From Exaltation to Exile: The Tragic Fall of David’s House
In his chapter on the Psalms, Paul House writes of Book 3, Psalms 73–89:
Subtle shifts in tone, superscriptions and content leading up to historical summaries in Psalms 78 and 89 indicate that part three [Psalms 73–89] reflects Israel’s decline into sin and exile. This national demise occurs in about 930–587 B.C. and has been described previously in 1 Kings 12–1 Kings 25 as well as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and the Twelve. The view of history found here matches that in the Prophets: Israel’s covenant breaking led God to rebuke, and then reject, the chosen people and to expel them from the promised land. These Psalms portray this rebuke and rejection against a background of the remnants faith struggles and the Lord’s patience. (Old Testament Theology, 413–14)
In Sunday’s message, I attempted to show some of the history of Judah that stands behind the events of Book 3. I argued that by learning the history of David’s sons and listening to the priestly heralds of Book 3 we come to learn about Israel’s hope and our own hope. Whereas the sins of David’s sons led to the demise of their throne, God would ultimately remain faithful, as it evidenced throughout Book 3 and even more in Books 4 and 5.
While fulling getting our hands on the history and poetry of Israel challenges us—we are, after all, removed from Israel’s history by over 3,000 years and differing languages—it is evident that a devastating fall afflicts David’s house and the house of the Lord between the end of Book 2 and the end of Book 3. Psalm 72 shows the exalted throne of David, now given to Solomon; Psalm 89 shows the crown of David thrown into the dust.
In the infographic, I try to show some of the probable connections that make up the details of Book 3, as it gives the soundtrack of David’s falling house. Discussion questions below focus on Psalm 89. And sermon audio and sermon notes are also available. (You can find a list of observations related to Psalm 74 and 2 Chronicles 10–12 here).
This week, we’ll focus our attention on Psalm 89 and the Davidic Covenant described therein.
- Read Psalm 89 and 1 Chronicles 16. What preliminary observations can you make about each passage? What do you learn about God’s covenant with David?
- Where do you see elements of unconditional promise in the Davidic covenant? Where do you see elements of conditionality (hint: the obedience of David’s sons)?
- How does the un/conditional nature of the Davidic covenant work out in the history of David’s sons?
- Where do things start to go bad? What effect do the sins of David’s sons have on the house of the Lord? Why? What role do David’s sons have in relationship to the temple?
- What ultimately happens with the temple in Jerusalem? How is that explained in Psalms 73–89?
- How does understanding the history of David’s sons and the details of the Davidic covenant illuminate Book 3?
- If the temple is destroyed by the end of Book 3, what light does that shed on the darkness of Psalm 88? What might Heman be lamenting? If every Psalm in Book 3 is written by a priest, what is the relationship between the priesthood and the kingdom? (Hint: Psalm 110 describes their unity; cf. Zechariah 6 also depicts a coming unity — a priestly king (a king who is holy); a royal priest (a priest who has power)
- How does learning the sad history of David’s kingdom instruct us today? Why do we have a greater hope than the people of Israel? (Consider the greatest of our royal priest — Hebrews 5:1–10)
For Further Studies
Here is an overview of the Psalms via Infographics, as well as a list of Judah’s kings.
Audio and Video
One of the reasons why I value reading and praying the Psalms in consecutive order is that it reinforces the truth that the Bible is a story of God’s redemptive work for all creation. Reading the Psalms as five, sweeping movements parallels the story of the Old Testament, which prepares us for knowing and longing for Christ. For instance, 2 Timothy 3:14–17 says that the Scriptures (the Old Testament) are given to make us wise for salvation. Indeed, that is what reading the Psalms as a soundtrack from David to a New David does.
If at first the big idea is hard to grasp, keep these infographics near as you read through the Psalms. Just as our life is to be molded by the Lord, so the story of his salvation is meant to mold our hearts and tune them to sing his praise. To further help, here are a few other resources to help catch the story of God’s Psalms and the storyline of the Bible.
The Psalms (Bible Project)
A Storified Explanation of the Gospel (The Gospel Project)
Andrew Peterson’s Christmas Musical (12 songs)
Soli Deo Gloria, ds