Psalm 106 is titled Give Thanks to the LORD, for He is Good in the ESV, Joy in Forgiveness of Israel’s Sins in the NKJV, and Israel’s Rebelliousness and the LORD’s Deliverances in the NASB.
This Psalm begins and ends with Hallelujah- “Praise ye the Lord.” The space between these two descriptions of praise is filled up with the mournful details of Israel’s sin, and the extraordinary patience of God; and truly we do well to bless the Lord both at the beginning and the end of our meditations when sin and grace are the themes.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Where Psalm 105 exults in the greatness of God, calling all the people to remember Him, Psalm 106 recollects sin and the shortcomings of His children. While we read of the many (and often times atrocious) sins of Israel, we must also reflect upon ourselves. We are sinners. We all have fallen short. And to remember God’s goodness, we need to understand that we are worthy only because He says so. My worth, your worth, is not in what we do, it is solely because of God’s grace and love for us.
Some commentators call this the first of the “Hallelujah Psalms” (there are 10 of them: 106, 111-113, 115-119, and 150). And although there are a few verses that again match David’s words in 1 Chronicles as the Ark enters Jerusalem, there is no definitive time period to associate this psalm to. Bible scholars also are uncertain of its author. Sometimes the unknown of date and author allows us to reflect even more upon the words and the teaching.
And what we know with certainty is this:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NIV
A psalm listing the grievous sins of Israel must still pierce our hearts. May the words of this psalm cause us to remember our worth is in the Lord, not in all that we have done right or wrong.
And may we begin and end our study of Psalm 106 with Hallelujah. Praise the Lord!
Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise? Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right. Psalm 106:1-3 NIV
What does the author tell us to do?
Praise. Give thanks. Proclaim. Declare. Act justly. Do what is right.
Thankfully, no matter what goes on around us, no matter the good or bad choices that we make today, we can always sing praise to the Lord. Why? Because He is good, and His love endures forever. The Hebrew word used here is hesed/chesed. Other translations use mercy, steadfast love, faithful love, lovingkindness. All of these English words attempt to translate the Hebrew word hesed, or God’s covenant love throughout time to His children. God used this word to describe Himself (Exodus 34:6-7). God is difficult for us to understand; therefore, His love is not only difficult to understand, but also challenging to explain with words.
Sometimes, as in this psalm, His faithful and steadfast love can best be understood with the forgiveness of sin. Grace.
This psalm begins the way the previous psalm ended, saying hallelujah! Psalm 105 gave praise because of God’s many gifts and blessings to Israel. This psalm gives praise because of God’s great mercy to an often rebellious and ungrateful Israel.Pastor David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com
None of our sins or sufferings should prevent our ascribing glory and praise to the Lord. The more unworthy we are, the more is his kindness to be admired.Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
Thus begins a confession of sin.
Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them, that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory with your inheritance. Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make known his mighty power. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry, and he led them through the deep as through a desert. So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy. And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed his words; they sang his praise. Psalm 106:4-12 ESV
The author of Psalm 106 does a humble thing here. This psalm is a confession of national sin; however, he begins this section asking God to “remember me” “that I may glory with your inheritance.” He does not just list national sins, he includes himself. He includes the present children of God. Both we and our fathers have sinned.
The history of Israel’s sin as listed in the Old Testament (and New even) is more the history of God’s faithfulness. It is the story of God’s covenant love and mercy, His hesed steadfast love throughout time.
Even so, He saved them- to defend the honor of His name and to demonstrate His mighty power. (verse 8 NLT) Nevertheless He saved them for His name's sake, that He might make His mighty power known. (verse 8 NKJV) But the Lord saved them for His own sake, to show His great power. (verse 8 ICB)
God loves and provides for and redeems His children for their sake but also to show His mighty deeds to all and for future generations. The author then lists a time in Israel’s history when they lost faith and sinned against the Lord.
God caused the Red Sea to split and His children to walk through in safety to escape the Egyptian army and to make their way home, to the Promised Land. Not one of the enemy was left alive as the waves of the Red Sea crashed back together. All of His children were saved. (Exodus 14)
And, at that time, they sang praises to the Lord for His mighty saving power. (Exodus 15)
But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness and put God to the test in the desert; he gave them what they asked for but sent a wasting disease among them. Psalm 106:13-15 ESV
Numbers 11 tells of this change of heart. The people “forgot” God’s faithfulness.
And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying part of the camp. Numbers 11:1 ESV
How quickly the people forgot God’s saving grace. They grumbled and complained and demanded meat instead of the life sustaining manna that God provided. They even lusted after the fish and fruit they remembered as slaves in Egypt! Moses went to God with their requests and their complaining. Numbers 11 tells of this conversation between God and Moses. We can have these types of conversation ourselves with God now. Do you complain to God? I do sometimes.
Sometimes God will give His children what they ask for. But God’s will is always better.
While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. Numbers 11:33 ESV
The judgement mentioned here (and in Numbers 11) was strict, but it was a help to the Israelites because it taught them not to be ruled by their cravings and lusts. They came to call this place Kibroth Hataavah– meaning, Graves of Craving (Numbers 11:34). Many since have allowed their cravings to become their graves.Pastor David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com
When men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy one of the LORD, the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. Fire also broke out in their company; the flame burned up the wicked. Psalm 106:16-18 ESV
This story is found in Numbers 16 and is the story of Korah’s rebellion.
One day Korah son of Izhar, a descendant of Kohath son of Levi, conspired with Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, from the tribe of Reuben. They incited a rebellion against Moses, along with 250 other leaders of the community, all prominent members of the assembly. They united against Moses and Aaron and said, "You have gone too far! The whole community of Israel has been set apart by the LORD, and he is with all of us. What right do you have to act as though you are greater than the rest of the LORD's people?" Numbers 16:1-3 NLT
Korah and his followers sinned against God. They incited a riot to protest Moses’s leadership. Moses was chosen by God to lead the people of Israel at that time, and so God was angry. Another example of a time when the people turned their backs on God and His plan. God would lead them to the Promised Land through the leadership of Moses, and the people rebelled.
Moses and Aaron are both named. Moses was the hand of the God, His chosen leader. Aaron was the spiritual leader, a high priest.
Thus neither church nor state was ordered aright for them; they would snatch from Moses his sceptre, and from Aaron his mitre. It is the mark of bad men that they are envious of the good, and spiteful against their best benefactors.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. Therefore he said he would destroy them- had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them. Psalm 106:19-23 ESV
This is the well known story of the golden calf found in Exodus 32.
What do we exchange the glory of God for? Do we forget our Savior and turn to worldly idols? And, when we find our way back to God and look back at our foolishness, is it similar to this event in Israel’s history? The wondrous miracles of God versus a cow that munches on grass. Who has the power to save?
The living God only.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Romans 1:21-23 ESV
Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach. Like a bold warrior who defends the wall when there is an opening for the adversary and destruction is rushing in upon the city, Moses stopped the way of avenging justice with his prayers. Moses had great power with God.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1832-1892
What a stark reminder of the power of prayer and the power of having a relationship with God. Do you fear for the sins of someone you love? Stand in the breach as Moses did.
Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the LORD. Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them that he would make them fall in the wilderness, and would make their offspring fall among the nations, scattering them among the lands. Psalm 106:24-27
They despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his word: this refers to the Israelites sinful unbelief at Kadesh Barnea (Numbers 14:1-4). They did not believe the promise of God or the report of Joshua and Caleb, the two faithful spies (Numbers 13:30).Pastor David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com
After that, God swore a whole generation of Israelites would die wandering the desert. All of the adults who were led for Egypt and now stood before the pathway to the Promised Land, would not enter, except for Joshua and Caleb. Thus, for forty years the people wandered, and each stop was probably littered with funerals as an entire generation passed.
Remember God and His promises. Remember His faithfulness. When you feel yourself “murmuring in your tent” turn your eyes back to God.
Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead; they provoked the LORD to anger with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed. And that was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever. Psalm 106:28-31 ESV
Because of their sin, God sent a plague upon His people. God wants our hearts, and He may well allow our suffering if it means that we will turn back to Him.
In this place in the history of God’s people, they had turned their hearts to false gods. They had allowed themselves to be tempted and led astray (Numbers 25), and God allowed a plague to kill 24,000 Israelites before a man named Philehas violently took matters into his own hands.
They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter, and he spoke rashly with is lips. Psalm 106:32-33 ESV
Verses 32 and 33 are the story of Moses disobeying God and the consequence that followed. (Numbers 20) The Israelites were thirsty. So God told Moses to take his staff and tell the rock to produce water. Moses took his staff and smacked the rock with it instead. God sent fresh water flowing from that rock even though Moses lost his faith and didn’t do it the way God said to. It’s a good example of God still using us, even in our weakness. God still provided drinking water for His children. Moses however didn’t trust God to provide. He therefore would not enter the Promised Land.
Interestingly, the psalmist here says the people provoked Moses to act the way he did. And maybe they did; maybe Moses was frustrated with them and did it his own way because of that. God still held Moses accountable for how he responded.
We are responsible for ourselves, and we will be stand in front of God someday and have to speak of how we handled things.
They did not destroy the peoples, as the LORD commanded them, but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds. Psalm 106:34-39 ESV
Sometimes God called the Israelites to war, to destroy enemies. Here is an example of why God did this and expected this. He told the Israelites to rid the area of the Canaanites. They did not, and as time went by, the ways of the Canaanites mingled with the Israelites. Even to the point of worshipping the god Molech who was often worshipped with the sacrifice of children.
The land was polluted with blood: Until justice prevails, the blood of innocents murdered cries out to God (Genesis 4:10) and pollutes a nation in the eyes of God (Numbers 35:33).Pastor David Guzik, http://www.enduringword.com
Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power. Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity. Psalm 106:40-43 ESV
Throughout the history of Israel, God intervened. His children are too valuable to Him to stand by and watch them destroy themselves. Like a good father, God punishes. He steps in with a heavy hand at times. We may see His punishment as harsh and merciless, but that’s easy to say from this point looking back. God allowed His children to suffer oppression and slavery. He delivered them only to have the next generation commit the same sins against their Creator.
God can make our enemies to be rods in his hands to flog us back to our best friend.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
God used that which the Israelites had turned to and used to turn away from God with, to be their demise. Many times, He allowed their desires to be their downfalls. Their sins became their tormentors. Does He not do that with you and I still? We choose things that lead us away from Him, but the path of the Lord is always the safer road.
Good thing the story doesn’t end here.
Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. Psalm 106:44-46 ESV
Because of God’s great mercy, His steadfast love, He heard their cry. God never turns away from us. Even when we give in to our sinful nature. Even when we turn our back on God, He is still there. He does not move. He waits for His children to cry to Him.
In my unfaithfulness, God remains faithful.
If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself. 2 Timoth 3:13 NKJV
God has been faithful. He is faithful. He will always be faithful to those who love Him.
Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, "Amen!" Praise the LORD! Psalm 106:47-48 ESV
Blessed be the Lord.
From everlasting to everlasting.
Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord.
Thus ends Book Four of the Psalter.
Father in heaven, thank you for this wonderful psalm of the remembrance of sin. We remember our sin which reminds us of your faithfulness. We are not worthy because of anything we have done or not done. We are worthy because of you. We are your children. Thank you for your unfailing love throughout time. Thank you for your mercy and grace. Amen.