Psalm 89. The Cymbal-Player for God.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Excerpts from Psalm 89. (MsgB)

An Ethan Prayer

Your love, God, is my song, and I’ll sing it! I’m forever telling everyone how faithful You are.
I’ll never quit telling the story of Your love— how You built the cosmos and guaranteed everything in it. Your love has always been our lives’ foundation; Your fidelity has been the roof over our world.

Blessed be God forever and always! Yes. Oh, yes.

As Psalms go, this is a long one. 52 total verses. 37 magnificent lines of lyrics that praise God, positioning Yahweh at the Center of the Cosmos. Followed by 14 verses of lament and sadness, wondering why in the world this same great God of Israel that has just been exalted with 37 verses of praise, would now allow such miserable pain and suffering to be inflicted on God’s people.

Welcome to the world of Ethan the Ezrahite.

Historians tell us that Ethan, one of the sons of Korah, was a musician assigned to work in the Temple alongside others chosen to oversee the worship of God’s people. While it can’t be proven without a shadow of a doubt, it may very well be that Ethan, the composer of Psalm 89, was a cymbal player in King David’s court! Famed theologian and pastor Charles Spurgeon theorized that Ethan is the same person as Jeduthun and according to 1st Chronicles 16: 42, both Heman, the writer of Psalm 88, and Jeduthun (Ethan?) were responsible for the sounding of the trumpets and cymbals and for the playing of the other instruments for sacred song.

Just think of it! Ethan the Ezrahite. Cymbal-player for God!

The name Ethan in Hebrew means strong and optimistic, solid and enduring. As I see it, these are good qualities for a man assigned to the percussion section of the orchestra. Interestingly, Ethan’s name appears seven other times in the Bible outside of the psalm we’re looking at today. One of these scriptures indicate that Ethan was a very wise man whose career spanned both the days of King David and the reign of King Solomon. According to 1st Kings 4: 31, Ethan was a standard of wisdom to whom Solomon is compared favorably.

Now, when I was a Junior High band director back in the day, we’d often joke with other band directors that the word ‘drum’ rhymes with ‘dumb’. Yes, I hate to admit my prejudices, but sadly, many of the little snot-noses who’d end up playing drums in my beginning bands were not the smartest cookies in the bag. Oh yes, there were exceptions. And apparently Ethan the Ezrahite was one of those exceptions!

Come to think about it, most cymbal-players I’ve known over the years are not only a bit slow of mind, but usually they are very hard of hearing as well. I mean, how could a person not lose their hearing by making their living clanging two circular rings of steel together on a regular basis?

But Ethan, while he might have been hard of hearing, was no dummy when it came to God. A careful read of Psalm 89 makes me think that Ethan had done a lot of studying about God and how the world works according to His purposes. I can see why King Solomon might have come to Ethan every now and then to get a few things squared away in his mind.


Makes me wonder if old King Solomon was allowed to pick up the cymbals every now and then and play along with Ethan and Heman in the worship band? Interesting thought, huh? I can just see a smart dude like Solomon on kazoo and tambourine. Can’t you?

Well enough of that. Suffice to say that as I see it, if God is able to use a cymbal-player in such powerful ways for His Kingdom purposes, think how much more He can use an old sousaphone player like me to glorify Jesus!

I’m just sayin’.

Praise God, there’s hope for all us dummies in the master plans of God!

My prayer: God, thank You for the story of Ethan the Ezrahite. I just love the fact that ordinary guys like cymbal players and sousaphone carriers can be used for God’s purposes. Let the music begin! For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So how can I take the stories of Ethan and Heman (writers of Psalm 89 and 88 respectively) and let them encourage me for God’s purposes in my life? As ordinary men, appointed by King David to serve as temple musicians, they both left their mark in God’s economy, giving us words we can still sing to today. How can my simple gifts be used in similar ways?

So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?

Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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