Israel Acknowledging Their Failures, but Also Jehovah’s Mercy
Israel Acknowledging Their Failures, but Also Jehovah’s Mercy
Psalm 106. In the previous Psalm we had Israel reviewing God’s ways with them in grace, but now we have Israel acknowledging their failures, but also acknowledging Jehovah’s mercy. This is important because Jehovah’s mercy or loving-kindness is more fully displayed, not in acts of power, but in forgiveness. Although this is an orphan Psalm, we know the author was David because parts are included in the Psalm David wrote when the ark was brought to Jerusalem (1 Chron. 16:34 compares to v.1, and 1 Chron. 16:35-36 compare with vv.47-48).
1 Hallelujah! Give ye thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good; for his loving-kindness endureth for ever.
2 Who can utter the mighty acts of Jehovah? who can shew forth all his praise?
3 Blessed are they that keep justice, and he that doeth righteousness at all times.
4 Remember me, O Jehovah, with thy favour toward thy people; visit me with thy salvation:
5 That I may see the prosperity of thy chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the joy of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.
vv.1-5 Jehovah Praised and Called on to Save. In the opening verses we have Israel praising Jehovah for His goodness, and that characteristic expression “his loving-kindness endureth for ever”. There is praise for the ways of Jehovah with His people, then a cry for salvation and restoration.
6 We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.
7 Our fathers in Egypt considered not thy wondrous works; they remembered not the multitude of thy loving-kindnesses; but they rebelled at the sea, at the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his might.
9 And he rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; and he led them through the deeps as through a wilderness.
10 And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their oppressors: there was not one of them left.
12 Then believed they his words; they sang his praise.
vv.6-12 Israel’s Sin in Egypt, Yet Jehovah Delivered them at the Red Sea. The confession of Israel is; “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly”. This is a confession of Israel at the return of Christ who can look back down the avenue of time and acknowledge their whole history up to the present. They go over a number of national sins they are associated with, and confess them. They go back to Israel’s first sin in Egypt, first in not believing the signs that Moses wrought, and then rebelling at the brink of the Red Sea; “And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt? Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness” (Ex. 14:11-12). But rather than leave them to be captured, the Lord delivered Israel by opening the sea for Israel to pass, and bringing it again over their oppressors. This brought Israel to believe in Jehovah’s power, and sing the song of deliverance (v.12, Ex. 15).
13 They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel:
14 And they lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted GOD in the desert.
15 Then he gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.
16 And they envied Moses in the camp, and Aaron, the saint of Jehovah.
17 The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram;
18 And fire was kindled in their company; a flame burned up the wicked.
vv.13-18 The Sin of Lusting, and the Resulting Judgment. But it was not long after the Red Sea that Israel “soon forgot” what the Lord had done for them. They fell into lusting, and the Lord “gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” This refers to Numbers 11 when the Lord sent quails into the camp to satisfy Israel’s lusts, but “while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague” (Num 11:33). Then Israel began to speak against Moses and Aaron (Num. 16), and the root of it was “envy”. The Lord judged the ringleaders and their families, with the earth opening up to swallow the company of Dathan, Abiram, and Korah. Then the fire of the Lord came out and consumed those wicked men who offered incense (Num. 16:35).
19 They made a calf in Horeb, and did homage to a molten image;
20 And they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.
21 They forgot GOD their Saviour, who had done great things in Egypt,
22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham, terrible things by the Red Sea.
23 And he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses, his chosen, stood before him in the breach, to turn away his fury, lest he should destroy them.
vv.19-23 The Sin of the Golden Calf, and Moses’ Intercession. The next episode in review is the sin of the golden calf in Horeb (Ex. 32). This marked a total failure of Israel. They had been called by the God whose name is Jehovah; the one true and living God. At Horeb they denied Him, “forgot God their Savior”, and made an idol to worship. It was the characteristic failure of the nation of Israel, and it signaled at the outset that the dispensation would come to ruin in man’s hands. God might well have destroyed Israel right then, had not Moses “stood before him in the breach, to turn away his fury, lest he should destroy them.” In this way Moses is a type of Christ, standing in the breach between God and man, and turning away God’s wrath.
24 And they despised the pleasant land; they believed not his word,
25 But murmured in their tents: they hearkened not unto the voice of Jehovah.
26 And he lifted up his hand to them, that he would make them fall in the wilderness;
27 And that he would make their seed fall among the nations, and disperse them through the countries.
vv.24-27 The Sin of Unbelief, and the Sentence of Death. The next sin of Israel that is confessed is the sin of refusing to believe the Word of the Lord, that the land of Canaan was pleasant. They would not believe the report of Joshua and Caleb, and fell under the sentence of death; “he lifted up his hand to them, that he would make them fall in the wilderness”. We read of this in Numbers 14.
28 And they joined themselves unto Baal-Peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead;
29 And they provoked him to anger with their doings; and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then stood up Phinehas and executed judgment, and the plague was stayed;
31 And that was reckoned unto him for righteousness, from generation to generation, for evermore.
vv.28-31 The Sin of Baal-Peor, and the Intercession of Phinehas. The next sin of Israel that is confessed is the sin of Baal-Peor, when Balaam “taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication” (Rev. 2:14). Balaam tried to curse Israel, but God would not allow it. Cleverly, he lured Israel into a situation where the Lord Himself would judge His people. The Lord was angry with Israel, and “a plague broke out among them”. The plague was stopped by faithful Phinehas, who “executed judgment”, and as a result “the plague was stayed”. Like Moses in v.23, Phinehas is a type of Christ, as the Man who alone was zealous for His God, and put away sin from before a holy God. As a result of Phinehas’ action, God gave him an everlasting covenant of the priesthood; “Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel” (Num. 25:12-13).
32 And they moved him to wrath at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account;
33 For they provoked his spirit, so that he spoke unadvisedly with his lips.
vv.32-33 The Sin of Meribah, and its Result in Moses. Then next sin that is recounted is that of the “waters of Meribah”, which means ‘stife’, because the children of Israel strove against the Lord. “And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!” (Num. 20:2-3). What is striking about this occasion was that the people cause Moses to lose his character of meekness; “it went ill with Moses on their account; for they provoked his spirit, so that he spoke unadvisedly with his lips” (Num. 20:11). God did give the people water, but because Moses did not sanctify God before the people, neither he nor Aaron would be allowed to enter the land.
34 They did not destroy the peoples, as Jehovah commanded them;
35 But they mingled with the nations, and learned their works;
36 And they served their idols; and they were a snare unto them:
37 And they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons,
38 And shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan; and the land was polluted with blood.
39 And they were defiled with their works, and went a-whoring in their doings.
vv.34-39 The Sin of Idolatry in Canaan. When Israel did enter the land, “they did not destroy the peoples, as Jehovah commanded them”. God wanted Israel to drive out the Canaanites because dwelling with them would lead to the corruption of Israel, with idolatry and the immorality that comes with it. We read of Israel’s failure to do this in Judges 1. The result of this was; “they mingled with the nations”, “they served their idols”, “they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto demons”, they “shed innocent blood”, and “the land was polluted with blood”. These were the governmental consequences of not obeying the word of the Lord. They became as wicked as the Amorites, whom they were to drive out. God’s land became polluted through Israel’s sin. The result was what we have in vv.40-46.
40 Then was the anger of Jehovah kindled against his people, and he abhorred his inheritance;
41 And he gave them into the hand of the nations; and they that hated them ruled over them:
42 And their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their hand.
43 Often did he deliver them; but as for them they provoked him by their counsel, and they were brought low by their iniquity.
44 But he regarded their distress, when he heard their cry;
45 And he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his loving-kindnesses;
46 And he caused them to find compassion of all those that had carried them captives.
vv.40-46 The Subjugation and Captivity of Israel, and God’s Mercy. Because of Israel’s sin of idolatry, and the immorality that pertained to it, “the anger of Jehovah kindled against his people, and he abhorred his inheritance”. How could He show favor to a people that was corrupted by idolatry? So, God allowed His people to be subjugated by their enemies (v.41). It began in the days of the judges, when one enemy after another would oppress Israel. But God would deliver His people “often”, as the book of Judges records. Finally, Jehovah allowed the Assyrians and Babylonians to come and take Israel away captive. But in captivity, Jehovah “regarded their distress, when he heard their cry; and he remembered for them his covenant, and repented according to the multitude of his loving-kindnesses”. When Israel had failed in every way, and was even cast out the promised land, the loving-kindness of Jehovah abounded to them, and He “remembered for them his covenant”. Even in captivity, the protecting hand of Jehovah was over them, and He providentially ordered that those who held Israel captive would show compassion to them.
47 Save us, Jehovah our God, and gather us from among the nations, to give thanks unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise.
v.47 A Prayer for Salvation and Restoration. Israel views themselves in captivity “among the nations”, in that state to which their sin had brought them. But they cry out to Jehovah their God, to save them and regather them to their land, that they might thank and praise Him as they should.
48 Blessed be Jehovah the God of Israel, from eternity and to eternity! And let all the people say, Amen! Hallelujah!
v.48 Conclusion. This Psalm begins and ends with “Hallelujah”, so it is called a double-Hallelujah Psalm. It closes the fourth book of the Psalms. This concluding verse encapsulates the spirit of the fourth book. First, all of Israel is in view, and Jehovah is presented as “Jehovah the God of Israel”. Second, the frailty of man and the eternity of God are contrasted, and thus He is “from eternity and to eternity”. Finally, it leaves us with Israel in their land praising Jehovah; “And let all the people say, Amen! Hallelujah!”.