in 587 BC Psalm 89.38-51.” [ch 8, pg 128, emphasis mine]
[Dr. Belcher does, in fact, mention Psalm 89 in chapter 7 (page 99), but its use there is only to establish that 2 Sam 7 is a covenant with David, though not yet asserted there as a covenant.]
Notice Dr. Belcher’s muted handling of Psa 89.29-37 and his emphasized handling of Psa 89.38-51: he appears to deliberately want to skip the amazing, divine reassurance the LORD gave to David in the former in favor of the latter casting of doubt upon its being fulfilled. This is not responsible biblical exposition.
Since Dr. Belcher wants, apparently, to skip those powerful verses, I supply them here:
“If his sons forsake My law
And do not walk in My judgments,
If they violate My statutes
And do not keep My commandments,
Then I will punish their transgression with the rod
And their iniquity with stripes.
“But I will not break off My lovingkindness from him,
Nor deal falsely in My faithfulness.
“My covenant I will not violate,
Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.
“Once I have sworn by My holiness;
I will not lie to David.
“His descendants shall endure forever
And his throne as the sun before Me.
“It shall be established forever like the moon,
And the witness in the sky is faithful.” Selah.
Is there anything in these words of the LORD which justify the use of the provocative title, “Where is God’s Covenant Faithfulness (Psalm 89)?” Absolutely not! To essentially skip these verses (attributed to the LORD!) in favor of the human doubts expressed by Ethan demonstrates an inexcusable bias against them. This, apparently, is the “exposition” of Covenant Theology. I find it disgusting.
Another way to demonstrate that an “expositor” should not look mostly/only at the ending of a Psalm when attempting to understand its purpose is to consider other Psalms which end on notes of doubt or uncertainty. These Psalms don’t – and can’t – demonstrate that the LORD is not absolutely reliable; He is trustworthy despite anything that we see happening around us. Rather, those Psalm are the honest, emotional expressions of their author, all under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They don't justify doubting; they show that as humans we don't always frame our prayers in the faith that the LORD requires. And they show that the LORD many times answers our prayers in spite of ourselves.
Below, I present Psalms which end with the author’s uncertainty. The Psalms I chose to examine are the Psalms of David, which are approximately one-half of the Psalms in the Book of Psalms; he was the man “after the LORD’s own heart”. (1 Sam 13.14, Act 13.22) His Psalms are inimitable, varied, beautiful, rich, expressive, humble and glorious. If we were to expect any Psalmist to end on an "up note", that Psalmist would be David. And this is certainly true most of the time; a small part of the time, the situation prompting the prayer attempts to obscure a rapid and obvious answer, with the result that the end of the Psalm reflects this situation.
Psalms Which End With Uncertainty
Of the known 75 Psalms attributed to David, these 10, all prayers, end with uncertainty of what/when the LORD will answer: 25, 35, 36, 38, 39, 40, 70, 86, 141 and143.
Each Psalm is primarily a prayer; each also ends with no clear assurance that the prayer has been answered. The Psalmist ends the prayer with a final, heartfelt entreaty, sometimes resembling desperation.
I encourage my readers to read each of these Psalms in their entirety. Then, determine what they teach us about prayer to a glorious and powerful LORD who can answer that prayer despite when it seems that no answer is coming, or whether the LORD can be trusted to answer prayer regardless of what we do or don’t see coming.
Dr. Belcher introduces his minimalistic interpretation of Psa 89 with this subtitle:
Where is God’s Covenant Faithfulness (Psalm 89)?
If we applied the same hermeneutic to the Psalms in this list, the subtitle would be:
The Psalmist Makes a Request to the LORD But Does not Receive an Answer.
That would be very wrong, of course, because that subtitle would completely misrepresent the entirety of the Psalm – just as Dr. Belcher misrepresented Psa 89 by giving deference to its uncertain ending rather than the full Psalm which sees the LORD’s mighty promises.
What follows are 10 Psalms of David in which he prays to the LORD. By the end of the Psalm, we don't see confident assertions — we see uncertainty. David does not know what the Almighty will do or when He will do something. But the point is that we don't have the option of essentially discounting the content of the prayer just because David was not certain when the answer would come. In my opinion, this is exactly what Dr. Belcher has done with Psalm 89: his amillennial bias provides the "theological cover" for a "fast and loose" interpretation of Psalm 89. After all, why concentrate on the extraordinary, direct and absolute statements of vv. 30-37 when one can concentrate on the doubts expressed by Ethan instead? Moreover, why not add these comments of doubt in chapter 8 (the New Covenant) instead of chapter 7 (the Davidic Covenant) where the comments would be much easier to obscure?
To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
O my God, in You I trust,
Do not let me be ashamed;
Do not let my enemies exult over me.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
For I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart are enlarged;
Bring me out of my distresses.
Look upon my affliction and my trouble,
And forgive all my sins.
Look upon my enemies, for they are many,
And they hate me with violent hatred.
Guard my soul and deliver me;
Do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You.
Let integrity and uprightness preserve me,
For I wait for You.
Redeem Israel, O God,
Out of all his troubles.
Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
Fight against those who fight against me.
Take hold of buckler and shield
And rise up for my help.
You have seen it, O Lord, do not keep silent;
O Lord, do not be far from me.
Stir up Yourself, and awake to my right
And to my cause, my God and my Lord.
Judge me, O Lord my God, according to Your righteousness,
And do not let them rejoice over me.
Do not let them say in their heart, “Aha, our desire!”
Do not let them say, “We have swallowed him up!”
Let those be ashamed and humiliated altogether who rejoice at my distress;
Let those be clothed with shame and dishonor who magnify themselves over me.
Let them shout for joy and rejoice, who favor my vindication;
And let them say continually, “The Lord be magnified,
Who delights in the prosperity of His servant.”
And my tongue shall declare Your righteousness
And Your praise all day long.
Transgression speaks to the ungodly within his heart;
There is no fear of God before his eyes.
For it flatters him in his own eyes
Concerning the discovery of his iniquity and the hatred of it.
O continue Your lovingkindness to those who know You,
And Your righteousness to the upright in heart.
Let not the foot of pride come upon me,
And let not the hand of the wicked drive me away.
There the doers of iniquity have fallen;
They have been thrust down and cannot rise.
O Lord, rebuke me not in Your wrath,
And chasten me not in Your burning anger.
For Your arrows have sunk deep into me,
And Your hand has pressed down on me.
For I am ready to fall,
And my sorrow is continually before me.
For I confess my iniquity;
I am full of anxiety because of my sin.
But my enemies are vigorous and strong,
And many are those who hate me wrongfully.
And those who repay evil for good,
They oppose me, because I follow what is good.
Do not forsake me, O Lord
O my God, do not be far from me!
Make haste to help me,
O Lord, my salvation!
I said, “I will guard my ways
That I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle
While the wicked are in my presence.” I
was mute and silent,
I refrained even from good,
And my sorrow grew worse.
“Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry;
Do not be silent at my tears;
For I am a stranger with You,
A sojourner like all my fathers.
“Turn Your gaze away from me, that I may smile again
Before I depart and am no more.”
I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
Many will see and fear
And will trust in the Lord.
Since I am afflicted and needy,
Let the Lord be mindful of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God.
O God, hasten to deliver me;
O Lord, hasten to my help!
But I am afflicted and needy;
Hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay.
Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me;
For I am afflicted and needy.
Preserve my soul, for I am a godly man;
O You my God, save Your servant who trusts in You.
O God, arrogant men have risen up against me,
And a band of violent men have sought my life,
And they have not set You before them.
But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Your strength to Your servant,
And save the son of Your handmaid.
Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,
Because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.
O Lord, I call upon You; hasten to me!
Give ear to my voice when I call to You!
May my prayer be counted as incense before You;
The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.
For my eyes are toward You, O God, the Lord;
In You I take refuge; do not leave me defenseless.
Keep me from the jaws of the trap which they have set for me,
And from the snares of those who do iniquity.
Let the wicked fall into their own nets,
While I pass by safely.
Hear my prayer, O Lord,
Give ear to my supplications!
Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!
And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
For in Your sight no man living is righteous.
Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me.
In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.
And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies
And destroy all those who afflict my soul,
For I am Your servant.