God’s Faithful Forgiveness

Posted: May 10, 2012 in Psalms

Psalm 106, “God’s Faithful Forgiveness”

Sometimes a little history can be a sobering thing!  In our individual lives, we can look back to the mistakes of our parents & hopefully avoid doing the same things.  We can look back to the things we’ve done wrong & hopefully learn to do better.  As a nation, we can look back on our culture’s failings & strive to do differently in the future, as well as make us aware of mistakes we may be in the process of making all over again.

Such is the case with the nation of Israel.  Today we have historians, cable news, and youtube to forever relive our history; Israel had something far better: the Scriptures!  Their history was recorded for them through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and at different points in time we find people & prophets & psalms reviewing their history to (1) keep them humble unto repentance, and (2) give praise and glory to God for His faithfulness.

This is exactly what’s happening in Psalm 106.  We don’t know the author or the exact context (though parts of it seem to be quoted from David – perhaps this is one of his personal compositions; perhaps it was written during the years of Babylonian captivity).  Whatever specific event spurred the writing of the psalm, what we do know is that the author is aware of the need for national repentance, and the deliverance that can only be given by God.  And more than that, the author knows that in their national history, God has been faithful to provide that deliverance.

If Psalm 105 was a song affirming God’s covenant kingly relationship with Israel, Psalm 106 is a song acknowledging Israel’s repeated sin against its King.  The nation had rebelled again & again & again.  Yet God was merciful!  In His faithful covenant love, He consistently delivered them.  Now the nation was once again in need, and the author asks for God to do it again.  God has always acted in faithful forgiveness because He is a merciful God & King.  He grants forgiveness not because we deserve it (we don’t!), but because God is so amazingly good.

Psalm 106 (NKJV)

  • Opening prayer and praise (vss. 1-5)

1 Praise the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.

  • Opens & closes with a famous Hebrew phrase: “Hallelujah!”  When we say “praise the Lord,” we’re proclaiming that the Almighty Everlasting God Yahweh be praised & magnified in the sight of all creation – especially His people.  Say the phrase often, but be careful not to let it become trite…this is ascribing to God the highest praise!
  • Also quotes what seems to have been the national refrain of Israel: “Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.”  This phrase (or its variation) appears over 40 times in the OT…wonderful exhortation!
    • Give thanks for God’s goodness
    • Give thanks for God’s love & faithfulness

2 Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD? Who can declare all His praise? 3 Blessed are those who keep justice, And he who does righteousness at all times!

  • The question is asked & answered.  Who is it that can praise God?  Who is it that knows what God has done & can speak of them?  It is the person who rightly fears God & thus obeys His voice. …

4 Remember me, O LORD, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation, 5 That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones, That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, That I may glory with Your inheritance.

  • Obviously an all-knowing God never forgets anything.  The author is asking for blessing, favor, and deliverance…ultimately, he’s asking for salvation.
  • Wants to know the blessings that come with being one of the chosen of God.
    • We are chosen in Christ!  We have great benefits as a result!
  • The author doesn’t selfishly ask for salvation in order that he can go back to life as usual.  After salvation, he desires gladness that he can glorify the Lord.
  • Red Sea Rebellion (vss. 6-12)

6 We have sinned with our fathers, We have committed iniquity, We have done wickedly.

  • The author will detail out some specifics in the rest of the psalm, but he begins with a general corporate confession.  Three different ways (triplet parallelism, rather than the normal Hebrew double) of simply saying, “We sinned.”  It wasn’t merely the memories of their fathers that they remembered in sin; it was that current generation.  They were all at fault – they had all sinned against God.
  • Sometimes we forget how simple confession truly is.  Instead of clearly stating, “I’m sorry – I was wrong – will you forgive me?” we drag out our “confession” making every excuse in the book along the way.  We say “I know I sinned against You, God – but You need to understand what set me off…” or “I may have done wrong, but they did a lot worse…” and we turn our so-called confession into a complaint justifying ourselves.  That’s not confession.  Confession is agreeing with God that sin is sin.  Confession is simply calling it what it is.  It’s not necessarily even making dramatic statements calling all sorts of attention to oneself.  Confession is done in a spirit of humility, seeking to be made right with God – not putting all of the attention on ourselves.  “We’ve sinned” – we missed the mark.  “We’ve committed iniquity…done wickedly” – we’ve done it purposefully.  It’s an unequivocal statement that we’ve rebelled against God & we were in the wrong, taking responsibility for our actions.
  • That can be truly frightening for people – but there’s a glorious promise that exists for God’s people who confess: forgiveness!  1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." []  For those who are in Christ, if we but confess, God forgives – God cleanses!  Don’t make excuses – don’t try to justify yourself – simply admit your sin & be done with it.  Too many Christian live with far too much guilt for the sole reason that they do not wish to confess unto God.
  • For the psalmist, he goes on to confess all sorts of various ways in which the nation had sinned against God in the past.  Apparently they had experienced something similar at the time of the writing, and the psalmist acknowledges that this had been their history.  They had been an unfaithful people, but thankfully they served a thankful God.  See vs. 7…

7 Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea.

  • Example #1: the Red Sea.  It’s amazing if we stop to think about it: the Hebrews had just been first hand witnesses to the 9 plagues sent by the Lord to Egypt – they had seen the terrifying night of the Passover – they had seen the pillar of cloud guiding them to the coast…and yet when it came time for them to be put next to the Red Sea, they still rebelled against God.  They said, “Because were there no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die?” (Exo 14:11)  Hello?!  Did they not see the hand of God at work?!  How could they possibly doubt God’s provision for them at the Red Sea?
  • Be careful!  We’re just as guilty of the same sort of doubting (or worse).  Did Jesus not die for our sin?  Did the Holy Spirit not come indwell our hearts?  Have we not been given new life & an inheritance with Christ?  Do we not see the hand of God at work?!  And yet we still doubt – we still have a lack of faith in God’s ability to move in the lives of His people.  Our lack of faith is more than a simple questioning of uncertain future; it’s a turning away from the God we’ve already seen & experienced.  It’s sin.

8 Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, That He might make His mighty power known.

  • Yet what did God do for faithless Israel?  “He saved them.”  Praise God!  Why?  For His own glory.  That His name would be exalted & His power would be known.  God certainly saves us because He loves us and wants us to be blessed, but that’s not the primary reason we are saved.  The primary reason God saves us is for His own glory.  It brings glory to the name of God as His greatness is known among His creation. …

9 He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up; So He led them through the depths, As through the wilderness. 10 He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

  • God showed His power.  The Red Sea was rebuked & dried…
  • God showed His guidance.  He took the Hebrews through the depths…
  • God showed His salvation.  He redeemed the people from the enemy.
  • All of this is seen in the cross of Christ!  God shows forth His power in that He conquers death and the grave.  God shows His guidance as He indwells us and teaches us to follow Him.  God shows His salvation as He redeems us from the slavery of sin.

11 The waters covered their enemies; There was not one of them left. 12 Then they believed His words; They sang His praise.

  • God had a total victory over Egypt.  Not one was left as God completely wiped out the most powerful army on the planet at the time.  Likewise, God’s victory over the grave is absolute & total!
  • What was the response of the people?  (1) Faith, (2) praise.  The Hebrews had earlier had a lack of faith & they complained against God.  Now they had a renewed faith in God their King and publicly sang of God’s glory and worth.
  • Wilderness Rebellion (vss. 13-33)

13 They soon forgot His works; They did not wait 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.

  • Unfortunately the faith the Hebrews had after the Red Sea didn’t last.  They did not wait upon the Lord to provide their needs.  Instead, they lusted after the things the world might offer as they thought of the pots of meat back in Egypt. …
  • Did God hear their complaint?  Yes – and sent quail in addition to the manna He had blessed them with.  Yet with the quail came a curse as a plague went among the people because of their sin and rebellion.  They had tested God with their lack of faith, and it was they who ended up failing the test.

16 When they envied Moses in the camp, And Aaron the saint of the LORD, 17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan, And covered the faction of Abiram. 18 A fire was kindled in their company; The flame burned up the wicked.

  • Recounting the events in Numbers 16 when Korah, Dathan, and Abiram grumbled against Moses & Aaron, complaining that God had chosen Aaron as priest rather than them.  It’s not as if God hadn’t chosen them as Israelites for the ministry of the Lord; it’s that they weren’t satisfied with the role God had given them.  It wasn’t so much a complaint against Moses & Aaron as it was another complaint against the Lord.  God vividly confirmed His choice of Aaron as high priest by causing his old staff to blossom new flowers, and He opened up the ground to swallow the insurrection whole.
  • Beware of envy & covetousness!

19 They made a calf in Horeb, And worshiped the molded image. 20 Thus they changed their glory Into the image of an ox that eats grass. 21 They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt, 22 Wondrous works in the land of Ham, Awesome things by the Red Sea.

  • The rebellion at the foot of Mt. Sinai.  Moses had been on the mountain for 40 days receiving the law of God, and the people got tired of waiting for him to come down.  They convinced Aaron to make a statue of a golden calf (it didn’t take much convincing!) & claimed that it was the image of the God who had delivered them from Egypt (the land of Ham).  They had barely received the 10 Commandments (which they had heard with their own ears) and already they broke the 1st two!
  • What was the problem?  They still worshipped God, right?  Wrong.  They traded the Almighty Infinite God for something of their own making.  The calf may have been cast from pure gold, but it was nothing but a cheap substitute for the Glorious I AM.
    • Jesus cannot be replaced!

23 Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, To turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them.

  • God had been ready to wipe out the entire nation & start again from the sons of Moses, but for one thing: Moses interceded on behalf of the people.  He was willing to substitute himself for the sins of the people, and he pleaded in prayer for them.
  • In doing so, he participated in the same work the Jesus does for each of us.  He is our Mediator between God and man, and placed Himself as the substitute for our sins when He went to the cross.
  • Surely after being faced with the total destruction by the hand of God, the people would walk in faithfulness, right?  God provided for their daily needs, and gave them divine instruction on how to worship Him at the tabernacle – surely that would be enough for the people to walk in faithfulness to God’s word, right?  Wrong.  They rebelled again – see vs. 24…

24 Then they despised the pleasant land; They did not believe His word, 25 But complained in their tents, And did not heed the voice of the LORD. 26 Therefore He raised His hand in an oath against them, To overthrow them in the wilderness, 27 To overthrow their descendants among the nations, And to scatter them in the lands.

  • After leading them from the base of Mt. Sinai to the edge of the Promised Land, the people rebelled yet again.  12 spies were sent into the land; only 2 came back with any faith at all that God would be faithful.  The people complained again, and God disciplined them severely.  An entire generation would die out in the wilderness as they wandered for 40 years, knowing what they could have had if they had but followed the Lord in faith.
  • What do we miss out on in our lack of faith?

28 They joined themselves also to Baal of Peor, And ate sacrifices made to the dead. 29 Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds, And the plague broke out among them. 30 Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, And the plague was stopped. 31 And that was accounted to him for righteousness To all generations forevermore.

  • Israel’s lack of faith did not improve in the years of wilderness wandering as they joined themselves with pagan wives of Moab (due to the intervening counsel of the pagan prophet Balaam, originally hired to curse Israel).  Numbers 25 recounts how the men of Israel compromised with their pagan wives & were pulled away from worshipping the one true God to worshipping the false god Baal of Peor.  God sent a plague in His wrath, which was only stopped when Phinehas took drastic action upon a man who committed lewd sin straight in front of the gate of the tabernacle.
  • One man had faith – and that faith was “accounted to him for righteousness.

32 They angered Him also at the waters of strife, So that it went ill with Moses on account of them; 33 Because they rebelled against His Spirit, So that he spoke rashly with his lips.

  • Yet again Israel rebelled and complained against God as they tested Him about water at Meribah.  Completely frustrated with the people, Moses disobeyed God & misrepresented God to the people (by striking the rock twice instead of speaking to it, per the Lord’s command), and thus Moses was forbidden from entering the Promised Land.
  • Note Moses’ sin does not excuse the people.  They had sinned against the Holy Spirit in their continued complaints.
    • It’s interesting how much trouble the people of Israel got into because of their complaining spirits.  If they had but submitted themselves to the Lord in faith, they would have experienced incredible blessing.  Instead, they murmured, complained, and continually tested the patience of the Lord.  And like any parent, God disciplined the people rightly.
    • How would our lives be different if we simply stopped complaining?  If instead of grumbling against the situations God has allowed us to face, we simply trust that God knows what He’s doing & seek His face and glory in the process?
  • Promised Land Rebellion (vss. 34-46)

34 They did not destroy the peoples, Concerning whom the LORD had commanded them, 35 But they mingled with the Gentiles And learned their works; 36 They served their idols, Which became a snare to them.

  • Israel’s lack of faith didn’t end when their 40 years in the wilderness ended.  They had sworn before Joshua & before the Lord that they would faithfully serve the Lord – and they did, at least for a short while.  It didn’t take long before they fell back into old habits, started compromising with the people around them (the people that God had told them to exterminate).  Once they compromised with the pagans, they quickly began to serve the same false gods the nations around them did.
  • That – and they did, at least for a short while.  It didn’t take long before they fell back into old habits, started compromising with the people around them (the people that God had told them to exterminate).  Once they compromised with the pagans, they quickly began to serve the same false gods the nations around them did.
  • That’s always the way it is.  When Christians compromise Biblical principles with the culture around us, it’s not the culture that ends up getting converted – it’s the Christians that fall away.  It’s seen everywhere from marriages between Christians & non-Christians to the prevailing political culture around us (both right AND left).  We want to think of compromise as two opposing sides going towards the middle, but when it comes to matter of faith, that’s never the result.  It’s always the Christian who ends up walking away from God.  Be careful with compromise!  We can love people unconditionally, but we cannot serve their idols or adopt their principles.  There’s a reason the great commandment is to love the Lord our God with ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  If we purposefully decide to give less than that to the Lord, we will invariably walk away from Him.
  • What did this look like for the Hebrews?  See vs. 37…

37 They even sacrificed their sons And their daughters to demons, 38 And shed innocent blood, The blood of their sons and daughters, Whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; And the land was polluted with blood. 39 Thus they were defiled by their own works, And played the harlot by their own deeds.

  • In other words, the people of God acted exactly like the people that God had destroyed in His wrath.  These crimes were the very reason that God had judged the original people of the land, and told the Hebrews to completely conquer them.  These people had filled up on the fullness of the wrath of God & were rightly judged.  Yet now the chosen people of God – the people of whom were promised would bring forth the Messiah & Savior of the world, now engaged in exactly the same practices.  They practiced idolatry & human sacrifice & God’s precious gift of grace was polluted by the sins of the people.

40 Therefore the wrath of the LORD was kindled against His people, So that He abhorred His own inheritance.

  • It’s a terrifying thought that the people of God could provoke Almighty God to wrath – but that’s exactly what the Hebrews did.
  • As sobering as it is that we could provoke the anger of God, there is blessedly good news here for the Christian.  We certainly can provoke God’s discipline in our lives, but the “wrath” of God will never be kindled against the Christian because Jesus satisfied the wrath of God on your behalf.  God poured out His righteous anger upon His Son & poured it out in fullness…there is no more wrath for anyone who is in Christ.

41 And He gave them into the hand of the Gentiles, And those who hated them ruled over them. 42 Their enemies also oppressed them, And they were brought into subjection under their hand. 43 Many times He delivered them; But they rebelled in their counsel, And were brought low for their iniquity.

  • Describes the cycle of the judges.  Israel would sin against God, God would allow them to be conquered, Israel would cry out to God, God would raise up a deliverer & give freedom, and Israel would sin again & start everything over.
  • Repeated rebellion – repeated discipline – repeated deliverance.

44 Nevertheless He regarded their affliction, When He heard their cry; 45 And for their sake He remembered His covenant, And relented according to the multitude of His mercies. 46 He also made them to be pitied By all those who carried them away captive.

  • Underline the word “nevertheless”…glorious!  No matter what Israel did, God continued to pour out undeserved mercy.  As soon as they would turn back in faith, God would be hear them & be faithful to provide for their salvation.
  • Ultimately, what was God’s deliverance based upon?  “His covenant.”  God had made a promise to provide for their salvation, and God would be faithful to His promises, no matter what.
  • Closing prayer and praise (vss. 47-48)

47 Save us, O LORD our God, And gather us from among the Gentiles, To give thanks to Your holy name, To triumph in Your praise.

  • With all of that history in mind, knowing how Israel repeatedly rebelled against the Lord but God was always so faithful to provide for them, the author asks for it again.  Whatever Israel was going through at the moment, the psalmist knows that God had not changed.  He was just as faithful to His covenant promises that day as He had always been.  If Israel was repentant and turned to God in faith, they could trust that God would grant them deliverance.
  • What would be the result of deliverance?  Praise.  Basically saying “Don’t deliver us because we deserve it; deliver us so that we can praise You!”  God delivers because God is worthy.  We have been purchased with the blood of His Son – that sacrifice will not be put to waste!  Because He delivers us, we are now able to proclaim the praises of Him who saved us by His glorious grace.

48 Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!

  • Even before the deliverance is begun, the author already erupts in praise.  No matter what, God is blessed & worthy to receive worship from all corners of creation.
  • If you can agree (“amen”), then join in praise – Hallelujah!

Conclusion:
This is the story of Israel – but it’s our story as well.  How often have we repeatedly wandered in sin away from God?  How often has our trust in God been lacking, though we’ve personally experienced the fullness of His power through our salvation?  How much have we grumbled and complained against the Lord, despite all of His previous provision for us?  Every single one of us even as believers in Jesus Christ are just as guilty as the nation of Israel in our sin against the Lord.  We may serve God under a different dispensation than Israel, but we’ve committed the same sin & engaged in the same faithlessness.  Yet praise God that He is just as faithful today as He has been throughout the history of Israel.  For all of Israel’s rebellion and sin against Him, God has always been faithful to His covenant promises & He’s always brought deliverance.  During the times that Israel least deserved the salvation of God, God was always good to what He said He would do.  Why?  Because He is good.

We serve a GOOD God…a GREAT God.  We serve a God who loves us beyond imagination – who shows mercy to the undeserving and grace to the thankless.  He is holy & just & will allow us to be disciplined (after all, it’s a sign of His great love for us), but thankfully He is incredibly merciful and faithful.

Is this the God in which you trust tonight?  Is this the God in whose promises you place your faith?  Maybe you’ve been struggling with a willful lack of faith – maybe you’ve been struggling with a complaining spirit against the Lord.  Repent of those things & confess them as sin.  Maybe you’ve found yourself compromising the things of God – be careful not to depart from Christ!  Or maybe you’re simply at a place where you’ve got a choice to either trust the Lord, or walk away.  Don’t make the same mistake that we’ve so often made in the past.  You CAN choose to follow God in faith.  Choose Him!

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