There are many things to learn from Psalm 106. For today I’ve chosen just a few highlights, beginning at the end, with a proper view of God. After all, if our view of God is wrong, everything else will be gravely distorted.
Nevertheless He regarded their affliction,
when He heard their cry:
And He remembered for them His covenant,
and repented according to the multitude of His mercies.
He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives.
Save us, O LORD our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
to give thanks unto Your holy name,
and to triumph in Your praise.
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting:
and let all the people say, “Amen.” Praise you the LORD.
The God of the Old Testament
To say the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and judgment is a misconception at best and a misrepresentation at worst. God never changes (Malachi 3:6). He is the same yesterday, and today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Yes, He is holy, righteous, and just; but He is also love (yes, love—not loving, but love, 1 John 4:8, 16), and merciful, gracious, full of loving-kindness and patience. All these attributes and more are displayed quite fully in the Old Testament as well as in the New.
Psalm 106 is a prime example. This psalm recounts the history of the children of Israel, how they continually forgot the blessings of God, turned their back on Him to serve gods who are no gods, walked in their own way, and then blamed Him for their troubles. The Lord did not prevent tragedy from coming into their lives, but He allowed it for a purpose. It was never random, never arbitrary, and most certainly never spiteful. God’s purpose was always to redeem His people unto Himself.
Verse 44 stands out like a beacon of light amid the darkness of man’s wretched sinfulness in this psalm. God heard their cry for help! He remembered them for the sake of His covenant. Why? Because God keeps His promises! Always!
Don’t be thrown off by the word repent here. When God repents, it has nothing to do with remorse or regret, for He never sins. It is merely a change in direction. He was set upon a course of judgment for the sins of the people, but when they repented of [turned from] their sins to seek His face, then He repented of [turned from] the judgment to offer mercy.
Were they still in captivity? Yes. But God gave them favor in the eyes of their captors, so that the bondage was not oppressive like before. Even so, the psalmist prayed for the day when they would at last be delivered from bondage and free to return to their own land.
Praise Him in the Storm
Notice that he praised God in the midst of his captivity. He did not wait for deliverance to come. He praised God in the storm, knowing that God was there with him.
You and I can do that too. All storms come to an end sooner or later. Of that we can be sure. We can also be sure that as long as we live on this earth, there will always be another storm. But if you are a child of God, He will go with you through every single one of them. So praise Him in the storm.
My Works Do Not Impress God
It is a sin to forget what God has done for me. For when I forget God, then I think it’s up to me to make a success of my life. Two sad verses in this passage are, “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (v.15) and “Thus were they defiled with their own works… therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against His people, insomuch that He abhorred His own inheritance” (vv.39-40). How sad to receive blessings of the Lord but not be able to enjoy them! And how sad to be abhorred by the Lord because I have gone my own way. I didn’t even know God was capable of such a strong negative emotion. But it’s right here in the Bible. I want to be loved of the Lord, not abhorred of Him!
Look in the Mirror
12 Then believed they His words; they sang His praise.
13 They soon forgot His works; they waited not for His counsel:
14 But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert.
15 And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul….
21 They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt….
24 Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word:
The verses leading up to these recount the miraculous way in which God delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt and brought them right up to the border of the Promised Land. You rejoice when you see how grateful they were in verse 12; but then you want to weep, for in the very next verse they forgot all His marvelous works! How could they have been so short-sighted? They saw God provide water from the rock, but they did not believe He could give them meat. They saw Him miraculously give the great city of Jericho into their hand in battle, but they thought they could conquer Ai on their own.
But let us not be judgmental, for do we not also easily forget what God has done for us? Do you and I praise Him for providing us with a home and then wonder how we are going to pay the electric bill? Remember, all things were written in the Bible for our learning—not so we could look down our noses at those “foolish” Israelites, but so that we could see ourselves in them! The Bible is a mirror into the soul. If you will read it honestly, you will see things that are not easy to look at. But the Lord longs for you to face those weaknesses—those sins—confess them, root them out, and let Him replace them with the fruit of the Spirit.
Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
What hope? The hope that I can and shall be transformed into the image of God’s dear Son. The hope that I don’t have to stay like I am—selfish, ungrateful, proud, and the list goes on. By God’s grace, I can let those things go, and He will replace them with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. I don’t know about you, but that puts a smile on my face.
Are You Hungry?
Verses 21 and 24 say, “They forgot God their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt…. Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word.” They forgot God… yea, they despised the pleasant land…. The Promised Land was called “a land flowing with milk and honey.” When we forget God, even sweetness is bitter. But when we remember God, even bitterness is sweet. This reminds me of one of the proverbs.
Proverbs 27:7 The full soul loathes a honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet.
As I read this, I ask myself, “Angela, are you full-up on God? In other words, have you grown complacent? Or do you hunger and thirst after righteousness?” To the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. If I hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt. 5:6), then even the hard times in my life will seem sweet to me because I will feel the closeness of my Savior. I will know He sent the storm, that He sent me into the storm, that He is with me in the storm, and that He will bring me safely through the storm. I will trust Him, even when I do not understand His eternal redemptive purposes. I will come to appreciate the heat of the Refiner’s fire, the pressure of the Potter’s hands, and the chafing of the Carpenter’s sandpaper. Why? Because I know these things, though unpleasant, are for my good and His glory.
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Photo taken in Milton, FL, 2017