Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.
Psalm 105 is a recital of Israel’s history. I used to find it rather tedious and wondered why the poet thought it necessary to versify this material. Surely the history books were adequate. Couldn’t he be more creative with his poetry?
Re-reading the psalm recently, I learned it may have been written to encourage Israelites during the Babylonian exile. Let’s observe how the poet chose stories from history to hearten the discouraged exiles.
The psalm’s history review begins with Abraham saying:
God is mindful of his covenant forever. . .
the covenant he made with Abraham
his promise to Isaac. . .
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statue,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant (vv. 8-9).
God made his promises when Abraham and his descendants were a little lost tribe in the vast land of Canaan. God protected them there, even rebuking kings, saying “Do not touch my anointed ones!” (v. 15). This sounds like the stories where Abraham passed off his wife as his sister, and God warned the local king not to take her into his harem (Gen. 20). If the Israelites in Babylon felt like a little lost tribe in a big, dangerous world, the poet’s message was, This is not a new experience for Israel or for God. He can handle it. He will be faithful to his forever promises.
The writer next cites Joseph, whose brothers became annoyed that he was daddy’s favorite, and that he had dreams about becoming the family patriarch. When they sold him to Egyptian traders, his dreams were lost in exile, slavery, and prison. But God remembered him and made his dreams come true. Joseph became a powerful Egyptian ruler and saved his family and the whole country from famine. The message for exiles is that God who remembered Joseph in Egypt remembers you in Babylon, and he will help you.
The poem moves to a third historical recital, the story of the Exodus, where Moses and God confronted Pharaoh with plagues until Pharaoh released God’s people from slavery. Then God helped them escape, taking them on an impossible journey through the Red Sea and the desert to the Promised Land. This God will one day free the exiles from Babylon and take them on their journey home.
A striking feature of this psalm is how the poet edited Israel’s history. He deleted all the sin and rebellion! There is no mention of the evil Joseph’s brothers did or, of 4forty faithless years wandering in the desert. The poem recites only larger events that ended happily. Why? I think the exiles already knew how badly things go wrong. They needed encouragement and hope.
Our father, you reminded the Israelites of their their history. You watched over Abraham when he was a stranger in a strange land. You protected Joseph as a prisoner and slave. You remembered your people in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land to worship you.
Lord, we too are foreigners and exiles (1 Pet 2:11), for our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20). Lead us through danger and deserts to the land you have promised. With the poet we pray:
Bring us out with joy,
your chosen ones with singing.
Bring us to a place where we
we can keep your statutes
and observe your laws (vv. 43, 45, paraphrased).
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.