Theme: Remembering What God Has Done
This week’s lessons focus on the faithfulness of God, and call us to remember his many mercies toward us and to praise him for them.
Scripture: Psalm 105:1-45
In our study of the Psalms we are coming to the end of the fourth book of the Psalter (Psalms 90 to 106), where we find two psalms that form a striking pair: Psalms 105 and 106. The first deals with the faithfulness of God to Israel from the time of his initial covenant with them through Abraham to their entering into the Promised Land. The second deals with their unfaithfulness to him during the same time period.
That they belong together is indicated in an interesting way. In the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament), the “Hallelujah” (translated “Praise the LORD”) that ends Psalm 104 is placed at the beginning of Psalm 105. If that is the way the psalms should be divided, then each of the last four psalms of book four ends as it began. “Praise the LORD, O my soul” both begins and ends Psalms 103 and 104. “Hallelujah” (“Praise the LORD”) does the same for Psalms 105 and 106. So we actually have two sets of paired psalms. Psalms 103 and 104 form a pair; the first praises God as Savior, the second as Creator. The last two form a pair. These praise God: 1) for his faithfulness over against, 2) the continuing sin of his people, as I have indicated.
The first fifteen verses of Psalm 105, the last two verses of 106 and, in between, the greater part of Psalm 96 appear in 1 Chronicles 16:8-36 as a hymn David committed to Asaph and his associates on the day the Ark of the Covenant was brought from the house of Obed-Edom to Jerusalem. This may be the original setting for Psalm 105 or part of it, but as it stands, Psalm 105 would be a psalm of thanksgiving for Israel on any occasion—and for ourselves as well. Part of John Newton’s hymn “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” (1779) is based on verses 39-41.
The first stanza (vv. 1-6) begins with a verse that tells us: 1) to give God thanks; 2) to call on his name; and 3) to proclaim him to others. It is a wonderful way to begin the psalm: “Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done.”
Richard Baxter was one of the greatest of the nonconformist preachers of the seventeenth century. He lived from 1615 to 1692 and pastored at Kidderminster, where he died. His preaching ministry and his method of house-to-house catechizing of his flock were so successful that he was able to report toward the end of his pastorate: “On the Lord’s Day there was no disorder to be seen in the streets; but you might hear a hundred families singing psalms and repeating sermons as you passed through them.” What was the secret of Baxter’s amazing success in the ministry? There were probably many reasons, but one clue may be found in the words of this verse inscribed on the pulpit from which he preached those many years in Kidderminster: “Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon his name; make known his deeds among the people” (KJV).1
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every minister or Bible teacher would make it his or her goal to do exactly that? Shouldn’t this be the heart’s desire and goal of every Christian?
There is even more to this opening stanza. Verse 1 gives us three great imperatives: “give thanks,” “call on his name” and “make his deeds known,” as I said. But the next verses continue this litany of appropriate response to God’s goodness. Verse 2 tells us to “sing,” “sing praise” and “tell of all his wonderful acts.” Verse 3 advises, “Glory in his name” and “rejoice.” Verse 4 says, “Look to the LORD” and “seek his face always.” Verse 5 says, “Remember.” How we need it! We need to remember what God has done on our behalf. This is precisely why the psalm was written, of course. It was written to remind Israel what God had done for them. We would be far more thankful people and more godly than we are if we would merely take time to remember God’s many mercies to us, and not forget them.
1Psalm 105:1 also occurs almost word for word in Isaiah 12:4.
In what sense do Psalms 103 to 106 comprise two sets of paired psalms? What are their themes?
What three imperatives are given in Psalm 105:1? How are they developed in verses 2-5?
How does Psalm 105:1 explain the success of preacher Richard Baxter? What should be our heart’s desire and goal?
Read 1 Chronicles 16:8-36. How do the setting and context of this passage help you understand Psalm 105?
Application: Is your life marked by giving thanks, calling on the name of the Lord, and making his deeds known? Or are the cares and hardships of life causing you to forget who God is, his mercies in the past, and what he promises for those who belong to him?