“I will Sing of the Mercies” is one of my favorite hymns. I tend to gravitate toward songs that are simply scriptures put to a melody. The hymn is from Psalm 89:1, which says, “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD forever; with my mouth will I make known Your faithfulness to all generations.” Such pleasant words, but what do they mean? What are the mercies of God? A closer look at the context within the Psalm will provide us with a fuller understanding of this subject.
In the very next verse (Psalm 89:2), the psalmist records God’s promise to King David: “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to my servant David: ‘Your seed I will establish forever, and build up your throne to all generations.’” So the mercies of God, in this context, are related to the covenant that God had made with David. As the psalm continues, we see that there is much to do with David and God’s preservation of both him and his kingdom. Then, in verse 28, we see again the subject of God’s mercy associated with David and God’s covenant with him: “My mercy I will keep for him forever, And My covenant shall stand firm with him.” But what is this covenant that the psalmist refers to? It is evident from the following verse that the covenant has to do with the Messiah: “His seed also I will make to endure forever, And his throne as the days of heaven.” God’s covenant with David was that he would have an enduring seed that would reign. This is also what we read near the beginning of the psalm: “Your seed I will establish forever” (v.4), and later in the psalm, he says: “His seed shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me; It shall be established forever like the moon, Even like the faithful witness in the sky” (v.36-37). So then, it is unmistakable that the mercies the psalmist will sing forever are the promises of the Savior. These mercies are promises God gave to David, that he would have a seed that would rule for as long as this earth remains. Now that is something to sing about; that is a theme that could be sung forever. Earthly kings rise and quickly fall; men might sing with joy as a great king rises, but their song is soon lost at the grave. However, the promise of God’s anointed king can still be sung with joy still today.
Although psalm 89 was written by Ethan the Ezrahite, in another place, David gave his own testimony of the covenant God had made with him: “He has made with me an everlasting covenant, Ordered in all things and secure. For this is all my salvation and all my desire; Will He not make it increase?” (2 Samuel 23:5). Long after David’s death, Isaiah proves that God had not forgotten David nor the covenant with which He made with him: “Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you—The sure mercies of David” (Isaiah 55:3). This is said within a chapter that is immersed in the theme of a coming salvation and the joy that it will bring: “For you shall go out with joy, And be led out with peace; The mountains and the hills Shall break forth into singing before you, And all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (Isaiah 55:12). This joy is due to the “everlasting covenant” which is referred to as “the sure mercies of David”. The same mercies that Ethan the psalmist said he would sing forever. What a joyous salvation. What an awesome and faithful God.
This great salvation is more fully described in the New Testament text. When Paul stood up to speak to the people in Antioch of Pisidia, he spoke of David, saying, “From this man’s seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus” (Acts 13:23). See how Paul spoke of David’s seed, and that it was “according to the promise”. Paul is discussing the same covenant which God made to David. Paul identifies the seed of promise to the Pisidians: “God raised up for Israel a Savior—Jesus.” Further in the lesson, Paul recalls the old voice of Isaiah: “And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I WILL GIVE YOU THE SURE MERCIES OF DAVID’” (Acts 13:34). How amazing it is to see the mysteries of God unfolding in the biblical record. The mercies of the Lord spoken of in the Old Testament is the resurrection of Christ from the grave to ascend to David’s throne: the throne of God (as it was never really David’s throne but the seat of God’s authority and rule). This was certainly the sure mercies, “ordered in all things and secure.” Even though David had long seen corruption in the grave, God still glorified the covenant which was made so long ago. And so today, we still can “sing of the mercies of the Lord forever” because God was faithful and brought true salvation to realization.
Article by Tanner Campbell.