Then there is Ethan. He’s a man of unreasonable faith. You’ve probably never heard of him. If Isaiah and Micah are standing on the distant hill overlooking the stable, Ethan is out of sight beyond the horizon. Ethan points to the Christmas story; he speaks for many who have great faith, but they see problems that seems impossible to solve. Ethan has no idea how God will fulfill his promises, yet he believes.
Ethan is behind the scenes when Solomon’s father, King David, received one of God’s amazing promises! God told David “I will raise up an offspring to succeed you…I will establish his kingdom…I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever… I will be his father and he will be my son… my love will never be taken from him…Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me, your throne will be established forever.” (2 Sam. 7:12-16)
Ethan has a detailed and intimate knowledge of God promise to David. He put it to music and wrote about it in a song singing that God would raise up his own son to sit upon the throne of God’s Kingdom forever and ever. Ethan knew God would do something. He know 1000 years before Jesus was born that God would act decisively. Ethan could not imagine the details of a child born in a stable to a virgin 1000 years in the future, but he had faith \ God will fulfill his promise to David. He wrote about it. He sang about it. Ethan is never quoted in the N.T., but he stands as a witness pointing to the greatest fulfillment of God’s promises in all of history: the birth of Jesus Christ.
Ethan shows us that faith and questions go together. Ethan has great faith and great questions. That’s good news for us as we sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by the world ~ when we are haunted by God’s promises because peace seems so far away. We know about the birth and life of Christ, but we are prone to feel like we are in the dark as the world is falling apart. It’s like we are on the far side of the mountain alongside Ethan, knowing something great is happening beyond our vision, but we can’t quite see the manger with Jesus at the center. Ever feel like nobody invited you to the happy birthday Jesus party? Ethan demonstrates great faith as he believes in God of the impossible.
Ethan wrote and composed a song. We don’t have the music anymore but we have the words. We call it Psalm 89. When the Psalms were first organized the Jewish people collected them into five books. You can find Ethan’s song at the end of the third collection, not exactly front and center…
that’s fitting for a man that is in 2nd place in wisdom behind Solomon. God calls many (most?) to take 2nd place. In the N.T. when Paul is introduced in the book of Acts, he sits under the well known teacher Barnabus. There are many references to Barnabus and Paul, Barnabus and Paul. And then, without warning, the order is switched to Paul and Barnabus. Barnabus is a hero to those who are called to take second place. Ethan is a 2nd place guy. The Lord needs many willing to serve without much recognition, and yet strong people of faith that ask honest questions.
On this side of Christmas we know Jesus is the answer to Ethan’s questions. But he didn’t know that. He saw a problem ~ he knows David’s earthly Kingdom will end, he knows the people of God will be exiled; while the world crumbles, Ethan believes. Psalm 89 is Ethan’s song. How do I know? Because it says so under the heading of Ps. 89: “A maskil of Ethan the Ezrahite.” Maskil is a musical notation or a type of song…
Ethan establishes his faith in God… READ Ps. 89:1. I.e.: I will always sing about the kind love of the LORD. I will tell my children and grandchildren that you will do what you have promised. Ethan’s faith is unshakable. Maybe the reason Ethan is so wise is because he knows he doesn’t have all the answers, but he trusts God regardless! His confidence is rooted in God’s promise to David. READ Ps. 89:3-4. This song is fitting to be sung at Christmas: Jesus is king from David’s family, he is now King forever and he was born at Christmas.
Ps. 89:5-18 enlarges the depth of Ethan’s faith: he sings of the heavens: nothing compares to the Lord. He sings of the Holy Ones in heaven, angels, none compare to the Lord. (Ps. 89:5) Ethan is amazed by God’s power, his creative work (READ Ps. 89:11-12) Ethan returns to earth as he is amazed by God’s rightness (Ps. 89:14-15). Ethan is strong in his faith recognizing the glory of God in heaven and on earth.
Ps. 89:19-37 Ethan sings of heaven on Earth. He returns to the importance of the promise to David (Ps. 89:19-20)… over and over he finds assurance and confidence in the promise to David ~ God’s faithful love, protection, assurance, fulfilment.
In Ps. 89:27-28, today we know Ethan is speaking of Jesus Christ (read). This is why Ethan deserves to stand alongside Isaiah, Micah and other O.T. prophets that believed with absolute conviction that God’s promise would be fulfilled.
Listen to Ps. 89:30-37. Ethan knows earthly kings are sinners. He knows David and Solomon sinned. Yet he also is confident God will never give up; God will find a way to make his promise come to fulfillment. This Psalm paves the way for the Christmas story. Ethan had no idea how God would fulfill his promises, but he knew, he had assurances, he was confident… his faith is strong in the God of the impossible.
Ps. 89:38-44 is a vision of the suffering savior. Isaiah prophesied that God would send his anointed one to earth, born of a virgin, but he also foresaw that the savior would suffer. Something is going on in Ethan’s world… some folks think Ethan is seeing the coming exile of God’s people in which rescue looked impossible. Something is going on in Ethan’s world so that the promise to David of a forever Kingdom and the present reality are at complete odds. I know that because in Ps. 89:46 Ethan cries out, “How long, O Lord? Will you hide yourself forever?” Do you see the contrast? Ethan sings so eloquently of his great faith and belief in God’s promises of establishing a throne forever unlike any earthly throne, yet his faith allows him to cry out, “How long.” There is a disconnect…
Faith in the face of impossible obstacles is the strongest faith of all. Faith allows Ethan to see the suffering servant. We know the suffering servant is Jesus Christ. Jesus is sent as a very different kind of King. He is not sent to overpower the world in strength, to conquer with a superior army, Jesus is sent by God to suffer, to take upon himself the sins of all people. Ethan prophecy is a glimpse of the true strength of Jesus: rejection and suffering. God heaps his judgment upon the one he loves, his son, his anointed one, the one who will sit on the throne of David forever and ever.
For the Christian, who is able to look back at the life of Jesus, Ps. 89:38-45 is a hauntingly beautiful description of Jesus on the cross. What Ethan could not know is that the promised one to sit on the throne of David, Jesus Christ, would take our place in death. READ.
Ethan is conflicted, having no earthly idea how God will fulfill his promises. He sees the suffering, he sees rejection, he cries out “how Long” in Ps. 89:40; Ethan reminds God is Ps. 89:41 that life is short…., where are you he asks God over and over in the next few verses. Reading between the lines, it is clear Ethan is even mocked for his faith: READ Ps. 89:48-51.
Ethan does not see the whole story, yet he is convinced God will send his anointed one to bring salvation. Ethan is just beyond the horizon, out of sight from the manger of Jesus, because he can’t quite see. But we do. God has given us a measure of clarity. Ethan may not be able to see the details, but he trusts God…
The last verse of Ps. 89 is a testimony of unreasonable faith. In spite of the lack of knowledge of how God would bring salvation to a hopeless looking world, Ethan ends with a statement of absolute conviction. READ Ps. 89:52.
May that be your conviction in the face of your own demons, your own obstacles, your own doubts and uncertainties. Praise be to the Lord forever. Amen and Amen.
Memorize that verse… Look at Ethan as an example of one who believed with conviction God would do something in the face of the impossible. We have an advantage over Ethan on this side of Christmas, but we are prone to have doubts and questions. When you are overwhelmed don’t be afraid to cry out to the Lord with the same sense of urgency, and like Ethan, stand firm with a double Amen convinced that God will fulfill his promises. Our God is the God of the impossible. Amen and Amen.