“Where are your former mercies, O Lord, which you swore to David in your faithfulness? . . . Remember the scorn with which . . . they have scorned the steps of your Anointed One. Blessed be the Lord forever! Amen and Amen” (Psalm 89:49,51,52).
“But you promised we’d go on a cruise this winter!”
“But you promised you’d clean your room!”
When others make a promise, we expect them to keep it. If they don’t, we remind them: “But you promised!”
Hold God to his promises
Ethan, the songwriter-author of Psalm 89, reminded God of his promises—promises to sustain King David and maintain his line of descendants. As far as Ethan could tell, God had either forgotten those promises or had changed his mind. The nation was going through a difficult time. Enemies had broken down and plundered their fortified cities. They mocked God’s anointed ruler, and Ethan too seemed to be suffering.
Despite these dire circumstances, God hadn’t changed his mind about his promises of love and protection to David and his people. “I will not alter what comes out of my lips,” said God through the psalmist (89:34). I love that verse. It reminds me that God is not like a kid on the playground who changes the rules mid-game for his own benefit.
God loves it when we hold him to his promises—not that he needs reminding.
When God makes a promise, he doesn’t say later, “Oh, I was only kidding,” or, “You shouldn’t have taken me so literally.” That’s why, when we’re in the midst of a rough patch and can’t see evidence of God’s mercy, we can cry: “But you promised, Lord!” God loves it when we hold him to his promises—not that he needs reminding. God has promised to work everything out for our eternal good, and he will.
Walk away refreshed
God doesn’t need our reminders, but something good happens to us when we hold God to his promises. Look how it made our songwriter, Ethan, change his tune. In verse 51, the psalmist laments the scorn being heaped on his king and says, “But you promised, Lord! Where are your mercies now?” Then, in the very next verse, he praises God! (Go ahead, read the verses again.) Why the abrupt change in attitude between the verses?
Well, I do something similar when my car starts to rattle and whine. I take it to a trusted mechanic and describe the problem. When I’m done “complaining” about my car, I leave it with the mechanic. I don’t pull out my little Home Depot tool kit and try to fix it myself. Nor do I give that expert mechanic advice. No, I trust that the mechanic will take care of my car. My problem has become his problem.
Isn’t that what the psalmist does in the closing verses of Psalm 89? After unloading his concerns to the Lord, he walks away refreshed. It’s not because his problems have suddenly disappeared but because he trusts that an expert is on the job! The best thing about this divine expert, the God of the Bible, is that he guarantees all his fix-it jobs. The empty tomb of Jesus makes that clear.
What promises has God made to you that he doesn’t seem to be keeping? First make sure they are his promises and not only what you imagined. He does promise great things. The Bible is full of them, including promises to provide your daily bread and promises to send his holy angels to protect you and your family. Then go ahead and say to God, “But you promised!” and hold him to those promises. Trust that the divine expert is on the job. And, like Ethan, walk away refreshed.
The Scripture references used in this article are from the Evangelical Heritage Version.
Author: Daniel Habben
Volume 107, Number 11
Issue: November 2020