Psalm 89: 2-3, 16-17, 18-19
The responsorial psalm for this week comes from Psalm 89, which praises God’s faithfulness to the promises made to David (2 Samuel 7:16) and contains themes that are very important in the Davidic theology.
Considering the context of the other readings for this Sunday, we might think of this psalm as a song of praise on the lips of the woman of Shunem, who was blessed with a son after her interactions with Elisha.
The promises of the LORD I will sing forever;
“The promises of the LORD” are part of God’s covenant with David, which is a pure gift from God. Unlike the covenant made with the people through the mediation of Moses (Exodus 19-21), which required the people’s compliance to God’s Law, this covenant imposes no added responsibilities on David or his descendants.
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
Faithfulness is ěmûnâh, a technical term for covenant fidelity, a loyalty that will stand as long as the heavens stand.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”; in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
The psalmist reminds God of the pledge made to David.
The specific term for God’s kindness is hesed, often translated as “lovingkindness.” This is unconditional love, and God promises that such love will endure forever.
This should not be confused with emotional attachment, a sentiment that can fade or even completely disappear. This is a firm and unalterable commitment.
Together, hesed and emûnâh describe the bond that joins God and David as one that transcends the historical. It is outside of any specific time; it extends throughout all the ages and stretches even into the heavens.
Blessed the people who know the joyful shout;
The attention turns from the promises made to the king to the people themselves, using a macarism to describe them as “blessed.”
The reason for this blessedness is threefold, as we will see.
in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk.
First, they walk in the light of the LORD’s countenance, a metaphor that means they enjoy God’s favor. Their lives are guided by the hand of God and by his commandments.
At your name they rejoice all the day,
Second, they rejoice in God’s name, and since one’s name contains part of the very essence of the one named, this suggests they praise God for his excellence.
and through your justice they are exalted.
They exalt in God’s justice; that is, they are recipients of God’s righteousness.
All these blessings flow from the covenantal lovingkindness (hesed) and faithfulness (emûnâh) mentioned earlier.
You are the splendor of their strength, and by your favor our horn is exalted.
The last verses are praise of God. Every good thing the people enjoy comes to them from God. Their strength is rooted in God, and any blessing they enjoy is theirs because God looked favorably upon them.
For to the LORD belongs our shield, and the Holy One of Israel, our king.
A parallel construction closes the response on a Davidic note: Lord / our shield, Holy One of Israel / our king.
All the blessings described in the psalm come to the people from God but through the king. He is both mediator and the one responsible for dispensing God’s goodness.