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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  

Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme: Standing Strong On God’s Promises

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus of this study is drawn from the first 18 verses of Psalm 89, which points us to the fact that the One whom we can depend on, even in the worst of times, is always just a prayer away!




Sept. 06

God’s Promise of Faithfulness


Sept. 13

God’s Promise of Eternal Life


Sept. 20

God’s Promise of Provision


Sept. 27

God’s Promise of Answered Prayer


Oct. 04

God’s Promise of Victory


Oct. 11

God’s Promise of a New Home



God is faithful in every circumstance.


Psalm 89:1-2,5-8,15-18





God’s Faithfulness Is A Cause For Praise (Ps. 89:1-2)

God’s Faithfulness Is Celebrated In Heaven (Ps. 89:5-8)

God’s Faithfulness Is Experienced By His Followers (Ps. 89:15-18)


Psalm 89 is a community lament written by Ethan the Ezrahite during a time of national crisis, the details of which are not provided.  The lament is that from all appearances God had rejected the everlasting covenant.  He had made with the house of David.  The nation felt abandoned, left to the devices of their evil neighbors and foes.  Nevertheless, the psalm begins by praising God for His faithfulness and power.  Therefore, the psalmist appealed to God to remember His covenant promises and to act in faithfulness to rescue God’s appointed ruler form his enemies.  Therein was the nation’s hope.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.


  We live in a society in which commitments and vows are regularly broken.  Circumstances and life situations change, and people walk away from a commitment or agreement.  Sometimes we “break faith” in a relationship simply because we’ve changed our minds or our feelings.  Fortunately, God is not like us.  God keeps His word to us, and Psalm 89 gives us cause to celebrate God’s faithfulness.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


God’s Faithfulness Is A Cause For Praise (Ps. 89:1-2)

1 I will sing about the Lord’s faithful love forever; I will proclaim Your faithfulness to all generations with my mouth.

2 For I will declare, “Faithful love is built up forever; You establish Your faithfulness in the heavens.”








1.   What comes to mind when you hear the word “faithful”?

2.   How do you think the psalmist viewed God’s faithfulness at this tragic time in the nation’s history?

3.   Based on verse 1, what does it tell us about the relationship the psalmist had with the Lord?

4.   Why can the mercies and faithfulness of which the psalmist spoke be counted on?

5.   What do you think would make a person sing about the Lord’s faithful love forever?

6.   Based on your relationship with God, what is your view of His faithfulness in every circumstance?

7.   Would you sing about the Lord’s faithful love forever?  If so, what makes you want to do that?

8.   What two attributes of the Lord are at the heart of verses 1-2?

9.   What commitment did the psalmist make concerning them (v. 1b)?

10.   What was his response to his assessment of God’s faithfulness?

11.   What do you think “I will proclaim Your faithfulness to all generations with my mouth.” Implies on the part of the believer?

12.   Do you think this rates a very high priority with most believers?  Why, or why not?

13.   What do you think the psalmist meant when he said that: “Faithful love is built up forever” (v. 2)?

14.   What do you think the psalmist meant when he wrote that the Lord established His “faithfulness in the heavens”?

15.   What are some everyday reminders of God’s faithfulness to you?

16.   How do you think a believer can develop an attitude of praise?

17.   How do you think living in an attitude of praise can transform a person’s life?

18.   What are some barriers that would keep a believer from developing an attitude of praise?


Lasting Lessons in Ps. 89:1-2:

1.  Devastating circumstances, nationally or individually, might call into question the accuracy of our understanding of God and His Work, but they never reflect the slightest lack of faithfulness on God’s part.

2.  God’s faithfulness is worth our certain, clear, and bold praise of Him.



God’s Faithfulness Is Celebrated In Heaven (Ps. 89:5-8)

5 Lord, the heavens praise Your wonders—Your faithfulness also—in the assembly of the holy ones.  6 For who in the skies can compare with the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord?  7 God is greatly feared in the council of the holy ones, more awe-inspiring than all who surround Him.  8 Lord God of Hosts, who is strong like You, Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds You.

1.   Based on verse 5, for what do the heavens praise God (v. 5)?

2.   What do you think makes up the assembly of the holy ones (v. 5)?  (See Digging Deeper.)

3.   What three questions did the psalmist ask (vv. 6,8)?

4.   What answer did he expect (vv. 6,8)?

5.   Why is God feared in heaven?

6.   What is the significance of the Lord being Lord God of Hosts (v. 8)?

7.   Who else joins the psalmist in giving praise to the Lord (v. 5)?

8.   For what do they praise Him (v. 5)?

9.   How did the psalmist establish that the Lord is superior to any of the beings of heaven?

10.   How do the beings of heaven respond to Him (v.7)?

11.   Do you think our praise of God is a reflection of the celebration that takes place continuously in heaven? 

12.   How do you think our earthly praise of God compares with what takes place in heaven?

13.   When have you felt a strong sense of God’s majesty and power?

14.   Do you think there is a connection between God’s majesty and His faithfulness?  If so, how would you describe it?

15.   Which of the questions in these verses do you find most compelling?

16.   As Christ’s followers, what are some ways you think we can experience God’s faithfulness?


Lasting Lessons in Ps. 89:5-8:

1.  Even the angels in heaven praise God.

2.  No heavenly being or so-called god compares favorable with the Lord.

3.  God’s faithfulness will be found every place God is found.



God’s Faithfulness Is Experienced By His Followers (Ps. 89:15-18)

15 Happy are the people who know the joyful shout; Yahweh, they walk in the light of Your presence.  16 They rejoice in Your name all day long, and they are exalted by Your righteousness.  17 For You are their magnificent strength; by Your favor our horn is exalted.  18 Surely our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

1.   What do you think the psalmist meant by v. 15a?

2.   What is the significance of walking in the light of God’s presence (v. 15b)?

3.   What is the implication for the believer for being able to walk in the light of God’s presence (v. 15b)?

4.   How do we move toward trusting God in every circumstance?

5.   What can God’s followers expect because of His loving faithfulness to them?

6.   What do you think the psalmist meant by a believer rejoicing in God’s name all day long (v. 16a)?

7.   What does it mean to be exalted by God’s righteousness (v. 16b)?

8.   How did the psalmist refer to the “king” in these verse?

9.   How would you describe God’s magnificent strength (v. 17a)?

10.   In what ways do you think these verses fit into the discussion about God’s mercy and faithfulness?

11.   What are some ways identified in these verses in which the people are blessed?

12.   What are some ways you have been blessed by God’s mercy and faithfulness?

13.   How would you explain the joy of fully trusting in Lord to a new believer? 

14.   Do you think this joy could be explained to a non-believer?  Why, or why not?

15.   What are some ways we can celebrate this joy in the midst of burdensome circumstances?

16.   What are some things you have to celebrate or rejoice over?

17.   What are some ways you can celebrate God’s mercy and faithfulness?

18.   What are some things that can hinder us from celebrating God’s mercy and faithfulness?

19.   What are some ways we can overcome the things that hinder our celebrating God’s mercy and faithfulness?



Lasting Lessons in Ps. 89:15-18:

  1.   God’s people have reason to celebrate God, even in the midst of burdensome circumstances.

  2.   All we have to celebrate or rejoice over, any honor or esteem that comes our way, all comes by means of God and His righteousness and faithfulness.

  3.   God is our strength, our shield, our protection.



  All of us have gone through some period of trial.  Some trials come because of the evil actions of others, some from living in a fallen world, and some because of our own poor choices and rebelliousness against the Lord and His Word.  During those times, we need something to provide us stability and give us hope.  God’s merciful love and faithfulness is a solid foundation.  Even if we displease Him and even though He may chastise us, He still is filled with mercy and overflowing with faithfulness in every circumstance. 

Even when trials come to you, don’t lose hope!  Remember you can stand firm on the truth that God is faithful in His love for you.  He will not forsake or abandon you in your time of need.  So, where do you stand when it comes to your reliance on Him when trials come your way?  When do you turn to Him?  Is He your first choice when you need help or only when you can’t resolve your dilemma yourself?  Rate your reliance on God on a scale of 1(last choice) to 10 (first choice) when trials come your way?  If He is not your first choice, what do you need to elevate Him to that position.  Ask Him for His help.  You know that He is faithful and just to respond to your need!

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version:  Ps. 89:1-2,5-8,15-18

1 I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.
For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.
For who in the heaven can be compared unto the LORD? who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the LORD?
God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.
O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee?

15 Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance.
16 In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.
17 For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted.
18 For the LORD is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king.

New International Version:  Ps. 89:1-2,5-8,15-18

I will sing of the LORD’S great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.
I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in heaven itself.

The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings?
In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him.
O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.

15 Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O LORD.
16 They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness.
17 For you are their glory and strength, and by your favor you exalt our horn.
18 Indeed, our shield belongs to the LORD,

New Living Translation:  Ps. 89:1-2,5-8,15-18

1  I will sing of the LORD’s unfailing love forever! Young and old will hear of your faithfulness.
2  Your unfailing love will last forever. Your faithfulness is as enduring as the heavens.
3  The LORD said, “I have made a covenant with David, my chosen servant. I have sworn this oath to him:
4  ‘I will establish your descendants as kings forever; they will sit on your throne from now until eternity.’” Interlude

 5 All heaven will praise your great wonders, LORD; myriads of angels will praise you for your faithfulness.
6  For who in all of heaven can compare with the LORD? What mightiest angel is anything like the LORD?
7  The highest angelic powers stand in awe of God. He is far more awesome than all who surround his throne.
8  O LORD God of Heaven’s Armies! Where is there anyone as mighty as you, O LORD? You are entirely faithful.
9  You rule the oceans. You subdue their storm-tossed waves.
10  You crushed the great sea monster. You scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
11  The heavens are yours, and the earth is yours; everything in the world is yours—you created it all.
12 You created north and south. Mount Tabor and Mount Hermon praise your name.
13 Powerful is your arm! Strong is your hand! Your right hand is lifted high in glorious strength.
14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne. Unfailing love and truth walk before you as attendants.
15 Happy are those who hear the joyful call to worship, for they will walk in the light of your presence, LORD.
16 They rejoice all day long in your wonderful reputation. They exult in your righteousness.
17 You are their glorious strength. It pleases you to make us strong.
18 Yes, our protection comes from the LORD, and he, the Holy One of Israel, has given us our king.


Lesson Outline — God’s Promise of Faithfulness” — Psalm 89:1-2,5-8,15-18




God’s Faithfulness Is A Cause For Praise (Ps. 89:1-2)

God’s Faithfulness Is Celebrated In Heaven (Ps. 89:5-8)

God’s Faithfulness Is Experienced By His Followers (Ps. 89:15-18)


(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament,The Treasury of David,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament:

Psalm 89:  Will You Reject Us Forever?

There is little agreement on the type or genre of the psalm. Depending on conclusions on date and nature of the compilation, scholars also vary on the interpretation of the function of the psalm. Dates vary from pre-722 B.C. to late postexilic. Some posit a liturgical use, whereas others view the psalmist as a borrower of earlier materials, refashioning them into a magnificent celebration of the Davidic monarchy and concluding with a prayer that the Lord soon may restore the dynasty of David. R.J. Clifford persuasively concludes in favor of the unity of the psalm as a psalm of lament. Timo Veijola concludes from vv. 25, 37, 43 that the psalm reflects the royal theology of David and may be dated no earlier than the seventh century B.C.

The psalm falls into three parts: (1) the Lord’s kingship (vv. 1-18); (2) the covenant with David (vv. 19-37); and (3) a lament (vv. 38-51). The concluding verse (v. 52) forms a doxological conclusion of the third book (Pss 73-89). The first section is in the form of a hymn, the second conforms to that of an oracle, whereas the last section is a lament. Though the psalmist may have made an original contribution, it is not unreasonable to propose that he may have fashioned existing elements into a new whole.

A Hymn of Yahweh’s Kingship (vv. 1-18) 

Individual Praise of Yahweh’s Kingship (89:1-2)  (NOTE: See all 18 verses in NLT above.)

89:1-2.  The theme of this portion of the psalm is in praise of the acts of the Lord’s “great love” (hesed plural in MT, v. 1). The love of God is constant (“faithful”), as promised and confirmed in the covenant (cf. v. 3; Isa 55:3). His commitment to David is further guaranteed by his rule over “heaven” (v. 2). The Lord has established his “faithfulness” to David far from the changes characteristic of this earthly scene. The future lies in God who himself has established his “love” and “faithfulness in heaven itself.”

Praise is also appropriate because God’s fidelity lasts “forever” and is therefore independent of man’s responsiveness. Though God holds man responsible (cf. vv. 30-32), ultimately the Lord will freely work out his acts of “love” and “faithfulness” (‘emunah). The promises (vv. 33-37), the acts of “love,” and the guarantee of fulfillment give rise to an outburst of song. The psalmist sings praise to the Lord, proclaiming (“make ... known,” v. 1; cf. 71:15; 109:30; 145:21) the Lord’s continuing fidelity (v. 1).

Yahweh’s Fidelity to David (89:3-4)

89:3-4.  Yahweh is committed to David, his “chosen one” (behiri) and “servant” (‘abdi). The former designation serves to emphasize the special relationship, as the king is elected by Yahweh himself to serve as his vassal (cf. 2 Sam 21:6b; Ps 106:23). The term “servant” emphasizes the special role of being Yahweh’s representative to the people (see 19:11). The king is elected by God for the sake of executing his will on earth (vv. 3, 20, 39, 50; cf. Pss 2; 72; 78:70-72; 2 Sam 7:5, 8, 19-21, 25-29).

The relationship between David and the Lord was guaranteed by “covenant” (berith), made by oath. Even when the party with whom the Lord makes the covenant breaks the terms, its binding nature obligates the Lord to fulfill its terms (cf. vv. 34-35). The pledge to David is also extended to his descendants (v. 4) and thereby to the future generations of subjects. The Lord himself will secure the rule of the Davidic dynasty. He will “establish” and “make firm” (cf. v. 2).

Heavenly Praise of Yahweh’s Kingship (89:5-8)

89:5-8.  The Lord has “established” his love “in heaven” (v. 2). Heaven is not jealous of the special privileges bestowed on David’s rule over the earth because it rejoices in God’s kingship. The rule of God is unquestioned by “the holy ones” (qedoshim vv. 5, 7; cf. 82:1), who are the “heavenly beings” (lit., “sons of God,” v. 6). They praise the Lord for his “wonders” (cf. 77:11; 88:10) and “faithfulness” (cf. v. 1).

The threefold rhetorical question—“who ... can compare,” “who is like,” and “who is like?” (vv. 6, 8)—forces a confession of the undisputable rights, sovereignty, and exaltation of Yahweh. He is “greatly feared,” “awesome,” and “mighty” (vv. 7-8). The heavenly hosts serve him willingly as he is “God Almighty” (“God of Hosts,” i.e., the sovereign over the heavenly armies; cf. 24:10; 59:5). The heavenly beings constantly stand in awe of the splendor of the Lord (v. 7). Since the heavenly beings inspire humans with awe (cf. Judg 13:22), how much more awesome is the Lord who inspires the heavenly beings with awe!

Yahweh’s Universal Rule (89:9-13)

89:9-13.  The power and constancy of Yahweh’s rule is also found on earth. His rule extends even to the wild and foaming sea, which in Canaanite mythology was under Baal’s control (cf. 46:2; 74:13). The sea, personified by the name “Rahab” (v. 10; cf. Job 26:12; Isa 51:9), is a fallen hero. Rahab, possibly identical with Leviathan (cf. 74:14; 104:26), represents any overt expression of hostility, such as that of the Egyptians (cf. 87:4; Isa 30:7; Ezek 29:3; 32:2), who were defeated at the Red Sea (cf. Exod 14:15). Yahweh’s power is unlimited whether at sea, in heaven, or on earth (vv. 10-11). His “love” (hesed) extends both to creation and to the messianic kingdom, represented by David. God’s acts in creation are correlative to his acts in salvation, or what von Rad calls a “soteriological understanding of creation.”

The Lord’s sovereignty over the earth was established at Creation. He created everything, that is, the extremities of “the north” (or Mount Zaphon, see 48:2) and “the south” (LXX, “the sea,” v. 12). Reference is particularly made to “[mounts] Tabor and Hermon.” Mount Hermon is located to the north of Israel’s northernmost tribe (Dan), reaches an altitude of nearly 10,000 feet, and has abundant sources of water that form streams and waterfalls (cf. 42:6). Some fifty miles to the southwest lies Tabor, which, at the height of only 1,800 feet, is nevertheless majestic in its own geographical landscape. These mounts join together with all creation in praising the Lord. All creation witnesses to his dominion, strength, and victorious rule, symbolized by “your strong arm,” “your arm,” “your hand,” and “your right hand” (vv. 10, 13; cf. Exod 15:6, 9, 12, 16). Creation too recognizes his sovereignty (cf. 1 Cor 10:26).

Yahweh’s Fidelity and Congregational Praise (89:14-18)

89:14.  Not only is the Lord’s rule characterized by strength, he is also wise and loving in his exercise of kingship. His rule is full of “righteousness and justice” (cf. 33:5; 97:2). There is no evil, injustice, or despotism in his rule. More than that, he is also full of “love and faithfulness” (cf. vv. 1, 8; 88:11; see appendix to Ps 25: The Perfections of Yahweh).

89:15-18.  The subjects of the Lord’s rule thrive under his administration. They are the “blessed” (v. 15; cf. 1:1) and join with creation in praise of the Redeemer (v. 16; cf. v. 12). Unlike creation the people of God benefit from his personal presence (“the light of your presence,” v. 15), his “righteousness” (v. 16), exaltation (“you exalt our horn,” v. 17), and his protection (“our shield belongs to the LORD, v. 18). The true subjects are those who have learned to exult in his name (vv. 15-16), rely on his favor (vv. 15-18), acknowledge his sovereignty (“our king,” v. 18), and respond to his holy presence (“the Holy One of Israel,” v. 18).

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers


The Treasury of David; Psalm 89:1-2,5-8,15-18

Verse 1.  I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever. A devout resolve, and very commendable when a man is exercised with great trouble on account of an apparent departure of the Lord from his covenant and promise. Whatever we may observe abroad or experience in our own persons, we ought still to praise God for his mercies, since they most certainly remain the same, whether we can perceive them or not. Sense sings but now and then, but faith is an eternal songster. Whether others sing or not, believers must never give over; in them should be constancy of praise, since God’s love to them cannot by any possibility have changed, however providence may seem to frown. We are not only to believe the Lord’s goodness, but to rejoice in it evermore; it is the source of all our joy; and as it cannot be dried up, so the stream ought never to fail to flow, or cease to flash in sparkling crystal of song. We have not one, but many mercies to rejoice in, and should therefore multiply the expressions of our thankfulness. It is Jehovah who deigns to deal out to us our daily benefits, and he is the all-sufficient and immutable God; therefore our rejoicing in him must never suffer diminution. By no means let his exchequer of glory be deprived of the continual revenue which we owe to it. Even time itself must not bound our praises—they must leap into eternity; he blesses us with eternal mercies—let us sing unto him forever. With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. The utterances of the present will instruct future generations. What Ethan sung is now a text-book for Christians, and will be so as long as this dispensation shall last. We ought to have an eye to posterity in all that we write, for we are the schoolmasters of succeeding ages. Ethan first spoke with his mouth that which he recorded with his pen—a worthy example of using both means of communication; the mouth has a warmer manner than the pen, but the pen’s speech lives longest, and is heard farther and wider. While reading this Psalm, such is the freshness of the style, that one seems to hear it gushing from the poet’s mouth; he makes the letters live and talk, or, rather, sing to us. Note, that in this second sentence he speaks of faithfulness, which is the mercy of God’s mercies—the brightest jewel in the crown of goodness. The grace of an unfaithful God would be a poor subject for music, but unchangeable love and immutable promises demand everlasting songs. In times of trouble it is the divine faithfulness which the soul hangs upon; this is the bower anchor of the soul, its holdfast, and its stay. Because God is, and ever will be, faithful, we have a theme for song which will not be out of date for future generations; it will never be worn out, never be disproved, never be unnecessary, never be an idle subject, valueless to mankind. It will also be always desirable to make it known, for men are too apt to forget it, or to doubt it, when hard times press upon them. We cannot too much multiply testimonies to the Lord’s faithful mercy—if our own generation should not need them others will: sceptics are so ready to repeat old doubts and invent new ones that believers should be equally prompt to bring forth evidences both old and new. Whoever may neglect this duty, those who are highly favoured, as Ethan was, should not be backward.

Verse 2.  For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever. His heart was persuaded of it, and he had affirmed it as an indisputable truth. He was certain that upon a sure foundation the Lord intended to pile up a glorious palace of goodness—a house of refuge for all people, wherein the Son of David should forever be glorified as the dispenser of heavenly grace. “Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. This divine edifice, he felt assured, would tower into the skies, and would be turreted with divine faithfulness even as its foundations were laid in eternal love. God’s faithfulness is nothing of earth, for here nothing is firm, and all things savour of the changes of the moon and the fickleness of the sea: heaven is the birthplace of truth, and there it dwells in eternal rigour. As the blue arch above us remains unimpaired by age, so does the Lord’s truth; as in the firmament he hangs his covenant bow, so in the upper heavens the faithfulness of God is enthroned in immutable glory. This Ethan said, and this we may say; come what will, mercy and faithfulness are built up by “the Eternal Builder,” and his own nature is the guarantee for their perpetuity. This is to be called to mind whenever the church is in trouble, or our own spirits bowed down with grief.

Verse 5.  And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord. Looking down upon what God had done, and was about to do, in connection with his covenant of grace, all heaven would be filled with adoring wonder. The sun and moon, which had been made tokens of the covenant, would praise God for such an extraordinary display of mercy, and the angels and redeemed spirits would sing, “as it were, a new song.” “Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. By which is probably intended the holy ones on earth. So that the “whole family in heaven and earth” would join in the praise. Earth and heaven are one in admiring and adoring the covenant God: Saints above see most clearly into the heights and depths of divine love, therefore, they praise its wonders; and saints below, being conscious of their many sins and multiplied provocations of the Lord, admire his faithfulness. The heavens broke forth with music at the wonders of mercy contained in the glad tidings concerning Bethlehem, and the saints who came together in the temple magnified the faithfulness of God at the birth of the Son of David. Since that auspicious day, the general assembly on high and the sacred congregation below have not ceased to sing unto Jehovah, the Lord that keepeth covenant with his elect.

Verse 6.  For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord; therefore all heaven worships him, seeing none can equal him. “Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?”—therefore the assemblies of the saints on earth adore him, seeing none can rival him. Until we can find one equally worthy to be praised, we will give unto the Lord alone all the homage of our praise. Neither among the sons of the morning nor the sons of the mighty can any peer be found for Jehovah, yea none that can be mentioned in the same day; therefore he is rightly praised. Since the Lord Jesus, both as God and as man, is far above all creatures, he also is to be devoutly worshipped. How full of poetic fire is this verse! How bold is the challenge! How triumphant the holy boasting! The sweet singer dwells upon the name of Jehovah with evident exultation; to him the God of Israel is God indeed and God alone. He closely follows the language long before rehearsed by Miriam, when she sang, “Who is like unto thee, O Jehovah, among the gods? Who is like thee?” His thoughts are evidently flying back to the days of Moses and the marvels of the Red Sea, when God was gloriously known by his incommunicable name; there is a ring of timbrels in the double question, and a sound as of the twinkling feet of rejoicing maidens. Have we no poets now? Is there not a man among us who can compose hymns flaming with this spirit? O, Spirit of the living God, be thou the inspirer of some master minds among us!

Verse 7.  God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints. The holiest tremble in the presence of the thrice Holy One; their familiarity is seasoned with the pro-foundest awe. Perfect love casts out the fear which hath torment, and works in lieu thereof that other fear which is akin to joy unutterable. How reverent should our worship be! Where angels veil their faces, men should surely bow in lowliest fashion. Sin is akin to presumptuous boldness, but holiness is sister to holy fear. “And to be had in reverence of all them that are about him. The nearer they are the more they adore. If mere creatures are struck with awe, the courtiers and favourites of heaven must be yet more reverent in the presence of the Great King. God’s children are those who most earnestly pray “hallowed be thy name.” Irreverence is rebellion. Thoughts of the covenant of grace tend to create a deeper awe of God, they draw us closer to him, and the more his glories are seen by us in that nearer access, the more humbly we prostrate ourselves before his Majesty.

Verse 8. “O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee? Or Jehovah, God of Hosts, who is like thee, Mighty Jah. Alexander remarks, that the infinite superiority of God to men and angels is here expressed, or rather indicated, by an accumulation of descriptive titles. Here we have the name which displays his self-existence, the title which denotes his dominion over all his creatures, and an adjective which sets forth the power with which he exercises his sovereignty. Yet this great and terrible God has entered into covenant with men! Who would not reverence him with deepest love? “Or to thy faithfulness round about thee. He dwells in faithfulness; it is said to be the girdle of the loins of his only-begotten Son, who is the express image of his person. None in all creation is faithful as he is; even his angels might prove faithless if he left them to themselves, but he cannot “lie unto David,” or forget to keep his oath. Men often fail in truth because their power is limited, and then they find it easier to break their word than to keep it; but the strong Jehovah is equal to all his engagements, and will assuredly keep them. Unrivalled might and unparalleled truth are wedded in the character of Jehovah. Blessed be his name that it is so.

Verse 15.  Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound. He is a blessed God of whom the Psalmist has been singing, and therefore they are a blessed people who partake of his bounty, and know how to exult in his favour. Praise is a peculiarly joyful sound, and blessed are those who are familiar with its strains. The covenant promises have also a sound beyond measure precious, and they are highly favoured who understand their meaning and recognise their own personal interest in them, There may also be a reference here to the blowing of trumpets and other gladsome noises which attended the worship of Jehovah, who, unlike the gods of the heathen was not adored by the shrieks of wretched victims, or the yells and outcries of terror-stricken crowds, but by the joyful shouts of his happy people. “They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. For them it is joy enough that Jehovah is favourable to them; all day long this contents them and enables them with vigour to pursue their pilgrimage. Only a covenant God could look with favour upon men, and those who have known him in that relationship learn to rejoice in him, yea, to walk with him in fellowship, and to continue in communion with him we give God our ear and hear the joyful sound, he will shew us his face and make us glad. While the sun shines, men walk without stumbling as to their feet, and when the Lord smiles on us we live without grief as to our souls.

Verse 16.  In thy name shall they rejoice all the day. And good cause they have for so doing, for to the soul which, in Christ Jesus, has entered into covenant with God, every attribute is a fountain of delight. There is no hour in the day, and no day in our life, in which we may not rejoice in the name, person, and character of the Lord. We need no other reason for rejoicing. As philosophers could make merry without music, so can we rejoice without carnal comforts; the Lord All-sufficient is an all-sufficient source of joy. “And in thy righteousness, shall they be exalted. By the Lord’s righteous dealings the saints are uplifted in due time, however great may have been the oppression and the depression from which they may have suffered. In the righteousness which the covenant supplies, which is entirely of the Lord, believers are set on high, in a secure and blessed position, so that they are full of sacred happiness. If God were unjust, or if he regarded us as being without righteousness, we must be filled with misery, but as neither of these things is so, we are exalted indeed, and would extol the name of the Lord.

Verse 17.  For thou art the glory of their strength. Surely in the Lord Jehovah have we both righteousness and strength. He is our beauty and glory when we are strong in him, as well as our comfort anti sustenance when we tremble because of conscious weakness in ourselves. No man whom the Lord makes strong may dare to glory in himself, he must ascribe all honour to the Lord alone; we have neither strength nor beauty apart from him. “And in thy favour our horn shall be exalted. By the use of the word our the Psalmist identifies himself with the blessed people, and this indicates how much sweeter it is to sing in the first person than concerning others. May we have grace to claim a place among those in covenant with God, in Christ Jesus, for then a sense of divine favour will make us also bold and joyous. A creature full of strength and courage lifts up its horn, and so also does a believer become potent, valiant, and daring. The horn was an eastern ornament, worn by men and women, or at least is so at this day, and by the uplifting of this the wearer showed himself to be in good spirits, and in a confident frame of mind: we wear no such outward vanities, but our inward soul is adorned and made bravely triumphant when the favour of God is felt by us. Worldly men need outward prosperity to make them lift up their heads, but the saints find more than enough encouragement in the secret love of God.

Verse 18.  For the Lord is our defence. Whoever else may defend us, he is our ultimate Defender and Shield. “And the Holy One of Israel is our king. He who protects should govern, our defender should be acknowledged as our king. Kings are called the shields of nations, and the God of Israel is both our Ruler and Defence. Another sense may be that Israel’s defender and king was of the Lord, belonging to him and sent by him; even the protectors of the land being themselves protected by the Lord. The title “the Holy One of Israel” is peculiarly delightful to the renewed heart. God is one, we worship none beside. He is holiness itself, the only being who can be called “the Holy One,” and in his perfection of character we see the most excellent reason for our faith. He who is holy cannot break his promises, or act unjustly concerning his oath and covenant. Moreover, he is the Holy One of Israel, being specially the God of his own elect, ours by peculiar ties, ours forever and ever. Who among the saints will not rejoice in the God of election? Are they not indeed a people greatly blessed who can call this God their God forever and ever?

SOURCE: The Treasury of David; Psalms 58-110; by C. H. Spurgeon; Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc., PO Box 100, Hiawatha, Iowa.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: (NOTE: See all 18 verses in NLT above.)

Psalm 89.  The foundation of this Psalm is the promise in 2 Sam. 7, which guaranteed the perpetuity of the Davidic kingdom. Many of the characteristic phrases of the prophecy recur here—the promises that the children of wickedness shall not afflict them and that the transgressions of David’s descendants should be followed by chastisement only, not by rejection. The contents of Nathan’s oracle are first given in brief in vv. 3f and again in detail and with poetic embellishments in vv. 19-37.

The complaint and petitions of the latter part are the true burden of the Psalm, to which the celebration of divine attributes in vv. 1-18 and the expansion of the fundamental promise in vv. 19-37 are meant to lead up. The attributes specified are those of faithfulness (vv. 1f, 5, 8, 14) and of power, which render the fulfillment of God’s promises certain. By such contemplations, the psalmist would fortify himself against the whispers of doubt, which were beginning to make themselves heard in his mind and would find in the character of God both assurance that his promise shall not fail and a powerful plea for his prayer that it may not fail.

The structure of the Psalm can scarcely be called strophical. There are three well-marked turns in the flow of thought: first, the hymn to the divine attributes (vv. 1-18); second, the expansion of the promise, which is the basis of the monarchy (vv. 19-37); and, finally, the lament and prayer that God would be true to his attributes and promises in view of present afflictions (vv. 38-51). For the most part, the verses are grouped in pairs which are occasionally lengthened into triplets.

89:1-2. The psalmist begins with announcing the theme of his song—the steadfast love and faithfulness of God. Surrounded by disasters, which seem in violent contradiction to God’s promise to David, he falls back on thoughts of the mercy which gave it and the faithfulness which will surely accomplish it. The resolve to celebrate these in such circumstances argues a faith victorious over doubt and a faith putting forth energetic efforts to maintain itself. This bird can sing in mid-winter. True, the song has other notes than joyous ones, but they, too, extol God’s steadfast love and faithfulness even while they seem to question them. Self-command, which insists on a man’s averting his thoughts from a gloomy outward presence to gaze on God’s loving purpose and unalterable veracity, is no small part of practical religion. The psalmist will sing because he said that these two attributes were ever in operation and lasting as the heavens. “Mercy shall be built up forever,” its various manifestations being conceived as each being a stone in the stately building which is in continual course of progress through all ages and can never be completed, since fresh stones will continually be laid as long as God lives and pours forth his blessings. Much less can it ever fall into ruin, as impatient sense would persuade the psalmist that it is doing in his day. The parallel declaration as to God’s faithfulness takes the heavens as the type of duration and immobility and conceives that attribute to be eternal and fixed, as they are. These convictions could not burn in the psalmist’s heart without forcing him to speak. Lover, poet and devout man, in their several ways, feel the same necessity of utterance. Not every Christian can sing, but all can and should speak. They will, if their faith is strong.

89:3-5.  The divine promise on which the Davidic throne rests is summed up in the abruptly introduced pair of verses (vv. 3f). That promise is the second theme of the Psalm; and just as the overture in some great musical composition sounds for the first time phrases which are to be recurrent and elaborated in the sequel, so its ruling thoughts are briefly put in the first four verses of the Psalm. Verses 1f stand first, but are second in time to vv. 3f. God’s oracle preceded the singer’s praise. The language of these two verses echoes the original passage in 2 Sam. 7, as in “David my servant,” “establish, forever” and “build,” expressions which were used in v. 2, with a view to their recurrence in v. 4. The music keeps before the mind the perpetual duration of David’s throne.

89:6-8.  In vv. 6-18, the psalmist sets forth the power and faithfulness of God, which ensure the fulfillment of his promises. He is the incomparably great and terrible God Who subdues the mightiest forces of nature and tames the proudest nations (vv. 9f), Who is Maker and Lord of the world (vv. 11f), Who rules with power, but also with righteousness, faithfulness and grace (vv. 13f), and Who, therefore, makes his people blessed and safe (vv. 15-18). Since God is such a God, his promise cannot remain unfulfilled. Power and willingness to execute it to the last tittle are witnessed by heaven and earth, by history and experience. Dark as the present may be, it would, therefore, be folly to doubt for a moment.

The psalmist begins his contemplations of the glory of the divine nature with figuring the very heavens as vocal with his praise. Not only the object, but the givers of that praise are noteworthy. The heavens are personified, as in Ps. 19, and from their silent depths comes music. There is One higher, mightier, older, more unperturbed, pure and enduring than they, Whom they extol by their luster which they owe to Him. They praise God’s “wonder” (which here means not so much his marvelous acts, as the wonderfulness of his being, his incomparable greatness and power) and his faithfulness, the two guarantees of the fulfillment of his promises. Nor are the visible heavens his only praisers. The holy ones, sons of the mighty—the angels—bow before Him Who is high above their holiness and might and own Him for God alone.

89:9-18.  With v. 9, the hymn descends to earth and magnifies God’s power and faithfulness as manifested there. The sea is, as always, the emblem of rebellious tumult. Its insolence is calmed by Him. And the proudest of the nations, such as Rahab (“Pride,” a current name for Egypt), had cause to own his power when He brought the waves of the sea over her hosts, thus in one act exemplifying his sovereign sway over both nature and nations. He is Maker and therefore Lord of heaven and earth. In all quarters of the world, his creative hand is manifest, and his praise sounds. Tabor and Hermon may stand, as the parallelism requires, for west and east, although some suppose that they are simply named as conspicuous summits. They “shall rejoice in thy name” is an expression like that used in v. 16 in reference to Israel. The poet thinks of the softly swelling Tabor with its verdure and of the lofty Hermon with its snows, as sharing in that gladness and praising Him to Whom they owe their beauty and majesty. Creation vibrates with the same emotions which thrill the poet. The sum of all the preceding is gathered up in v. 13, which magnifies the might of God’s arm.

But more blessed still for the psalmist in the midst of national gloom is the other thought of the moral character of God’s rule. His throne is broad-based upon the sure foundation of righteousness and justice. The pair of attributes always closely connected—namely, steadfast love and faithfulness—are here, as frequently, personified. They “go before thy face,” that is, in order to present themselves before Him. “The two genii of the history of redemption (Ps. 43:3) stand before his countenance, like attendant maidens, waiting the slightest indication of his will”.

Since God is such a God, his Israel is blessed, whatever its present plight. So the psalmist closes the first part of his song with rapturous celebration of the favored nation’s prerogatives. “The festal shout” or “the trumpet-blast” is probably the music at the festivals (Num. 23:21; 31:6), and “those who know it” means “those who are familiar with the worship of this great God.” The elements of their blessedness are then unfolded. “They walk in the light of thy countenance.” Their outward life is passed in continual happy consciousness of the divine presence, which becomes to them a source of gladness and guidance. “In thy name shall they rejoice all the day.” God’s self-manifestation, and the knowledge of Him which arises therefrom, become the occasion of a calm, perpetual joy, which is secure from change, because its roots go deeper than the region where change works. “In thy righteousness shall they be exalted.” Through God’s strict adherence to his Covenant, not by any power of their own, shall they be lifted above foes and fears. “Thou art the glory of their strength.” In themselves they are weak, but God, not any arm of flesh, is their strength, and by possession of Him they are not only clothed with might, but resplendent with beauty. Human power is often unlovely; God-given strength is, like armor inlaid with gold, ornament as well as defense. “In thy favour our horn shall be exalted.” The psalmist identifies himself at last with the people whose blessedness he has so glowingly celebrated. He could keep up the appearance of distinction no longer. “They” gives place to “we” unconsciously, as his heart swells with the joy which he paints. Depressed as he and his people are for the moment, he is sure that there is lifting up. The emblem of the lifted horn is common, as expressive of victory. The psalmist is confident of Israel’s triumph, because he is certain that the nation, as represented by and, as it were, concentrated in its king, belongs to God, Who will not lose what is his. The rendering of v. 18 in the KJV cannot be sustained. “Defence” in the first clause is parallel with “our king” in the second, and the meaning of both clauses is that the king of Israel is God’s, and therefore, secure. That ownership rests on the promise to David, and on it, in turn, is rested the psalmist’s confidence that Israel and its king are possessed of a charmed life and shall be exalted, however now abject and despondent.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.



Key Words:  The holy ones (v. 5)—In the Old Testament, holy ones is a reference to angelic beings. In the New Testament, it refers to believers, who are called “saints” (literally, “holy ones”).

Hosts (v. 8)—Hosts is another term for armies. The heavenly hosts are the armies of heaven.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Key Word: Horn (v. 17)—Horn is a symbol of power taken from the animal kingdom. In biblical poetry and apocalyptic language, horns are used to symbolize persons of power, usually kings.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

ETHAN (ee' thahn):  Personal name meaning, “long-lived.” 1. A man so famous for his wisdom that Solomon’s outstanding wisdom could be described as exceeding Ethan’s (1 Kings 4:31). Ezralite may indicate Ethan was at home in Canaan before Israel entered, though this is uncertain. See Ezrahite. A list similar to 1 Kings 4:31 appears among the descendants of Judah in 1 Chronicles 2:6, 8. 2. A Levite and Temple singer (1 Chron. 6:42, 44; 15:17) and instrumentalist (1 Chron. 15:19). He is associated with Psalms 88 and 89 in their titles.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

ETHAN ē´than (אֵיתָןʼēthān, “firm,” “enduring”; ΓαιθάνGaithán): (1) A wise man with whom Solomon is compared (1 Ki 4:31). Called there “Ethan the Ezrahite,” to whom the title of Ps 89 ascribes the authorship of that poem. (2) A “son of Kishi,” or “Kishaiah,” of the Merari branch of the Levites, and, along with Heman and Asaph, placed by David over the service of song (1 Ch 6:44; 15:17, 19). See JEDUTHUN. (3) An ancestor of Asaph of the Gershomite branch of the Levites (1 Ch 6:42).

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

EZRAHITE (ehz' ruh hite):  A term used to describe the family relationships of Ethan, a famous wise man (1 Kings 4:31). The precise meaning of the Hebrew word is debated. It may mean one born in the land with full citizenship rights and point to a Canaanite origin for Ethan. A related word appears in Exodus 12:19, 49; Leviticus 17:15; Joshua 8:33, and other places.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

EZRAHITE  ez´ra-hı̄t (אֶזְרָחִיʼezrāḥı̄ἈσεβώνAsebō̇n): Found in 1 Ki 4:31; Psalms 88; 89, titles; from which it appears that the word is a patronymic for Ethan and Heman. It may be derived from Zerah, instead of Ezrah, seeing that there were an Ethan and a Heman who were descendants of Zerah, head of a Judahite family (1 Ch 2:6). There were also an Ethan and a Heman who were Levites (1 Ch 15:17).

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

FAITHFUL; FAITHFULNESS:  Faithfulness is a quality or attribute applied in the Scripture to both God and man. This article is limited to the consideration of the Scripture teaching concerning the meaning of faithfulness in its application to God. Faithfulness is one of the characteristics of God’s ethical nature. It denotes the firmness or constancy of God in His relations with men, especially with His people. It is, accordingly, one aspect of God’s truth and of His unchangeableness. God is true not only because He is really God in contrast to all that is not God, and because He realizes the idea of Godhead, but also because He is constant or faithful in keeping His promises, and therefore is worthy of trust (see TRUTH). God, likewise, is unchangeable in His ethical nature. This unchangeableness the Scripture often connects with God’s goodness and mercy, and also with His constancy in reference to His covenant promises, and this is what the Old Testament means by the Faithfulness of God.

1. Faithfulness of God in the Old Testament:

 In the Old Testament this attribute is ascribed to God in passages where the Hebrew words denoting faithfulness do not occur. It is implied in the covenant name Yahweh as unfolded in Ex 3:13-15, which not only expresses God’s self-existence and unchangeableness, but, as the context indicates, puts God’s immutability in special relation to His gracious promises, thus denoting God’s unchangeable faithfulness which is emphasized in the Old Testament to awaken trust in God (Dt 7:9; Ps 36:5 (Hebrew 6); Isa 11:5; Hos 12:6, 9). It is, moreover, God’s faithfulness as well as His immutability which is implied in those passages where God is called a rock, as being the secure object of religious trust (Dt 32:4, 15; Ps 18:2 (Hebrew 3); 42:9 (Hebrew 10); Isa 17:10, etc.). This same attribute is also implied where God reveals Himself to Moses and to Israel as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their fathers’ God (Ex 3:6, 15, 16). The truth concerning God here taught is not simply that He stood in a gracious relation to the Patriarchs, but that He is faithful to His gracious promise to their fathers, and that what He was to them He will continue to be to Moses and to Israel. This is the fundamental idea in the Old Testament concerning the faithfulness of God.

This can be seen also from the Hebrew words which are used to express this quality of God’s nature and activity. These words are neʼĕmān, the Niphal participle of the verb ʼāman used as an adjective—“faithful”—and the nouns ʼĕmeth and  ʼĕmūnāȟ—“faithfulness.” The verbal stem ʼāman means “to be secure or firm.” In the Ḳal it denotes the firmness of that which supports something, being used in the participle of a nurse who carries a child (Nu 11:12; 2 Sam 4:4; Isa 49:23). In the Niphal it denotes the firmness of that which is supported, for example, a child which is carried (Isa 60:4); a well-founded house (1 Sam 2:35; 25:28); a wall which firmly holds a nail (Isa 22:23, 15); a kingdom firmly established (2 Sam 7:16); persons secure in political station (Isa 7:9); a heart which is faithful (Neh 9:8). Hence, in the Niphal the verb comes to have the meaning of being true in the sense of the agreement of words and assertions with reality; for example, of words and revelations (Gen 42:20; Hos 5:9); and of persons (Isa 8:2; Jer 42:5). It has also the meaning of being faithful, being applied to men in Nu 12:7; Ps 101:6; Neh 13:13, etc. In this sense the term is applied to the covenant-keeping Yahweh to express the truth that He is firm or constant, that is, faithful in regard to His covenant promises, and will surely fulfill them (Dt 7:9; Isa 49:7; and possibly Hos 11:12 (Hebrews 12:1)).

A similar use is made of the nouns ʼĕmeth and ʼĕmūnāȟ. Apart from the instances where הʼemeth denotes the idea of truth or the correspondence of words and ideas with reality, and the instances where it denotes the agreement of acts and words with the inner disposition, that is, sincerity, it is also used to denote the idea of faithfulness as above defined. As regards the noun ʼĕmūnāh, apart from a few passages where it is doubtful whether it means truth or faithfulness, it usually denotes the latter idea. Both these nouns, then, are used to signify the idea of faithfulness, that is, constancy or firmness, especially in the fulfillment of all obligations. In this sense these words are not only applied to men, but also to God to express the idea that He is always faithful to His covenant promises. It is this attribute of God which the Psalmist declares (Ps 40:10 (Hebrew 11)), and the greatness of which he affirms by saying that God’s faithfulness reacheth to the clouds (Ps 36:5 (Hebrew 6)). It is this which he makes the object of praise (Ps 89:1, 2 (Hebrew 2, 3); Ps 92:2 (Hebrew 3)); and which he says should be praised and reverenced by all men (Ps 89:5, 8 (Hebrew 6, 9)). And even this faithfulness is itself characterized by constancy, if we may so speak, for the Psalmist says that it endures to all generations (Ps 100:5). Being thus a characteristic of God, it also characterizes His salvation, and becomes the basis of confidence that God will hear prayer (Ps 143:1). It thus becomes the security of the religious man (Ps 91:4); and the source of God’s help to His people (Ps 31:5 (Hebrew 6)). Accordingly in the teaching of prophecy, the salvation of the covenant people rests upon no claim or merit of their own, but solely upon Yahweh’s mercy, grace and faithfulness. When Israel incurred God’s judgments, it might have appeared as if His promise was to fail, but, so far from this being true, as Yahweh, He is faithful to His word of promise which stands forever (Isa 40:8). Even from eternity His counsels are characterized by faithfulness and truth (Isa 25:1); and this is not because of Israel’s faithfulness, but it is for His own sake that Yahweh blotteth out their transgressions (Isa 43:22-25; Mic 7:18-20). It is, moreover, this same characteristic of Yahweh which is asserted in many cases where the Hebrew words ʼĕmeth and ʼĕmūnāh are translated by the word “truth” in the King James Version. In Ex 34:6 it is God’s faithfulness (ʼĕmeth) which is referred to, since it evidently signifies His constancy from generation to generation; and in Dt 32:4 it is also God’s faithfulness (ʼĕmūnāh) which is mentioned, since it is contrasted with the faithlessness of Israel. The same is true of ʼĕmeth in Mic 7:20; Ps 31:5 (Hebrew 6)); 91:4; 146:6. This is also true of the numerous instances where God’s mercy and truth (ʼĕmeth) are combined, His mercy being the source of His gracious promises, and His truth the faithfulness with which He certainly fulfills them (Ps 25:10; 57:3 (Hebrew 4); 61:7 (Hebrew 8); 85:10 (Hebrew 11); 86:15). And since the covenant-keeping Yahweh is faithful, faithfulness comes also to be a characteristic of the New Covenant which is everlasting (Ps 89:28 (Hebrew 29)); compare also for a similar thought, Isa 54:8ff; Jer 31:35ff; Hos 2:19 f; Ezek 16:60ff.

It is in this connection, moreover, that God’s faithfulness is closely related to His righteousness in the Old Testament. In the second half of the prophecy of Isaiah and in many of the psalms, righteousness is ascribed to God because He comes to help and save His people. Thus righteousness as a quality parallel with grace, mercy and faithfulness is ascribed to God (Isa 41:10; 42:6; 45:13,  19, 21; 63:1). It appears in these places to widen out from its exclusively judicial or forensic association and to become a quality of God as Saviour of His people. Accordingly this attribute of God is appealed to in the Psalms as the basis of hope for salvation and deliverance (Ps 31:1 (Hebrew 2); 35:24; 71:2; 143:11). Hence, this attribute is associated with God’s mercy and grace (Ps 36:5 (Hebrew 6); 36:9 (Hebrew 10); 89:14 (Hebrew 15)); also with His faithfulness (Zec 8:8; Ps 36:6 (Hebrew 7)); Ps 40:10 (Hebrew 11); 88:11, 12 (Hebrew 12, 13); 89:14 (Hebrew 15); 96:13; 119:137, 142; 143:1). Accordingly the Old Testament conception of the righteousness of God has been practically identified with His covenant faithfulness, by such writers as Kautzsch, Riehm and Smend, Ritschl’s definition of it being very much the same. Moreover, Ritschl, following Diestel, denied that the idea of distributive and retributive justice is ascribed to God in the Old Testament. In regard to this latter point, it should be remarked in passing that this denial that the judicial or forensic idea of righteousness is ascribed to God in the Old Testament breaks down, not only in view of the fact that the Old Testament does ascribe this attribute to God in many ways, but also in view of the fact that in a number of passages the idea of retribution is specifically referred to the righteousness of God.

That which concerns us, however, in regard to this close relation between righteousness and faithfulness is to observe that this should not be pressed to the extent of the identification of righteousness with covenant faithfulness in these passages in the Psalms and the second half of Isa. The idea seems to be that Israel has sinned and has no claim upon Yahweh, finding her only hope of deliverance in His mercy and faithfulness. But this very fact that Yahweh is merciful and faithful becomes, as it were, Israel’s claim, or rather the ground of Israel’s hope of deliverance from her enemies. Hence, in the recognition of this claim of His people, God is said to be righteous in manifesting His mercy and faithfulness, so that His righteousness, no less than His mercy and faithfulness, becomes the ground of His people’s hope. Righteousness is thus closely related in these cases to faithfulness, but it is not identified with it, nor has it in all cases lost entirely its forensic tone. This seems to be, in general, the meaning of righteousness in the Psalms and the second half of Isaiah, with which may also be compared Mic 6:9; Zec 8:8.

The emphasis which this attribute of God has in the Old Testament is determined by the fact that throughout the whole of the Old Testament the covenant relation of Yahweh to His people is founded solely in God’s grace, and not on any merit of theirs. If this covenant relation had been based on any claim of Israel, faithfulness on God’s part might have been taken for granted. But since Yahweh’s covenant relation with Israel and His promises of salvation spring solely from, and depend wholly upon, the grace of God, that which gave firm assurance that the past experience of God’s grace would continue in the future was this immutable faithfulness of Yahweh. By it the experience of the fathers was given a religious value for Israel from generation to generation. And even as the faithfulness of God bridged over the past and the present, so also it constituted the connecting link between the present and the future, becoming thus the firm basis of Israel’s hope; compare Ps 89 which sets forth the faithfulness of God in its greatness, its firmness as the basis of the covenant and the ground it affords of hope for future help from Yahweh, and for hope that His covenant shall endure forever. When God’s people departed from Him all the more emphasis was put upon His faithfulness, so that the only hope of His wayward people lay not only in His grace and mercy but also in His faithfulness, which stands in marked contrast with the faithlessness and inconstancy of His people. This is probably the meaning of the difficult verse Hos 11:12 (Hebrews 12:1).

2. Faithfulness of God in the New Testament Literature:

 In the New Testament teaching concerning the faithfulness of God the same idea of faithfulness to His gracious promises is emphasized and held up as the object of a confident trust in God. This idea is usually expressed by the adjective pistós, and once by the noun ́stis, which more frequently has the active sense of faith or trust.

An attempt has been made by Wendt (SK, 1883, 511 f; Teaching of Jesus, English translation, I, 259 f) to interpret the words alḗtheia and alēthḗs in many instances, especially in the Johannine writings, as denoting faithfulness and rectitude, after the analogy of the Septuagint rendering éleos kaı́ alḗtheia for the Hebrew phrase “mercy and truth,” in which truth is equivalent to faithfulness. But the most that could be inferred from the fact that the Septuagint uses the word alētheia to translate the Hebrew word ʼĕmeth, and in about one-half the cases where ʼĕmūnāh occurs, would be that those Greek words might have been prepared for such a use in the New Testament. But while it is true that there is one usage of these words in John’s writings in an ethical sense apparently based on the Old Testament use of ʼĕmeth and ʼĕmūnāh, the Greek words do not have this meaning when employed to denote a characteristic of God. Neither is the adjective alēthinós so used.

In the Epistles of Paul the word alētheia occurs quite frequently to denote the truth revealed by God to man through reason and conscience, and to denote the doctrinal content of the gospel. In two passages, however, the words alēthēs and alētheia seem to signify the faithfulness of God (Rom 3:4, 7; 15:8). In the former passage Paul is contrasting the faithfulness of God with the faithlessness of men, the word alēthēs, 3:4, and alētheia, 3:7, apparently denoting the same Divine characteristic as the word pistis, 3:3. In the latter passage (Rom 15:8), the vindication of God’s covenant faithfulness, through the realization of His promises to the fathers, is declared to have been the purpose of the ministry of Jesus Christ to the Jews.

This faithfulness of God to His covenant promises is frequently emphasized by Paul, the words he employs being the noun pistis (once) and the adjective: pistos. The noun pistis is used once by Paul in this sense (Rom 3:3ff). In this place Paul is arguing that the unbelief of the Jews cannot make void God’s faithfulness. Both Jew and Gentile , the apostle had said, are on the same footing as regards justification. Nevertheless the Jews had one great advantage in that they were the people to whom the revelation of God’s gracious promises had been committed. These promises will certainly be fulfilled, notwithstanding the fact that some of the Jews were unfaithful, because the fulfillment of these promises depends not on human conduct but on the faithfulness of God, which cannot be made void by human faithlessness and unbelief. And to the supposition that man’s faithlessness could make of none effect God’s faithfulness, Paul replies ‘let God be faithful (alēthēs) and every man a liar’ (Rom 3:4), by which Paul means to say that in the fulfillment of God’s promises, in spite of the fact that men are faithless, the faithfulness of God will be abundantly vindicated, even though thereby every man should be proven untrue and faithless. And not only so, but human faithlessness will give an opportunity for a manifestation of the faithfulness (alētheia) of God, abounding to His glory (Rom 3:7). God’s faithfulness here is His unchangeable constancy and fidelity to His covenant promises; and it is this fidelity to His promises, or the fact that God’s gracious gifts and election are without any change of mind on His part, which gave to Paul the assurance that all Israel should finally be saved (Rom 11:25-29). Moreover this covenant faithfulness of God is grounded in His very nature, so that Paul’s hope of eternal life rests on the fact that God who cannot lie promised it before the world began (Tit 1:2); and the certainty that God will abide faithful notwithstanding human faithlessness rests on the fact that God cannot deny Himself (2 Tim 2:13). It is because God is faithful that His promises in Christ are yea and amen (2 Cor 1:18, 20). This attribute of God, moreover, is the basis of Paul’s confident assurance that God will preserve the Christian in temptation (1 Cor 10:13); and establish him and preserve him from evil (2 Thess 3:3). And since God is faithful and His gracious promises trustworthy, this characteristic attaches to the “faithful sayings” in the Pastoral Epistles which sum up the gospel, making them worthy of trust and acceptance (1 Tim 1:15; 4:9; Tit 3:8).

This faithfulness of God in the sense of fidelity to His promises is set forth as the object of sure trust and hope by the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews. It was the basis of Sarah’s faith that she would bear a child when she was past age (Heb 11:11); and it is because God is faithful to His promise in Christ that we can draw nigh to Him with full assurance of faith, holding fast without wavering the profession of hope (Heb 10:23).

John also ascribes this attribute to God. Since one of the most precious of God’s promises through Christ is the pardon of sin through the “blood of Jesus Christ,” John says that God’s faithfulness, as well as His righteousness, is manifested in the forgiveness of sin (1 Jn 1:9).

The faithfulness of God is viewed from a slightly different point by Peter when he tells his readers that those who suffer as Christians and in accordance with God’s will should “commit their soul’s in well-doing unto a faithful Creator” (1 Pet 4:19). The quality of faithfulness, which in the Scripture is more frequently ascribed to God in His relation to man as gracious Saviour, and as the ground of hope in His gracious promises, is here applied by Peter to God in His relation to man as his Creator, and is made the ground of comfort under persecution and suffering. The omission of the article before the words “faithful Creator” makes emphatic that this is a characteristic of God as Creator, and the position of the words in the sentence throws great emphasis on this attribute of God as the basis of comfort under suffering. It is as if Peter would say to suffering Christians, “You suffer not by chance but in accordance with God’s will; He, the almighty Creator, made you, and since your suffering is in accordance with His will, you ought to trust yourselves to Him who as your Creator is faithful.” It is, of course, Christians who are to derive this comfort, but the faithfulness of God is extended here to cover all His relations to His people, and to pledge all His attributes in their behalf.

This attribute is also ascribed to Christ in the New Testament. Where Jesus is called a faithful high priest, the idea expressed is His fidelity to His obligations to God and to His saving work (Heb 2:17; 3:2, 6). But when in the Book of Revelation Jesus Christ is called the “faithful witness” or absolutely the “Faithful and True,” it is clear that the quality of faithfulness, in the most absolute sense in which it is characteristic of God in contrast with human changeableness, is ascribed to Christ (Rev 1:5; 3:14; 19:11). This is especially clear in the last-named passage. The heavens themselves open to disclose the glorified Christ, and He appears not only as a victorious warrior whose name is faithful and true, but also as the one in whom these attributes have their highest realization, and of whom they are so characteristic as to become the name of the exalted Lord. This clearly implies the Deity of Jesus.

In summing up the Scripture teaching concerning God’s faithfulness, three things are noteworthy. In the first place, this characteristic of God is usually connected with His gracious promises of salvation, and is one of those attributes which make God the firm and secure object of religious trust. As is the case with all the Scripture teaching concerning God, it is the religious value of His faithfulness which is made prominent. In the second place, the so-called moral attributes, of which this is one, are essential in order to constitute God the object of religion, along with the so-called incommunicable attributes such as Omnipotence, Omnipresence and Unchangeableness. Take away either class of attributes from God, and He ceases to be God, the object of religious veneration and trust. And in the third place, while these moral attributes, to which faithfulness belongs, have been called “communicable,” to distinguish them from the “incommunicable” attributes which distinguish God from all that is finite, it should never be forgotten that, according to the Scripture, God is faithful in such an absolute sense as to contrast Him with men who are faithful only in a relative sense, and who appear as changeable and faithless in comparison with the faithfulness of God.

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.


The unchangeablehess or immutability of God is that divine attribute which expresses the truth that in His nature and perfections, in His knowledge, will and purpose, He always remains the same in the fullness of His infinite and perfect Being; infinitely exalted above change, becoming and development, which are the specific characteristics of all finite existence. This is one of what theologians have called the incommunicable attributes of God, that is, one of those specific characteristics of the divine nature which make God to be God in distinction from all that is finite. These attributes have also been called negative attributes. By calling them negative, however, it is not meant that they express the nature of God in so far as He is unknowable and incomprehensible by the finite mind, while the positive attributes, such as love and righteousness, express God’s nature as revealed and known. Both kinds of attributes can be known only in so far as God reveals Himself, and furthermore the so-called negative attributes involve a positive idea, while the positive ones in turn imply the negation of all finite limitations. Moreover, since the finite mind cannot comprehend the infinite God, back of all that God has revealed of Himself, back even of His absoluteness, eternity and unchangeability, lies the fullness of His infinite Being, unsearchable, unknowable, and incomprehensible alike in His nature and attributes (Ps 145:3; 147:5; Job 11:7-9; Isa 40:28).

It is these incommunicable attributes, including unchangeableness, which make God to be God, and mark the specific difference between Him and all finite existence. Unchangeableness is, therefore, the characteristic of God’s entire nature and of all His attributes. It cannot be limited to His ethical nature or to His love, and, while it is true that these incommunicable attributes are revealed with especial richness in God’s saving activity, they cannot be limited to marks of God’s saving action or purpose. It is true that God is unchangeable in His love and grace and power to save, but that is only because it is the love and grace and power of the absolute, infinite and immutable God.

SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D., General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.




LORD of Hosts

By Dorman Laird

Dorman Laird is professor of religion, retired, William Carey University, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

“Woe is me, for I am ruined, because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.”1


HE HEBREW WORD TRANSLATED “HOSTS” in Isaiah 6:5 is tsabaoth,  the plural of tsaba.  Knowing how the Bible uses this term is key to understanding what Isaiah meant when he referred to God as the “Lord of hosts.”  Before examining the meaning of tsabaoth,   however, attention is called to three other Hebrew words translated “host” in the Old Testament, each serving as a synonym of tsabaoth.  One word, mishlachath, which means “a sending,”2 appears with the meaning of “host” at least once.  Psalm 78:49 states God sent a “host (a sending) of angels of destruction”3 against the Egyptians, accounting for the plagues that occurred in Egypt.

The Old Testament translates another Hebrew word, chayil,  as “host.”  It appears in variant forms.  This word, which refers to strength or power,4 appears as chel  in Exodus 14:28 where after the Israelites had passed through the Red Sea the water returned and covered all “the host of Pharaoh.”  This is an obvious reference to Pharaoh’s army.  In 2 Kings 18:17, chel  describes a “heavy army” sent by the king of Assyria to Jerusalem.  Also, chel  sometimes refers to a defensive structure around a city (Isa. 26:1).

A third synonym for “host” is machaneh,  which refers to a camp or encampment—often of soldiers.5  In one example, God warned that He would deliver the “host” (army) of Israel into the hand of the Philistines” (1 Sam. 28:19).  Other uses of this word reference the tribes of Israel (Ex. 16:13), a large group of people (Gen. 50:9), and a company of angels (32:2-3 in the Hebrew text).

The verb tsaba  basically means “to go forth” as to war.6  However, the nouns tsaba  and tsabaoth  have various meanings.  First, these words occur with reference to an army.  For example, when David heard of the plans of Ammon and Syria to make war, “he sent Joab and all the host of the mighty men” against them (2 Sam. 10:7).  Also, Psalm 108:11 (108:12 in the Hebrew text) states that God “has not gone out with our hosts,” an obvious inference that God had abandoned the army of Israel for a time.

A second meaning of tsaboath  has reference to the people of Israel as a whole.  This is the apparent meaning of the term in Exodus 12:41, which states that after 430 years “all the hosts of Yahweh went out from the land of Egypt.”  Other passages, such as Psalm 59:5 strongly imply that tsabaoth  refers to the nation of Israel.

The phrase “host of heaven” offers a third use of tsaba.  Sometimes thephrase refers to a group of angels by implication, as in 1 Kings22:19.  There, Micaiah states, “I saw Yahweh sitting upon His throne and all the host of heaven standing by Him, on His right hand and on His left.”  Other verses directly associate the term tsaba  with angels (see Ps. 148:2).  Further, Nehemiah possibly was thinking of angels when he declared that the host of heaven worships Yahweh (Neh. 9:6).

In the record where Joshua beheld a mysterious man with a sword in his hand (Josh. 5:13-15), Joshua inquired whether the man was for Israel or for the adversaries of Israel.  The man responded that he was the “leader of the host of Yahweh.”  Because Joshua was preparing for the battle of Jericho, probably the vision was intended to assure Joshua that Yahweh’s host would fight with Israel in the conflict.  Seemingly this use of the term tsaba  denoted an army of angels.

The phrase “host of heaven” sometimes denotes the luminaries of the sky.  One verse where this use of tsaba  is clear is Deuteronomy 17:3.  Moses instructed the leaders of Israel what to do when they discovered a person among them who “went and served other gods and worshiped them, and the sun, or the moon, or all of the host of heaven.”  Some versions translate “all the host of heaven” as “stars,” which was clearly Moses’ message.  The sun, moon, and stars were the “other gods” that people were worshiping.

The Old Testament also uses tsaba  with a inclusive meaning.  Genesis 2:1 states “And the heavens and the earth were finished and all their host.”  Since this verse summarized the creative acts of God in the previous chapter this use of tsaba  obviously referred to the totality of the creation.

The terms tsaba  and tsabaoth,  along with the synonyms mentioned above, occur in the Old Testament over 450 times, mostly within the historical and the prophetical books—especially in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Malachi—but only about 70 times before 1 Samuel.  A plausible explanation for this uneven distribution of the terms for “host” is that they often refer to an army; Israel did not develop an army until they settled in Canaan.

The title “Yahweh of hosts” occurs over 250 times, mostly in the prophetical books, less frequently in the historical books, and not at all in the Pentateuch, Joshua, or Judges.7  The designation occurs for the first time in 1 Samuel 1:3, which states that Elkanah “went up . . . to worship and to sacrifice to Yahweh of hosts in Shiloh.”  Hannah afterwards used the title in her prayer for a son (1 Sam. 1:11), which indicates this title was in use by that time.  Writers sometimes used variations of the title. For example, Psalm 89:8 addresses God as “Yahweh, God of hosts.”  Also, Psalm 80:7 uses the form “God of hosts.”

Along with the prophets, who used the title “Lord of hosts” extensively, others also referred to God in this way.  Priests sometimes used the title, as some of the psalms they wrote attest.  Priests credited with writing psalms that contained the phrase “Lord of hosts” or a variation, include the sons of Korah and Asaph (Ps. 46:7-8; 80:4-5 respectively, in the Hebrew text).  Further, David, as a writer of many psalms also spoke of God as “Lord of hosts” in several places (24:10; 69:6-7 in the Hebrew text).

Some references emphasize the kingship of Yahweh with the use of tsaba and tsabaoth,  as in 1 Samuel 4:4 where “Yahweh of hosts” is described as dwelling on the ark of the covenant above the cherubim.  David also proclaimed, “Yahweh of hosts, He is the King of glory” (Ps. 24:10).

Isaiah’s vision of God led him to exclaim, “my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of hosts” (Isa. 6:5).  Because Isaiah used this title for God in the context of King Uzziah’s death, perhaps Isaiah was emphasizing the kingly connotation in the title “Yahweh of hosts.”  In that moment, whether the “hosts” were celestial or terrestrial, he apparently saw God as King in every way that the term “hosts” is used, including the creation itself.  Thus, Isaiah learned the profound truth that although Uzziah was dead, the real King in Israel was not dead.  This experience changed Isaiah’s life and led to his call as a prophet.  Believers today can likewise take heart that, no matter what the present circumstances may be, the “Lord of hosts” is still on His throne.  BI

1.   Text is from Isaiah 6:5, HCSB.

2.   Gesenius’  Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures,  trans. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), 518.

3.   Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are those of the writer.

4.   Gesenius, 275.

5.   Ibid., 465.

6.   Ibid., 699.

7.   C. L. Seow, “Hosts, Lord of,” in The Anchor Dictionary of the Bible,  ed. in chief David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 3:304-306.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 37, No. 1; Fall 2010.


Loving-Kindness A Word Study

By Francis X. Kimmitt

Francis X. Kimmitt is associate dean, Leavell College and associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary College of Undergraduate Studies, New Orleans, Louisiana.

LOVING-KINDNESS. Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language (2d ed., unabridged), defines it as “tender regard, mercy, favor.”  The Oxford English Dictionary (1933 ed.) defined loving-kindness as “kindness arising from a deep personal love, as the active love of God for his creatures.”

Can any one definition give you a sense of the fullness of this word?  Probably not!  So too is the sense of the Hebrew word from which we have the translation “loving-kindness.”  The Hebrew word is chesed (pronounced “kesed”).  The biblical writers used the noun form of the word 246 times.1 To truly understand God’s character in the Old Testament, one must understand the word that many biblical writers used to portray the “loving” side of the Lord.

Chesed in the Old Testament:

The Old Testament used chesed on two levels: (1) between human beings and (2) between God and people. Chesed entails faithfulness, loyalty, love, and kindness in human relationships.  One example is Jacob’s deathbed speech to Joseph, “When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness [chesed] and faithfulness.  Please do not bury me in Egypt’” (Gen. 47:29).2 Another is Boaz’s expression of love and respect to Ruth. “Then he said, ‘May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter.  You have shown your last kindness [chesed] to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich’” (Ruth 3:10).  The sense of chesed in relationships between humans (marriage, family relationships, friendships, kings and subjects) is that men and women show chesed to one another by treating each other with kindness, loyalty, and love because that is the basis of the relationship, and it promotes the good health of these relationships.3

Interesting to compare is what chesed is not in the biblical human-human relationships.  In no setting does chesed refer to an emotion or a sentiment.  Neither does it ever have a sexual connotation in human relationships.  Chesed is not self-seeking and is not motivated by anything except desiring the best for another person.  We hear echoes of the concept of chesed in Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

The various uses of chesed on the second level – the divine-human relationship – suggest that chesed flows out of the covenant Yahweh established with His people Israel.  We can see several aspects of the covenant relationship as we examine different uses of chesed.  God set up specific requirements for His children when He made His covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:5-6).  The First Commandment, to worship/serve the Lord God alone because He is the only God, expressed clearly Israel’s primary requirement.  The Lord promised to be their God always and care for them and protect them if they would be His people (compare Ex. 6:7).  Therefore, when chesed describes the Lord’s relationship with His people, it typically reflects the covenant relationship’s perspective that the Lord established and to which He bound Himself, “unfailing love,” “steadfast love,” “covenant love.”4

Humans fail to live up to the expectations of the relationship.  In Hosea 6:6, the Lord told disobedient Israel that He desired mercy [chesed] rather than sacrifice.  The indictment, as Hosea explained in 4:1, is that “the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is not faithfulness or kindness [chesed] Or knowledge of God in the land.”

Even as the children of Israel often failed to fulfill the requirements of the covenant, the Lord continued to express His “faithfulness,” “covenant love,” “loyalty,” “mercy,” “loving-kindness” – His chesed – toward those disobedient and rebellious children.  Some biblical scholars have suggested that God’s chesed was not love or mercy, but merely loyalty to His contractual obligations as a result of the covenant that He made with the patriarchs.5 However, this view fails to recognize that the Lord made His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because of His love for them and their descendants, not merely to honor a contract.6 God chose to make the covenant with Abraham and his descendants.  In so doing, He bound Himself to the stipulation of His covenant; in essence, the Lord promised to show chesed to His chosen people, not because of any inherent goodness in them, but because of His own “covenant love,” “mercy,” “faithfulness,” “loyalty” – His chesed.

How does the Lord demonstrate His chesed toward Israel in the Old Testament texts?  We can see several characteristics of chesed.  (1) God’s chesed delivers His people from catastrophes and from their oppressors,  In Genesis 19:19, Lot gave thanks to the three men for their loving-kindness chesed in saving his life when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.  The Lord’s chased is one of the common reasons the psalms offer praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.  (2) The Lord’s chesed nourishes human life.  The psalmist cried out for God to sustain him so that he might honor the Lord with his life (compare Ps. 119:88).  (3) God’s chesed often limits His wrath – His righteous response to human sin.  In the midst of his indictment against Judah for their sins, the prophet Micah praised the Lord for His mercy on Judah (Mic. 7:18).  (4) The chesed of the Lord endures forever.  The wonderful antiphonal response of Psalm 136 (NASB: “For His lovingkindness [chesed] is everlasting”; NIV: “His love [chesed] endures forever”) is a demonstration of praise and worship for God’s eternal faithfulness.  (5) God’s chesed is often a primary motivation for His children’s prayer and petition.  Moses used the Lord’s words in his petition after the people’s faithless response to the report of the 12 spies (see Num. 14:17-19).  (6) Finally, the Lord’s chased is bountiful.  The Lord’s words of Exodus 34:6-7, which Moses quoted back to Him in his petition for the forgiveness of Israel (Num. 14:18), are central to this concept of God’s abundant chesed.7

Chesed in Lamentations 3:

How then should we understand chesed in Lamentations 3:19?  The poet who penned the book is describing in vivid emotional terms the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C. by the invading Babylonians.  We hear his heart cry as he described his feelings about this horrible event in the life of his people.  In the midst of his agony, the poet was able to lift up his eyes and see his God.  The Lord had not changed His character, nor had He ceased to be the covenant God of His people Israel.

This very aspect of the Lord’s nature was the source of the poet’s hope.  The Lord’s chesed will never cease.  The parallelism of the poetry reinforces the hope.  God’s chesed is displayed in His compassion.  His faithfulness is great.  Every day IS a new day, filled with hope and promise precisely because of the Lord’s “faithfulness,” “covenant love,” “mercy,” “loyalty,” “loving-kindness.”

The message is as relevant today as it was to a hurting people more than 2,500 years ago:

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God, my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee;

Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!  Great is Thy faithfulness!  Morning by morning new mercies I see;

All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided: Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!”8

1.         Chesed appears in 27 of the 39 Old Testament books.  It is not in the Books of Leviticus, 2 Kings, Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, Ecclesiastes, or Song of Songs.  More then one-half of all occurrences of the word are found in the Book of Psalms (127 times).  From Abraham Even-Shoshan, A New Concordance of the Bible (Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer Ltd., 1989), 386-387.

2.         Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

3.         Compare Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:12 “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

4.         D. A. Baer and R. P. Gordon, “h[sd” in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, vol. 2, ed. Willem Van Gemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 211-118.

5.         See R. Laird Harris, “h[sd,” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, ed R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., and B. K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 305-7 for a brief overview of the arguments for and aginst chesed as loyalty to covenant obligations.

6.         Compare Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son” (NASB).  The Lord’s motivation for His chesed was not the mere honoring of the terms of a contract but the love of a Father for His Son.

7.         Baer and Gordon, 213-217.

8.         “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas O. Chisholm Ó 1923. Renewal 1951 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188.  All rights reserved. Used by permission.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 2004


The Lord Of Hosts

By C. Kenny Cooper

Dr. Cooper is pastor of Emory Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia.

One of the most familiar terms in referring to God is “Lord of hosts.”  The Hebrew phrase is Yahweh Sebaoth.

The plural form Sebaoth means “armies” or “warfare.”  It is derived from saba, “sabbath” denoting the cessation of activity.  “Lord of hosts” appears more than 250 times n the Old Testament, with the majority of occurrences found in the prophetical books, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, and Malachi.  Of the two New Testament references (Rom. 9:29; Jas. 5:4), one is a quotation from Isaiah 1:9 and the other is based on Deuteronomy 24:15.  Also found are a number of similar forms such as “Lord, the God of hosts.”

Crucial to understanding this designation of God is its use in the Old Testament.  Not in every instance is it used with exactly the same sense.  For this reason many scholars have thought the meaning of Lord of hosts underwent some transformation over time, though not all would agree with this analysis.  The earliest form of this divine title followed very closely the connection with the armies of Israel.  The record of David’s conflict with the Philistine giant, Goliath, in 1 Samuel 17:45 is perhaps the closest such identification of Lord of hosts with “the God of the armies of Israel.”  Likewise, the identity of hosts with Israel is found in references related to the worship center at Shiloh (1 Sam. 1:3,11) and with the ark of the covenant (1 Sam. 4:3-4).

When we move to the prophetic writings where the form is found most often, there is an enlarged concept of the hosts which Yahweh controls.  He not only is Lord of Israel and its armies but of all nations, all nature, all the heavenly bodies, and all heavenly beings as well (Jer. 32:16-20).  The Septuagint bears out this expanded understanding of hosts as does the fact that in some instances it is the Lord of hosts who is against Israel because of disobedience (see Zech. 7:4-14).  This larger understanding of Yahweh Sebaoth is evident in the moving words of Isaiah’s Temple vision (6:3):

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 1986




(825)  What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (09/06/15) (Two-part question) Who was the prophet who had a vision of a man sitting on a red horse among what kind of trees? Answer Next Week. (1) Who was the prophet? (2) What were the trees?  

The answer to last week’s question:  (08/30/15)  What was the name of the man who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years? Answer: Aeneas; Acts 9:33.