What set ancient Israel apart from other nations? Not its size, for other nations ruled over geographic areas much larger than ancient Palestine. Not its military might, for though kings such as David were accomplished generals, Israel did not extend its borders by conquest, and it never established an empire of the scope of Assyria, Babylon, or Rome. What set Israel apart was the fact that the nation was the special possession of the one true God (Deut. 7:6). Moreover, God chose one man and his descendants to rule and reign over his people. As we read in today’s passage, this man was David (Ps. 89:19–37).
The Lord put Saul, Israel’s first king, on the throne after the people complained about not having a ruler like those of other nations. In David’s case, God took the initiative. He did not replace Saul with David at the outcry of the nation; rather, He chose David for Israel’s throne solely due to His good pleasure (1 Sam. 8–9; 16:1–13). Thus, we see in Psalm 89:19–37 a special emphasis on David and his line as the choice only of God. Unlike in the case of Saul, when the people sought to establish the king, the Lord established David. His choice was not based on the desires of the people but on His desires for them and His knowledge of their need (vv. 19–21). The Israelites could be confident of success with David’s family because the Lord alone chose to put him on the throne and exalt him before all creation (vv. 22–28).
Of course, since God demands holiness from His people and from those whom He puts in place over them, this hope for Israel’s success could not be separated from the holiness of the king. Thus, the whole nation suffered when David sinned (2 Sam. 11–18). In Saul’s case, his grievous sin resulted in his forfeiting his throne (1 Sam. 15); however, this was not the case with David. In setting David on the throne, the psalmist tells us, God established an everlasting covenant with David and his line (Ps. 89:28–29). This did not give David and his sons a blank check to do what they wanted. Were they to break the law of God, they would be punished. Still, God promised never to remove His love from David’s line (vv. 30–37).
All this foreshadows the work of David’s greater son—Jesus the Messiah. We can be confident of the church’s final success because God put Him there, and because He bore the punishment for the unfaithfulness of David and his line, removing from them the impediment of sin that set them at odds with the Lord. He alone is qualified to rule from David’s throne forever (2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 2:5–11). If we are in Christ, we benefit from this as well.