Ep.229: Psalm 106: Bad Memories.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalms 105 and 106 present sharply different views of Israel’s history. Psalm 105 is an optimistic and uplifting account of how God made promises and protected the Israelites all the way from Abraham to the Promised Land.

Psalm 106, in contrast, is like a modern novel that deals in dysfunction, angst, and moral confusion. The psalm tells story after story of Israel’s sin and rebellion. As I present a summary of the psalm, ask yourself, “Why would a poet focus on such negative history?” 

Here’s my summary.  

Soon after leaving Egypt, the Israelites were trapped between Pharaoh’s army and the Red Sea. They promptly forgot God’s miracles in Egypt, and complained to Moses, saying, “There were plenty of graves in Egypt. Why did you bring us here to die?” (Ex 14:10). 

While wandering in the desert, some Israelites wanted to be priests like Aaron, so they petitioned Moses for religious equality. But God punished them in an earthquake, and sent fire on their followers. Then the Israelites blamed Moses for God’s punishment and the needless deaths, so God sent a plague among them until Aaron offered incense to make atonement (Num 16:1-50). 

When Moses was on Mt. Sinai with God, the impatient Israelites created their own god–a golden calf. God wanted to destroy everyone and start over, but Moses convinced him that was a bad idea (Ex 32). 

The spies who surveyed the Promised Land reported that it was a pleasant and fruitful land. But they also reported the natives were giants who killed invaders. So the people complained to Moses again, and said, “Take us back to Egypt” (Num 13:25-33).

After the Israelites accepted Moab’s invitation to make sacrifices to the local idol, Baal of Peor, God sent a plague among them, killing many, until Aaron’s grandson, Phineas the priest, intervened (Num 25). 

At Meribah, in the desert, the Israelites complained about lack of water, saying to Moses, “Why have you brought us to this wretched place?” God told Moses to speak to the rock, but Moses, in frustration, said to the people, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring water out of this rock?” and he struck the rock with his rod. 

The poet is telling us that the Israelites were so contrary and uncooperative, they provoked Moses himself to dishonor God. God responded to Moses by telling him he would die in the desert instead of leading the people into the Promised Land. 

The sorry history did not improve when Israel lived in the Promised Land. They continued ignoring God, worshipped false gods, and sacrificed  children to idols. It got so bad that God punished the whole nation by letting other nations conquer and enslave them. The nation that provoked Moses and God in the wilderness continued provoking God in the Promised Land. 

The the poet concludes: 

     Many times God delivered them,
      but they were bent on rebellion
      and they wasted away in their sin.
  Yet he took note of their distress
      when he heard their cry;
  for their sake he remembered his covenant
      and out of his great love he relented.
  He caused all who held them captive
      to show them mercy (vv. 43-46).

The poet then offers a strong and unexpected conclusion: a prayer. Let’s pray with the poet.
  Save us, Lord our God,
      and gather us from the nations,
  that we may give thanks to your holy name
      and glory in your praise (v. 47). 

Yes, Lord, with the poet we confess the history of Israel, the history of the world, and our own history. Our sins and unfaithfulness have provoked you and landed us in trouble. In our despair, we tell you our sordid history. Hear our confession and deliver us, for in every age, your grace is new and undeserved. In judgment, O Lord, remember mercy. As we experience the consequences of our sin, remember to be kind to us. Lighten our darkness with rays of hope. 


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.