God Is Faithful

Explore the Bible Series

September 20, 2009

 

Background Passage: Psalm 105:1-106:48

Lesson Passage: Psalm 105: 7-11; 106:6-7, 19-20, 40-45

 

Introduction:

 

What a treat to study Psalms 105 and 106, two of the three “historic Psalms” (See also Psalm 78).  As many of you know, I earn my living as a historian, and this study suits me well.  As each semester begins, I usually take important class time to discuss, with my students, the importance of studying this discipline, and I’d like to introduce the lesson by adapting my lecture to this forum.

 

Why Study History?

  1. History is fundamental to the study of all other disciplines, including theology.  More than any other world religion, Christianity is a historical religion; that is, it roots its truth claims in the record of God’s dealings with his people, in concrete, historical context.  Christians do not ground their faith in a philosophical or ethical system; instead, the faith grows from a clear redemptive line of historical events, culminating in the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ.  Frankly, without this historical foundation, Christianity would be a heap of meaningless ashes.  All true theology grows from an appropriate grasp of history.
  2. History should prevent the repetition of errors.  Again, this relates directly to our understanding of the theology.  Satan plays the same hand, again and again.  He alters the circumstances and terminology of his lies, but the strategies remain remarkably similar.  The author of these Psalms clearly believed that his reflections on Hebrew history would act as a corrective to temptations faced by the Lord’s people, and contemporary readers can easily find the relevance to our own time.
  3. History should promote greater understanding and compassion among peoples of varied cultural backgrounds.  The catastrophic divisions among God’s people would often find some measure of healing with a better comprehension of our common historical and theological roots.  I have some reservations about much of the Ecumenical Movement (Is this movement still alive?), but I genuinely appreciate heartfelt efforts to heal theological wounds among the people of God.
  4. History leads to self-discovery and self-awareness.  Many Baptists, in my experience, are woefully unaware of their own theological roots, and, as a result, these folks impoverish their own pilgrimage.
  5. History is an enjoyable and rewarding discipline.  In its simplest terms, history is the story of people, and people are interesting.  Christians, it seems to me, should find history particularly meaningful because it recounts how our forefathers and foremothers have understood their interactions with the divine.  I just don’t understand folks who dislike history—it seems counter-human, antisocial.
  6. History helps us anticipate the future.  This must have been true of the psalmists because their words foreshadow the coming of Christ.  Our hope, indeed, anticipates the glorious return of Jesus and the bliss of heaven, forever in the presence of the Savior.

 

We have no way of knowing the author of these two chapters.  Some commentators date this work from the Post-Exilic Era, a time when the exiles returned to Judah and reestablished the Jewish liturgical year and renewed the covenant their forefathers had tragically broken. These Psalms recount the story of Israel and celebrate God’s faithfulness despite the unfaithfulness of his people.

 

 

Lesson Outline:

 

Outline of Psalm One Hundred Five

 

I.                   A Call to Worship the Faithful God of Israel (vv. 1-6): The author introduced this hymn with a series of imperatives, calling God’s people to praise the Lord.  I Chronicles 16:8f contains much of this material, as well.  These admonitions need little explanation but demand greater implementation.

A.    “Give thanks unto the Lord” (v. 1a)

B.     “Call upon his name” (v. 1b)

C.     “Sing to him” (v. 2a)

D.    “Tell all of his wondrous works” (v. 2b)

E.     “Glory in his holy name” (v. 3a)

F.      “Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice” (v. 3b)

G.    “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually” (v. 4)

H.    “Remember the wondrous works he has done” (v. 5): The Reformation Study Bible observes that remembering the Lord entails more that historical recollection.  It calls God’s people to remember, appreciate, and obey.

 

II.                God’s faithfulness to the Patriarchs (vv. 6-15): The story of Abraham is the foundational narrative of redemptive history.  This section begins with an affirmation of the Lord’s sovereignty and faithfulness to his covenant with Abraham, a covenant that extended to Isaac, Jacob, and a thousand generations (See vv. 8-10).  Though the Hebrews numbered few, God chose them, blessed them, and protected them (See Genesis 12-35).

 

III.             God’s faithfulness to Joseph (vv. 16-22): Joseph, one of Jacob’s youngest sons, experienced grave trials; yet, the Lord remained faithful to his servant.  After years of mistreatment, Joseph ascended, by God’s providence, to second in command in Egypt (See Genesis 37-50).  Joseph’s brothers meant him evil (as did Potiphar’s wife), but God remained faithful to his anointed.

 

IV.             God’s faithfulness to Moses (vv. 23-45): The passage of many years (four centuries) brought great hardship on the Hebrews; nevertheless, God did not forget his promise to Abraham.  God turned Egypt’s heart against the Jews, but, in the midst of their suffering, the Lord sent Moses to liberate his people from slavery. To loosen Pharaoh’s grip on the Hebrews, God used Moses to afflict Egypt with a series of severe plagues, and these idolatrous Gentiles eventually rejoiced that Israel left the land (See Exodus 1-14).   God provided protection and guidance to his people by means of the pillar of fire and cloud. Furthermore, he miraculously provided for their needs through the manna and water from the rock (See Exodus 16 and 17). Finally, after many years of wandering in the wilderness, God established and blessed his people in the land he provided for Abraham.

 

 

Outline of Psalm One Hundred and Six

 

This Psalm contrasts sharply with the previous chapter.  Here, the psalmist recounted periods of grave unfaithfulness and disobedience on the part of God’s people.  The Psalm does not recount these rebellious incidents in chronological order, and proves difficult to determine why he placed this catalog in this manner.  The point of the Psalm, of course, does not relate to chronology; rather, it recounts the sinfulness of man and the compassionate mercies of the Lord.

 

I.                   An Opening Doxology (vv. 1-6): Like the previous Psalm, the author introduced his ideas with a call to praise for God’s steadfast love and a plea for continued mercies.

A.    Thanksgiving for God’s steadfast love (vv. 1-3): The Psalmist seems overwhelmed by the matchless, boundless mercies of the Lord.  His heart soars with thanksgiving for Jehovah’s acts of merciful kindness toward sinners.  Moreover, the writer recognized his unworthiness to call upon the divine name and recount his wondrous deeds of benevolence (See v. 2); yet, he cannot constrain the impulse to bless the Lord of Hosts. 

B.     A plea for continued mercy (vv. 4-6): The author asked God to remember him as the Lord showed favor to Israel.  His heartfelt petition takes three forms. Please note the humility reflected in these requests.

1.      “that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones” (v. 5a)

2.      “that I may rejoice in the gladness of the nation” (v. 5b)

3.      “that I may glory with your inheritance” (v. 5c)

 

II.                A catalog of Israel’s rebellion (vv. 6-46)

A.    Rebellion at the Red Sea (vv. 6-12): No sooner had Israel left the borders of Egypt than they questioned the Lord’s protection and provision (See Exodus 14).  When the people saw the pursuant Egyptian army, they rebelled against Moses, and, more importantly, questioned God.  Nonetheless, the Lord miraculously delivered Israel from the hands of her enemies. 

B.     Rebellion at Taribah (vv. 13-15): Number 11:1-35 recounts another incident of Israel’s complaints against God, this time related to their craven desire for meat.  In answer to their bitter protest, the Lord sent quail among the people, but, by God’s design, they found only a putrid “satisfaction” and a severe plague ravaged the rebels.

C.     The rebellion of Dathan, Korah, and Abiram (vv. 16-18):  A host of prominent men grew jealous of Moses and Aaron, and these rebellious men initiated a mutiny against God’s anointed leaders (See Numbers 16:1-49).  God did not take this rebellion lightly, destroying these men and all associated with them.

D.    The rebellion at Mt. Sinai (vv. 19-23): Exodus 32:1-35 rehearses the story of the golden calf.  Moses had ascended to Mt Sinai to receive the Law, and the people grew restless.  With Aaron’s assistance, they fashioned a golden calf and engaged in the debauchery of pagan worship. 

E.     The rebellion at Kadesh (vv. 24-27): In Numbers 13:1-14:45, the Pentateuch retells the story of the unbelief of the Hebrews at Kadesh-Barnea.  Moses sent twelve spies to investigate the land of promise, and they found, just as God had promised, that the land flowed with milk and honey; however, ten spies brought back an evil report and engendered unbelief among the Lord’s people.  Their skepticism brought the displeasure of the Lord, and he severely judged his people, condemning them to forty years in the wilderness.

F.      The rebellion of worshipping Baal (vv. 28-31): After entering Canaan, the Hebrews yielded to the paganism of the native residents of the new land.  This rebellion was not restricted to one period of time; rather, Israel struggled with idolatry for generations.  Again and again, they displeased the Lord with their unfaithfulness.

G.    The rebellion at Meribah (vv. 32-33): These verses refer to an incident recorded in Numbers 20:1-13. In this story, the people grumbled because they had no water, and Moses, angry at their complaints, struck the rock, when God had commanded him to speak to the stone.  God judged the people’s unbelief and Moses’ expression of anger.

H.    Rebellion of worshipping Molech (vv. 34-46): For many generations the Jews fell prey to the idolatrous practices of their Canaanite neighbors, in part because they refused to cleanse the land at the time of the Conquest.  Among the abominations the Hebrews often worshipped Molech (and Baal) by sacrificing children to the pagan god of the Moabites and Ammonites.  This rebellion reached its nadir during the reign of King Manasseh, and God determined to chasten his people by sending them into exile, first to the Assyrians (Israel) and then the Babylonians (Judah). Jehovah had a redemptive, gracious purpose in these exiles, but the Hebrews learned their lesson slowly.  Nonetheless, Israel’s God did not forget his gracious covenant, and he redeemed his people from the hands of their oppressors. 

 

III.             A Final Plea for Mercy (vv. 47-48): Book Four of the Psalms (and Chapter One Hundred and Six) ends with this petition for salvation.  The author pleads that God might, once again, gather his people in the land, from among the nations.