Playing Psalms — An Advent Series, Act 4

As the curtains rise, so do our hopes! It’s time for Act Four of Playing Psalms. Our hearts, in equal measure, eagerly anticipate what comes next and despair of this production’s conclusion.

Because we’ve already peeked at our playbill, we know that this Act will include parts of Royal Psalm 89.

Act Four, Scene One

The stage lights brighten, revealing three scenes: a golden box, a bottle of oil, and a table with a loaf of bread and cup of wine. Knowing by now that these simple displays will have a role in this Act, we automatically try to puzzle out what they represent. 

But, alas, our narrator — as usual — interrupts our introspections with the opening lines of our Psalm:

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 have established your faithfulness in heaven itself.
You said, “I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
    I have sworn to David my servant,
‘I will establish your line forever
    and make your throne firm through all generations.’”

Psalm 89:1-4

The voice ceases, and the spotlight encircles the golden box, just as verse three pops up on the screen above.

I have made a COVENANT with my chosen one.

Covenant? The promise-like-oath we make with others? 

Almost as if he could read our thoughts, the narrator quotes Exodus 24:7-8:

Then [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the LORD has said; we will obey.” Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”

Oh, yes. We remember now. Moses. The Ten Commandments. The covenant God made with His people — that He would be their God, and they would be His people.

Understanding lights our eyes — that golden box is meant to be the Ark of the Covenant, which holds the tablets of the covenant (see Hebrews 9:4). 

Photo by Igor Rodrigues on Unsplash

The narrator’s voice offers further enlightenment as he repeats verse four:

I will establish your line forever and make your throne firm through the generations.

Psalm 89:4

This verbal vow to David was no simple promise made lightly in the moment. This promise held power. It hinted eternity. This promise was a covenant. And God made it a forever affirmation.

Act Four, Scene Two

The narrator picks up in the nineteenth verse of this Royal Psalm, whose subject seems to be King David. The spotlight sweeps to the bottle of oil, and the psalmist’s soliloquy continues:

Once you spoke in a vision,
    to your faithful people you said:
“I have bestowed strength on a warrior;
    I have raised up a young man from among the people.
I have found David my servant;
    with my sacred oil I have anointed him.
My hand will sustain him;
    surely my arm will strengthen him.
The enemy will not get the better of him;
    the wicked will not oppress him.
I will crush his foes before him
    and strike down his adversaries.
My faithful love will be with him,
    and through my name his horn will be exalted.
I will set his hand over the sea,
    his right hand over the rivers.
He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, the Rock my Savior.’
And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
    the most exalted of the kings of the earth.
I will maintain my love to him forever,
    and my covenant with him will never fail.
I will establish his line forever,
    his throne as long as the heavens endure.

Psalm 89:19-29

The beauty of this remembering resonates within us. We can picture God’s choosing of the small shepherd boy and the prophet Samuel pouring the anointing oil over David’s head — a sure sign of Sovereign selection (see 1 Samuel 16:1-13). 

Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash

As the promises roll on, we sense a subtle shift. We can totally see King David being strengthened by God, his enemies never getting the better of him because of God’s intervention (verses 21 & 22). But, perhaps, the imagery of the king’s hand being set over the sea points us to Messiah the King?

Yes, it must. Because then comes the language of Lordship and longevity — “the most exalted,” “love to him forever,” “establish his line forever.”

But, what of being appointed “firstborn?” 

Right on cue, our narrator speaks Paul’s words from his letter to the Colossians. We close our eyes, urging our minds toward understanding:

[Christ] is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Colossians 1:17-20

Further clarification rings out as words from Revelation are read:

…Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth…who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Revelation 1:5-7

[enter choir, stage right]

Act Four, Scene Three

Our eyes still closed, we wonder if what we hear is real. But, we stay there, unmoving and unwilling to break the spell, allowing the notes to wash over us. As the music crescendos, our voices join in. Softly at first, then in fully abandoned adoration of the King of Kings!

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah
(repeat 4 times)


The Kingdom of this world
Is become
The Kingdom of our Lord
And of His Christ
And of His Christ

And He shall reign forever and ever
(repeat 3 times)

King of Kings (Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
And Lord of Lords (Forever and ever hallelujah hallelujah)
(repeat 3 times)

And he shall reign forever and ever (And he shall reign)
And he shall reign forever and ever (And he shall reign)

King of Kings forever and ever
And Lord of Lords hallelujah hallelujah
And he shall reign forever, forever and ever

King of Kings and Lord of Lords
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
And he shall reign forever and ever (And he shall reign forever and ever)

Forever and ever, forever and ever (King of Kings and Lord of Lords)

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Goosebumps aplenty, our arms remain lifted in worship as we open our weepy eyes. We declare this King we’ve come to know and love as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. 

And, from our depths of being, we mean it. 

[exit choir]

Act Four, Scene Four 

The notes and lyrics reverberating in our chests, we stay standing and stare as the spotlight slides to the table, casting a holy glow over the bread and wine.

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

In the silence, we take our seats and await the next stanza of this psalm.

Our narrator, never one to disappoint, takes on the voice of God as he speaks with authority over us:

“If his sons forsake my law
    and do not follow my statutes,
if they violate my decrees
    and fail to keep my commands,
I will punish their sin with the rod,
    their iniquity with flogging;
but I will not take my love from him,
    nor will I ever betray my faithfulness.
I will not violate my covenant
    or alter what my lips have uttered.
Once for all, I have sworn by my holiness—
    and I will not lie to David—
that his line will continue forever
    and his throne endure before me like the sun;
it will be established forever like the moon,
    the faithful witness in the sky.”

Psalm 89:30-37

Oh, this list of all the things that could go wrong, with promises of punishment looming, we start to feel deflated, maybe a little defeated. Is there any way God’s covenant can last forever when we people miss the mark so consistently?

Then the little word — but — and everything shifts.

God’s promises, they are forever. Even when we fail to follow through, even when consequences crater our worlds, God is faithful. He will never go back on his forever covenant. His word remains true.

On the chance that we still haven’t caught the connection or put our full faith into forever, our narrator recites to us the promise God made to Mary, Jesus’ mother:

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Luke 1:31-33

There it is. At the start of the Christmas story — before the Savior is even conceived — the promise that His kingdom will never end. A promise fulfilled. A covenant kept.

This Savior, He ushers in a new covenant — one that He brought about by the shedding of His own blood, the giving of His very body. One that covers all sin. For all time. Here is a King who not only keeps His covenant but becomes the fulfillment of it.

The curtain remains open. Three spotlights shine on the signs of covenant, and we contemplate all we’ve witnessed and felt. 

Sitting there, all senses swirling, we settle into a deep knowing.

God is good. He loves us. He is faithful. So faithful that He keeps His covenants even when we do not. 

Jesus is proof of that — the promised Messiah sent to save the world, whose very being embodied promises made hundreds of years before to a king whose heart belonged to God.

This King of Kings has come! And He’ll reign — forever and ever.


Still singing that famous chorus, Shelley Johnson

PS — Read ahead for our final installment, The Epilogue: Psalm 98.

Header photo by Pro Church Media on Unsplash

Published by Shelley Linn Johnson

Lover of The Word. And words. Cultivator of curiosity about all things Christ. Lifelong learner who likes inviting others along for the journey. Recovering perfectionist who has only recently realized that rhythms are so much better than stress-inducing must-do's.

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