Psalm 106 Study (Part I)

Sycamore Presbyterian Church Friday Men’s Bible Study Psalm 106 (see notes)

Question 1. Verses 4-6 How does the Psalmist relate his own personal sins to the sins and prospects of his people? How is this instructive for us?

4Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people;
help me when you save them,
5that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones,
that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory with your inheritance.
6Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.

The Psalmist wants to be included in the rolls of God’s people. When God saves them he wants to be saved; when God gives them prosperity, gladness, glory and an inheritance, he wants a part. The use of “inheritance” tells us that the Psalmist knows that membership in God’s people is also membership in God’s family. He is treating the Lord as his heavenly Father, not as an abstraction, but as a real Father. The Psalmist also refers to this people as God’s “nation,” invoking another sturdy human institution. A feeling of national identity is very compelling, and the Psalmist wants that to transcend, or add to, the claims of mere local or blood-based-kinship as the markers of identity for a person.

Today in our church we bring our sins and confess them first, then celebrate our identities as God’s people (in songs of praise, receiving and hearing the sermon, and/or celebrating the Lord’s Supper). It’s the “proper” order for worship. But in the worship order of this song (and it is a worship song, as we should always remember when studying the Psalms), the Psalmist reverses the order and utters a corporate confession of sin after some lines of celebration. His corporate confession of sin includes not only himself and his contemporaries (“we”), but his ancestors as well (“our fathers”). This is a becoming humility. It also tells us that the attitudes we have in worship are more important that the liturgy, even though liturgy is important.

In the church today we should identify with the Christian nation both as a matter of blessing (gladness, prosperity, inheritance, salvation), and as a matter of humility (confessing that we and our forebears have sinned). We do this in church as a part of worship; but since the Psalmist is taking the general attitudes about God’s nation and applying them to himself (“… that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation”), we ought to take this and apply it to the rest of the week, celebrating God’s goodness to us in  humility.

Question 2. Verses 7-12 What is the first kind of sin the Psalmist remembers and confesses? What examples of this have you seen in yourself and others?

7Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
8Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.
9He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry, and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
11And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left.
12Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.

The first sins the Psalmist remembers in verses 7-12 are the sins of not considering, and not remembering, God’s wondrous works and the abundance of His steadfast love. Bluntly, they feared Pharaoh: “When Pharaoh drew near, the people of Israel lifted up their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians were marching after them, and they feared greatly.” (Ex. 14:10) They arrived at fear by committing these sins of omission; had they remembered their unchanging God’s past works and steadfast love, they would have had sufficient reason to reject any fear of Pharaoh. This implies that we as God’s people are supposed to actively think about God’s works and meditate on them, especially His favor toward His people. If we use the analogy of God as husband to His people, what would a husband think if, having sacrificed for, paid attention to, loved and been faithful to his wife, she paid no heed at all to this outpouring? What if the husband were perfect? Thus we can get a faint glimpse of how God sees his people’s ignorance of His goodness.

God’s people aggravated their internal sins of not remembering His goodness by extending the scope of this sin into rebellion: “And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? … For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” (Ex. 14: 10b-11a, 12b) Note that the charge of rebellion (Psa. 106:7) is fulfilled merely by the Israelites’ complaining about their troubles; no other action was necessary for God to convict them of the sin of rebellion. So, the first sin is to forget God’s goodness and then to lapse into fear and complaint.

An example of this sin in myself is when I complain about anything, based on my forgetting to remember (an important Christian phrase that reminds me of my duty to remember) my salvation in Christ. I should, as a saved man, pass every day in a fog of pure joy, knowing that I have inherited (already! but not yet) eternal life, fellowship with God, a glorified body in the new heavens and new earth, and divine meaning added to even the most mundane part of my life. It’s not that I should just be cheerful. I should look at my fount of every blessing, and become my own fount of blessings to everybody and thing about me. Instead, I forget this, and complain about work, the house, my relationships, etc. Meditating on this particular sin is embarrassing.

An example of this sin in a corporate setting is the tendency of Christians in the United States to believe the fear-based pro-war sales pitch offered in American media. The idea that U.S. military power must be projected onto civilian populations (as it always does, sadly, when this power is used against third world cities and asymmetrical opponents) to “keep us safe” is accepted as unassailable, even among supposedly “anti-war” politicians. The prohibitions against going to war against women, children and enemy infrastructure are ignored and sometimes celebrated by Christians in the U.S., in the name of being kept “safe” from terrorism. Meanwhile, we Christians ignore the fact that terrorism is not as serious a problem as a power-hungry government makes it out to be:

Americans are:

  • 35,079 times more likely to die from heart disease than from a terrorist attack;
  • 33,842 times more likely to die from cancer than from a terrorist attack;
  • 5,882 times more likely to die from medical error;
  • 4,706 times more likely to drink themselves to death;
  • 1,904 times more likely to die from a car accident;
  • 2,059 times more likely to commit suicide;
  • 452 times more likely to die from risky sexual behavior;
  • 353 times more likely to fall to their deaths (i.e. falling off their ladders);
  • 187 times more likely to starve to death;
  • and 9 times more likely to be killed by a law enforcement officer.

Also, see this.

Clearly, American Christians, as a result of their absorption of unrealistic national fears, and by forgetting to remember that their safety comes from faith in and obedience to God, and not the schemes of men, have found their own special Pharaoh. We in the church ought to say something about this but don’t.

Question 3. Verses 13-15 What is the second kind of sin the Psalmist remembers and confesses? What examples of this have you seen in yourself and others?

13But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.
14But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert;
15he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.

The second kind of sin the Psalmist remembers and confesses is the sin of impatience. While verse 13 repeats the sin of the previous question (forgetting God’s works), the rest of this coda refers to the fruits of the Israelites’ impatience in the desert. Note that they “did not wait” for God to counsel them; and instead of waiting “put God to the test in the desert.” This is a reference to the testing God endured at the hands of His people as recounted in Exodus 17:1-7. There, the thirsty Israelites aggravated their complaints about their salvation by asking, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (emphasis added) This last question was an ultimatum. They were demanding a life-giving sign to appear immediately. It was thus not a new thing for Jesus to say, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign” when the scribes and Pharisees asked him for one. Jesus’ teaching on this point was that something greater than a sign, greater than Jonah, greater than the wisdom of Solomon, was present (himself) and they had failed to see it. The Israelites prefigured this sin by demanding a sign from Moses, forgetting the awesome sign that had just happened in the Red Sea (prefiguring Christ’s salvation). It is not as if God had failed to understand that they would have acute needs at times: He simply calls us to wrestle with him when this happens. This is a good sermon on the subject of Jacob’s wrestling with an angel during his time of need. Jesus also gave us an example to follow when we “think” God’s timing is off. Note that both Jacob and the widow wrestled with authority in a godly way – God initiated the match with Jacob, who was left crippled but faithful; the widow asked respectfully but relentlessly to satisfy her needs and wore down the powerful judge. Neither Jacob nor the widow put God to the test in these cases. However, the Israelites gave God an ultimatum. This is impatience with God’s providence and care.

I have seen this example myself when I become agitated over the length of time that I feel God has made me wait for answers to prayer for certain things. My journey to patience began when I became dissatisfied with my airline job shortly after starting. I was frustrated by many things but especially the time away from home. To summarize, I lost that job for three years because of downsizing and had to find new work. I worked three jobs: insurance sales, product manager at a defense contractor, and teacher. At times we barely scraped by; we made serious financial and career mistakes; in fact we lost everything except each other and faith in Christ. My impatience with the airline job was solved by God when he gave me a good, hard look at making a living on commission-only sales, low teacher pay and cubicle life. I’ve been back to flying for nine years now and know that this is a blessing to me and my family. In addition to solving my impatience problem, God also taught me that I can lose everything and not die and that he will bring blessing through a trial (we met some awesome Christian friends we still have to this day). All because of my sin of impatience with Him!

I can’t think of any examples of any corporate or group sin in this area. In fact, I think Rev. Keller put this part of each question in here to see if we would dwell more on the sins of others than on our own. Well played, Tim Keller, well played. You got me. For the rest of this study I will refrain from cataloging the corporate sins of others.

Notes:
Using Praying the Psalms Group Study Product
All Bible quotes ESV

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *