Theme: The Faithfulness of the Good God
In this week’s lessons we see that even when we sin, the Lord remains the God who acts not only in judgment, but also in faithfulness and compassion.
Scripture: Psalm 106:1-48
When I end a sermon, I like to end on a strong note, with a bang rather than a whimper, and generally I like to end a book or a lecture or anything else in the same way. I would expect this as we come to the end of the fourth book of the Psalter, but it is not what we find. True, the psalm is not exactly a whimper. But it is hardly a bang either. For the most part it is a long litany of the sins of Israel for which God chastised them again and again. In fact, if verse 47 is an accurate clue to when the psalm was written—“Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from the nations”—the people seem to be in exile, and the final “Amen” (“Let all the people say, ‘Amen!’,” v. 48) is a recognition, in part at least, that God was right in having judged them as he did.
Psalm 106 is one of two psalms that go together, which I explained at length in last Friday’s study. This means that although it is a somber note on which to end this section of the Psalter, it is nevertheless a realistic one. I pointed out in the last study that Psalms 105 and 106 represent two very different ways of telling the same story. Psalm 105 tells Israel’s story from the point of view of God’s faithfulness because of his covenant to Abraham and his descendants. Psalm 106 reviews the story from the point of view of Israel’s unfaithfulness to that same covenant and over the same period of history. Derek Kidner calls the psalm “the dark counterpart of its predecessor, a shadow cast by human self-will in the long struggle against the light.” Yet he also adds rightly, “For all its exposure of man’s ingratitude, this is a song of praise, for it is God’s extraordinary longsuffering that emerges as the real theme. This is the basis of the final prayer (v. 47), and this gives reality to the doxology that closes not only the psalm but the fourth book of the Psalter.”1
We cannot miss the fact that Psalm 106 begins and ends with Hallelujah (“Praise the LORD”). Others that do the same are Psalms 111,113, 117, 135, 146-150, and probably 105.
If Israel’s history is one long litany of sin followed by God’s just chastisement, as it is, why should Israel or anyone else “praise the LORD”? The answer is given immediately. It is because God “is good,” because “his love endures forever” (v. 1). The people had sinned repeatedly, and God had disciplined them repeatedly. But he did not cast them off, as they deserved. Instead “he remembered his covenant” (v. 45) and restored them. Thus Israel’s history is as much the story of God’s mercy, faithfulness and longsuffering, as it is the story of Israel’s faithlessness and unbelief. In fact, it is against the background of their sin that God’s patience is most fully illuminated.
Isn’t that your story, too? And isn’t that the chief content of your testimony when you praise God for his many mercies? We do not praise God because he is wonderful and we are wonderful, too. We praise him because he is kind to us even when we sin and merciful to us when we don’t deserve his mercy. Haven’t you ever sinned? Of course, you have. And hasn’t God been good to you even then? Of course, he has. So praise him for it. “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever” (v. 1).
It is interesting that at the very start of this psalm of national confession of sin the writer addresses God on his own behalf, asking God to remember him and save him when he comes to the nation’s aid (vv. 4, 5).2 He is certain God will deliver the people from their captivity because he has delivered them in the past, but what the psalmist wants is to be included in that blessing. Don’t you want to be included in times of God’s future blessing on his people? You don’t want to miss out on them, do you? Then do what the psalmist does: confess your sin, recall God’s past goodness to you, and look to him in faith for all present and future blessings.
1Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Books III-V of the Psalms (Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1975), pp. 377, 378.
2Similar prayers of national confession are found in Deuteronomy 26, 1 Kings 8, Nehemiah 9 and Daniel 9.
Of what is Psalm 106 a recognition?
Contrast Psalms 105 and 106. Why can Israel praise God in spite of sin? Why can you?
Reflection: What are your reasons for praising God? Do you acknowledge your sin in prayer?
Prayer: Confess your sins before God and recount his many blessings to you, including your salvation.
Application: Practice praying to God with the same structure as the psalm, praising him at the beginning and the end.
Key Point: The people had sinned repeatedly, and God had disciplined them repeatedly. But he did not cast them off, as they deserved…We praise him because he is kind to us even when we sin and merciful to us when we don’t deserve his mercy.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “Israel’s Glory.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)