The Language of Praise
(H) A Maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite. (1) I will sing of the steadfast love of Yahweh forever. With my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations, (2) for I have said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever. In the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.” (3) (You have said,) “I have made a covenant with my chosen one. I have sworn to David, my servant: (4) ‘I will establish your offspring forever and will build your throne for all generations.’” (Selah) (5) Let the heavens praise your wonders, Yahweh, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones, (6) for who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh? Who among the sons of the Mighty One is like Yahweh, (7) a God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who surround him? (8) Yahweh, God of Hosts, who is a mighty God like you, with your faithfulness surrounding you?
This opening segment of Psalm 89 is filled with repeated words and phrases, all in praise to Yahweh. Note how often God’s name occurs. “Yahweh” is found five times (in vss. 1 & 5, twice in vs. 6, and again in vs. 8). He is also called “the Mighty One” (vs. 6) and “God” three times (vss. 7 & 8).
Other repeated words include “steadfast love” (vss. 1 & 2), “forever” (vss. 1, 2, & 4), “your faithfulness” (vss. 1, 2, 5, & 8), “establish” (vss. 2 & 4) as well as the verb for “build” (vss. 2 & 4), “all generations” (vss. 1 & 4), “heavens” (vss. 2 & 5), and “holy ones” (vss. 5 & 7).
I. Declaring gratitude to Yahweh for the Davidic Covenant (1-4)
II. Delighting in Yahweh’s incomparable greatness and glory (5-8)
Yahweh’s loving faithfulness in establishing his covenant with David as well as his incomparable greatness should inspire our unceasing praise.
How can insignificant human beings offer meaningful praise to our immortal, incomparable God? Ethan the Ezrahite provides us with a helpful template for our worship as we begin this lengthy psalm. Note two characteristics of his praise in these eight verses that help us to see how we can likewise offer adoration that pleases God. First, the psalmist carefully structures his praise. He begins by expressing gratitude to God for his faithfulness specifically in establishing his covenant with David (vss. 1-4). He then broadens his focus to consider God’s character, extolling the uniqueness and awesomeness of his person (vss. 5-8). Forethought and planning can make our praise more meaningful both to God and to us as we seek to exalt him both for what he has done and for who he is.
A second characteristic of Ethan’s praise is his use of multiple synonyms to express his gratitude for all that God has done. Those who learn a new language must constantly work to increase their vocabulary. The more words we know, the better we are at expressing ourselves in our new tongue. The same holds true for the language of worship. The more terms and expressions we have at our disposal to describe the greatness of God and the wonders he has done, the more eloquent and lovely our praises will become. As is true with any language, the more we speak it, the better we become at expressing ourselves. As we develop our skill in declaring God’s praises in well thought out ways, the more capable we become in offering him “a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confess his name” (Heb. 13:15).