Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;For His mercy and lovingkindness endure forever! Who can put into words the mighty deeds of the Lord?Or who can proclaim all His praise [that is due Him]? Blessed are those who observe justice [by honoring God’s precepts],Who practice righteousness at all times. Remember me, O Lord, when You favor Your people.Visit me with Your salvation [when You rescue them], That I may see the prosperity of Your chosen ones,That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation,That I may glory with Your inheritance. We have sinned like our fathers;We have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly. Our fathers in Egypt did not understand nor appreciate Your miracles;They did not remember the abundance of Your mercies nor imprint Your lovingkindnesses on their hearts,But they were rebellious at the sea, at the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake,That He might make His [supreme] power known. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up;And He led them through the depths as through a pasture. So He saved them from the hand of the one that hated them,And redeemed them from the hand of the [Egyptian] enemy. And the waters covered their adversaries;Not one of them was left. Then Israel believed in [the validity of] His words;They sang His praise. But they quickly forgot His works;They did not [patiently] wait for His counsel and purpose [to be revealed regarding them], But lusted intensely in the wildernessAnd tempted God [with their insistent desires] in the desert. So He gave them their request,But sent a wasting disease among them. They envied Moses in the camp,And Aaron [the high priest], the holy one of the Lord, Therefore the earth opened and swallowed Dathan,And engulfed the company of Abiram. And a fire broke out in their company;The flame consumed the wicked. They made a calf in Horeb (Sinai)And worshiped a cast image. Thus they exchanged [the true God who was] their gloryFor the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God their Savior,Who had done such great things in Egypt, Wonders in the land of Ham,Awesome things at the Red Sea. Therefore He said He would destroy them,[And He would have done so] had not Moses, His chosen one, stepped into the gap before Him,To turn away His wrath from destroying them. Then they despised the pleasant land [of Canaan];They did not believe in His word nor rely on it, But they sulked and complained in their tents;They did not listen to the voice of the Lord. Therefore He lifted up His hand [swearing] to them,That He would cause them to fall in the wilderness, And that He would cast out their descendants among the nationsAnd scatter them in the lands [of the earth]. They joined themselves also to [the idol] Baal of Peor,And ate sacrifices offered to the dead. Thus they provoked Him to anger with their practices,And a plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas [the priest] stood up and interceded,And so the plague was halted. And that was credited to him for righteousness,To all generations forever. They provoked Him to anger at the waters of Meribah,So that it went hard with Moses on their account; Because they were rebellious against His Spirit,Moses spoke recklessly with his lips. They did not destroy the [pagan] peoples [in Canaan],As the Lord commanded them, But they mingled with the [idolatrous] nationsAnd learned their ways, And served their idols,Which became a [dreadful] snare to them. They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons And shed innocent blood,Even the blood of their sons and of their daughters,Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;And the land was polluted with their blood. In this way they became unclean in their practices;They played the prostitute in their own deeds [by giving their worship, which belongs to God alone, to other “gods”]. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against His peopleAnd He detested His own inheritance. He gave them into the hands of the nations,And those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies also oppressed them,And they were subdued under the [powerful] hand of their enemies. Many times He rescued them;But they were rebellious in their counsel,And sank down in their wickedness. Nevertheless He looked [sympathetically] at their distressWhen He heard their cry; And He remembered His covenant for their sake,And relented [rescinding their sentence] according to the greatness of His lovingkindness [when they cried out to Him], He also made them objects of compassionAmong those who had carried them away captive. Save us, O Lord our God,And gather us from among the nations,That we may give thanks to Your holy nameAnd glory in praising You. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,From everlasting even to everlasting.And let all the people say, “Amen.”Praise the Lord! (Hallelujah!)
A testimony from the Azusa Street revival in 1906 told of a missionary being attacked by the enemy with the suggestion she was forsaken by God and had committed the unpardonable sin. “God hates you- drown yourself,” he repeatedly urged. She almost did.
She returned to her room from the River, threw herself down, fell asleep and dreamed. She seemed to be in a boat on which all the people except for herself were rejoicing and praising God. She heard the captain call out to the pilot, “Sound the depths and compare it with the love of God.” The depths were sounded, and the call came back, “No bottom, no bottom.”
She awoke in an ocean of God’s love, all darkness past and the cry ringing in her ears, “No bottom.”
That’s the spirit of Psalm 106 which, like Psalm 105, reviews God’s acts on the behalf of Israel- except this psalm does not skip over the record of human failures.
The psalmist, unlike some church folks, is honest about his own faults. Before he begins describing Israel’s long and deep plunge into rebellion and disobedience, he puts himself into their company by saying, “We have sinned, even as our fathers did.”(verse 6) That’s why the psalm begins by praising the Lord not because the psalmist is good but that God is good.(verse 1) While the heart of a God-seeker desires to do good(verses 2-3), they honestly admit their personal failures and their need for God(verses 4-5).
Which do we identify with? The Pharisee who acted like he never did anything wrong or the publican- the poor, sinful, humble, and vulnerable who said, “I’ve done wrong. Please help me Lord.”
The vast majority of this psalm is given to showcasing one photo after another in Israel’s descent away from the One who had called, delivered, loved, and sustained them.
The first picture we see is that of failure in Egypt(verses 7-12). At the crisis at the Red Sea, the people has already forgotten the miracle of the ten plagues and the night of deliverance. Like us, they failed to connect God’s past help with their present need. Do we find ourselves like them, rebellious and resentful when God brings us to a Red Sea? God kept helping them anyway, just like He does us. He leads through the depths(verse 11) and deserts(verse 14). We have feared the waves would drown us, but our enemies perished instead. Can we give the Lord a standing ovation?
The second picture is the failure in the wilderness. The problem with wilderness living is the monotony of the daily diet- routine that leaves one craving for something more fulfilling. Israel hated the plain daily meal of manna and wanted something more tasty. Sometimes God gives us what we crave and it makes us sick.(verses 13-15)
Mutiny is the wilderness’s traveling companion and when things aren’t going well, we’re tempted to do what people tell us to do when it’s what we want to hear rather than what’s right. Our lesson: Don’t resent spiritual authority in your life- the authority of Christ, of the Bible, and godly leaders. Coupled with mutiny is impatience. As Israel stopped for forty days while their leader disappeared up the mountain, they became impatient. How about us? Do we hate doing nothing but waiting? In those times will we be tempted to make our own god or find our own solution? This unholy trinity is completed with the addition of unbelief with its horrendous consequences. In the wilderness we are tempted for the umpteenth time to lash out at God even as we resist Him, but if we do so over long periods of time, the unthinkable can happen: moral disintegration. Numbers 25 gives the full story that Psalm 106 summarizes: seduction, flagrant immorality, and idolatry. We are more capable of evil than we might think. Why not instead hand over to Him our bad attitudes and ask Him to put in us the right heart about His purpose even in the wilderness? The final test of the wilderness is about trust or mistrust of God, to suppose He has abandoned us in our desert place and will provide no resource to sustain us. The outcome depends on whether or not we believe that God cares for us.
The third picture is that of failure in the land of promise. Psalm 106 summarizes centuries of living in Canaan as the people go from bad to worse- becoming so vile that the promised land becomes stained with the blood of their children whom they had sacrificed to idols. We may wonder how can anyone get so far from God? It all begins with disobedience(verse 34) and it ends with not a shred of difference between us and the worst of pagans.
The final picture is one of disinheritance(verses 40-43). God wanted His people to be blessed and fulfilled but instead they chose to reject His love. What happens to those who act this way? They fall away from freedom into bondage and oppression and “waste away in sin.”
The amazing thing is that after such a record of failure, God doesn’t wipe His hands clean of His people. He had heard their first cry in Egypt centuries and now He’s hearing their most recent cry. He hears ours too for no one has yet ever exhausted His grace. Only the foolish try to find the bottom. Don’t be foolish!
Dr. John Thompson