Faithful through History

December 29, 2019 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Psalms

Topic: English Passage: Psalm 106:1-48



As long as you're not doing something sinful, you can, at the same time, praise God. That’s exactly what Paul was talking about when he said, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Well, Psalm 106 is a call to worship God as we recount the history of Israel. It is a history lesson wrapped with a praise.

If you weren’t here back in the beginning of November for our sermon on Psalm 105, I encourage you to go online and listen to it or read the manuscript.

For those of you who were here for that sermon, that was the sermon where we learned that biblical praise is the outflow of a proper understanding of God’s eternal attributes and God’s historical actions.

Look back for a second at Psalm 105, and you’ll notice that it’s a long psalm as well. It’s also another historical psalm. And in retracing Israel’s history, the main attribute of God that it wants to highlight for us is His faithfulness. God was good to the nation because He was faithful to His covenant.

Look for a second at verses 8-10. Psalm 105:8-10. Speaking of God, it says there: He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant.

And the psalm goes on to talk about all the ways God provided for, and protected, and prospered His people. Verse 42 tells us that it all happened because: He remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant.

So, Psalm 105 takes a very positive approach to Israel’s history. Its counterpart, Psalm 106, takes a different point-of-view. It’s the same story, but from a different angle. Psalm 106 focuses on Israel’s sin. And we’ll see that as we look at the psalm in more detail.

But as we begin, remember that this is still a psalm of praise. Look with me at verse 1-3.

[1] Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! [2] Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise? [3] Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!

I’ll remind you that Hebrew word for “Praise the Lord,” is “Hallelujah.” That’s how the psalm begins. It’s a praise and a thanksgiving to God for His steadfast love. The Hebrew word is HESED. And, you might remember, that it talks, not just about love, but about loyalty and endurance. God keeps His promises. God doesn’t abandon His people.

Verse 2 asks a question, and it seems like verse 3 is the answer. Those who can praise God appropriately are those who walk in righteousness. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, but it means they are repentant. They are seeking to serve Him.

We don’t know exactly when this psalm was written, but based on what it says, it may have been written by someone who was part of a generation of Israelites who had been disciplined for their sin, but were beginning to come back to the Lord. So, in addition to being a historical psalm, this psalm also functions like a psalm of confession and a psalm of hope.

And with that attitude of dependence, we have the prayer of verses 4 and 5—Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them, [5] that 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.

In other words, “Lord, turn this situation around. Save me from what’s happening. I know what I’ve been doing is wrong, but be merciful to me and bless me. I repent. Save me.”

In this confession, this guy is recognizing his own sin, and he’s recognizing that he’s no different than Israel in the past. He’s not shaming Israel for the nation’s sin; he’s identifying with them. Look at verse 6—Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.

Well, you and I could say the same thing, couldn’t we? How many times did Israel hear God’s law? How often was it repeated to them? How many times did God call them back to Himself? But they went back into their sin. And if you’re a Christian, that’s like the story of your life, right?

There are good times, when you feel close to God, even in tough times. And then you’ve got the times when you start to drift from what it means to walk with God through Jesus Christ.

We’re going to see how that happened with Israel too, and we’ll get a whole list of sins. The first thing we see is a forgetful rebellion. That comes in verse 7. A forgetful rebellion.

Look at how that happened with Israel. Verse 7—Our 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.

A lot of you remember the story. The Israelites had just witnessed the plagues upon Egypt, which were a spectacular display of God’s power over creation and His love for His people. But then they got pinned against the sea with Pharaoh’s army chasing after them.

They should have trusted in God, because they had just seen what He can do, but they didn’t. They were terrified. And they whined to Moses. “You should have just let us die in Egypt!” That wasn’t a simple fear for their life. Verse 7 says they did not remember God, and they rebelled. This was a forgetful rebellion. It was a lack of trust in the God who saves.

You know, in our own lives, there will be times when we don’t know how God is going to come through. That’s gonna happen. But the moment you begin to doubt a specific promise that God has made to you, that’s a form of rebellion. You either end up in a sinful despair or in a sinful attempt to provide something for yourself. Because you don’t think God is going to come through, even though He’s never failed you before. That’s a forgetful rebellion.

Well, how did God respond to Israel’s lack of faith? Verses 8-12 tell us—Yet he saved them for his name's sake, that he might make known his mighty power. [9] He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry, and he led them through the deep as through a desert. [10] So he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy. [11] And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. [12] Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.

Again, Israel gets to see God’s power. But their faith didn’t last long. After a forgetful rebellion, we get a selfish craving. A selfish craving. Look at verses 13-15.

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

This is a story we read about in Numbers 11. God had miraculously given them bread. He gave them manna. But eventually, that wasn’t good enough. “We want meat!” they cried. “We want it to be like it was in Egypt!”

When they were in Egypt, all they wanted to do was leave. But now that they’re in the wilderness, they want to go back. Their perception of reality has shifted, and its because it’s being warped by their selfish cravings.

Doesn’t that happen to us? When you don’t have a job, you’re praying for a job. And then God gives you a job, and it’s good for a while. But when that job starts feeling like work, we start complaining again. “I wish I didn’t have a job right now.”

Or when you’re single, you want to get married. Maybe you think that’s gonna make all your problems go away. And then you get married. And you get a whole new set of problems. And because of your own selfish cravings, you start to wish you were single again.

That’s not a good thought. It’s a sinful thought. It’s saying to God, “I don’t like your plan for my life. I want my desires et right now. I want things done my way, not Yours.” And yet, we all struggle with that. That’s the result of our selfish desires. We’re just like Israel in the wilderness.

What else did they do? What sin came next? Next, we get reminded about their destructive jealousy. Israel had a destructive jealousy. We see this in verses 16-18.

PSALM 106:16-18

This comes right out of Numbers chapter 16. Dathan and Abiram tried their hand at a coup, along with a guy named Korah. Total is was 250 men coming forward saying, “What gives Moses the right to lead? Why can’t we lead? If Moses stays in charge we’re all gonna die out here in the wilderness.” And it was all motivated by their jealousy.

Well, that didn’t end well for these guys, right? Like it says here, the earth opened up and swallowed them. And then it closed up again. And then God sent fire and killed everybody else who had rebelled. God made it absolutely clear that He was in charge of Israel, and Moses was His chosen instrument.

As bad as that was, can you relate to that sin? Maybe it happens in your family, or at work, or with your friends, or even here at church. Jealousy creeps in, and instead of having a submissive heart, you get an arrogant heart. I think we’ve all experienced that to some degree. That’s very destructive.

Next on the list is Israel’s flagrant idolatry, her flagrant idolatry. This comes in verse 19-22. PSALM 106:19-22.

This is a reference to the golden calf in Exodus 32. Moses was up on the mountain, talking to God, receiving the law, but the people got impatient. So they asked Aaron to make them an idol. They wanted a tangible expression of a god they could serve.

This was after they had already received the Ten Commandments which explicitly said “Do not make any idols. Don’t turn God into some visible form, and don’t worship any idols.” This was nothing short of flagrant sin, flagrant idolatry to help themselves feel better about themselves.

And verse 23 reminds us that God was threatening to destroy them for it. But because He is faithful, and because Moses interceded for them, God did not destroy them. VERSE 23.

Even at one of Israel’s worst moments, God kept His promise to them.

Next we come to the fifth sin on our list. And we’ll call it a disobedient unbelief. A disobedient unbelief. This is talking about when they finally got to see the Promised Land. They sent twelve spies in, and they all came back saying, “This is good land.” But they also recognized that the people there were heavily fortified, very difficult to conquer, from a human perspective.

And so, because of their fear and because of their lack of faith in God’s power and love, they said, “No.” we’re not going to go. We’re not going to go fight those people.” You might remember that two of the spies wanted to go in, but the rest of the people didn’t. They disobeyed because of their lack of faith.

And God punished them severely. That was the beginning of 40 years of wandering in the wilderness so that everyone in that rebellious generation could die. Look at verses 24-27. PSALM 106:24-27.

Number six on the list is Israel’s pagan immorality. A pagan immorality. Let’s read that in verses 28-29. PSALM 106:28-29.

Verse 28 describes the pagan aspects of Israel’s sin. Instead of worshipping the true God, the people worshipped the god of the surrounding nations. His name was Baal. You can read more about this in Numbers 25.

I’ve called it a pagan immorality because there in Numbers you find that the way idolatry crept in is by the marriages between the Israelite sons and the Moabite daughters. That kind of connection opened the doors for the Israelites to start worshiping another god.

God was so enraged by the people’s sin that this time He sent a plague which killed over 20,000 people. And it would have killed more, but a man named Phineas, overcome with righteous wrath killed an Israelite man and his Moabite wife. And that act stopped the plague.

That’s what we read about in verses 30-31. PSALM 106:30-31.

The list of sins isn’t over yet. Next, we come to a bitter argument. A bitter argument.

Verse 32 is going to talk about the waters of Meribah. That place is a stain on Israel’s history. It’s one of the places where Israel grumbled about not having enough water. Psalm 95 says there their hearts were hardened, and they put God to the test.

If you read the story in Numbers 20, you see that that’s also the place where Moses got fed up with them and struck the rock with his staff instead of talking to it. That disobedience cost Moses his entrance into the Promised Land.

Moses is guilty for his own sin, but God also guilts Israel for provoking him. They were arguing with Moses and, ultimately, with God. The word Meribah actually means arguing. It means to quarrel, to argue, to fight.

Look at verses 32 and 33. PSALM 106:32-33.

The waters of Meribah were a place of bitterness and a place of contention.

There’s one final sin on our list. This is sin number 8. Throughout Israel’s history, the nation was characterized by a forgetful rebellion, a selfish craving, a destructive jealousy, a flagrant idolatry, a disobedient unbelief, a pagan immorality, a bitter argument, and lastly, Israel was known for its disgraceful unfaithfulness.

That is a good summary of Israel in the Old Testament. The nation is characterized by a disgraceful unfaithfulness.

When we did a sermon on Psalm 45, I mentioned to you that one of the metaphors for Israel in the Old Testament is that of a bride. She was rescued by God. She was redeemed. She was brought into the protection of His household. And she was expected to act like a faithful bride.

But instead, Israel pursued other gods. They kept being pulled into the beliefs and the rituals of the foreign nations. It’s not that they stopped believing in God altogether, but they mixed their faith in God with faith in every other kind of god. Israel was an unfaithful bride—undevoted, undisciplined, and unfaithful. And the nation got involved in some of the most horrible acts.

Let’s read verses 34-39. PSALM 106:34-39.

Those verses are like a summary of the book of Judges After Joshua died, they were supposed to finish conquering the Promised Land, but they didn’t do it. Instead of acting as God’s instrument of judgement on the sinful nations around them and cleansing the land, they polluted the land by absorbing all the sins from the outside. Instead of acting like the cure, Israel was content to let the virus in to run its course.

Verse 37 says they even got to the point where they were sacrificing their children. They would offer them up as a burnt offering. Maybe you remember the story of Jephthah the judge. He thought it would be a good idea to sacrifice his own daughter as a thank-you gift to God. That’s how perverted Israel’s thinking had become.

Verse 38 says the land was polluted with blood.

Verse 39 paints the image even stronger: They played the whore in their deeds. They went after whatever other god they could find.

And so, what did God do? God kept His word. He said that if they sinned against Him, and if they refused to repent, He would give the over to the foreign nations. He would let them be taken captive. Look at verses 40-42. PSALM 106:40-42.

You see that happen during the times of the judges, and you see it happen again even during the times of the kings. Eventually, the northern part of Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians. The southern kingdom didn’t learn the lesson, and then they were exiled by the Babylonians. Why?

It’s not because God is vindictive. It’s because He’s holy. And it’s because He loves Israel. The consequences were intended to draw them back to Himself, to make them cry out for deliverance through confession.

And no matter how bad it got, God never allowed the nation of Israel to be completely destroyed. He was always faithful to preserve them. Verse 43 says: Many times, He delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity. [44] Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry.

This is the great mercy of God. And this is actually the prevailing theme in Israel’s history. Israel is unfaithful, but God is faithful. Israel is unfaithful, but God is faithful.

Israel might have forgotten God at some points, but God never forgot Israel. He never completely abandoned them or His promises.

That’s the message in verses 45 and 46. PSALM 106:45-46.

Isn’t that a reason to praise the Lord? God is faithful, even when we sin against Him in a major way. That’s the steadfast love of God. That’s his lovingkindness. That’s His loyalty and faithfulness to His word.

As you look back on 2019, I hope there are some highlights that encourage you. But I also know that all of us have moments or seasons we wish we could do over again, right? That’s the Christian life. That’s what it means to walk in the light. It’s not a life of perfection; it’s a life of regular confession.

For you younger ones, you children and youth, God forgive us if we older ones, or we teachers an leaders have ever given you the impression that we’ve got it all together. We walk with Jesus perfectly, and we don’t struggle. That’s not true. No real Christian lives like that.

In fact, the longer you walk with Christ, the deeper the struggle is and the more aware you are of that battle. It is a battle. And many, many times, we find ourselves in a place we wish we weren’t.

Maybe that’s you today. You’re looking back on 2019, and you’re thinking, “Man, this was such a crummy year! What a waste for me! I put myself in such a mess!”

So, what do you do? You remember the unfaithfulness of Israel, and you remember the faithfulness of God. No matter what today looks like, if you come to God with a humble heart of confession, the Bible says, He will exalt you. He’ll restore you to the right spiritual path.

That’s what this psalmist wants. He’s leaning on the faithfulness of God, and he’s saying, “God, have mercy on me, just like you’ve done so many times for Israel. They didn’t deserve it, and I don’t deserve it either. But you are a faithful God.” That’s verse 47.

In fact, the psalmist takes his prayer even further and makes it corporate. And we can do the same for our own families and for our church. PSALM 106:47.

Turn this thing around, Lord, and we will give You thanks and praise. PSALM 16:48

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