Psalm 104 magnifies the God of creation and psalm 106 focuses on the God who chastens His people and forgives them, but psalm 105 focuses on the God of the covenant who works out His divine purpose in human history. This hymn praises the Lord’s faithfulness to Abraham and his descendants in all their journeys, from Ur to Canaan, to Egypt, through the wilderness, and back to Canaan. All of this fulfilled the Lord’s promise to Abraham, which was the basis for Israel’s very existence. Joseph, whose suffering was changed into glory, is an encouragement for Israel. Psalm 105:1-15 is included in David’s song of praise found in 1 Chronicles 16. This is a psalm of praise that focuses on the positive experiences of Israel in their early history. We can contrast this to psalm 106 which reviews the same period of history but with an emphasis on the faithlessness of the people. Here, in psalm 105, the psalmist reminded the people that they needed to remember to be faithful to God, who had never forgotten to be faithful to them.
The psalmist begins with the exhortation to give thanks. The other psalms continue with the refrain ‘for He is good’ but the rest of psalm 105 tells of God’s goodness. There is also the admonition to make God’s deeds known, these being the mighty acts God did on behalf of Israel. This psalm does not go beyond the conquest of Canaan, and it does not mention the Davidic dynasty. It is possible that this was written after the Israelites returned from the Babylonian exile, maybe by one of the Levites who returned with the Jewish remnant. No doubt the remnant that returned struggled with the totality of the destruction and this psalm provided encouragement for the returning exiles. It was a reminder that God had chosen the Jews as His very own people and that God worked in His own time frame and not theirs or ours. Beginning with Egypt the Lord had already revealed His power over the gentiles. And this psalm reminded the Jews that God always keeps His promises. This brings encouragement even today!
Israel’s story really begins with Abraham and the Lord’s commitment to him. And even when a question arises about the future of God’s covenant with David, God’s covenant with Abraham still stands and so does the spiritual bond between God and Israel, Abraham’s descendants. One of the key ideas of this psalm is the word remember. Remember what the Lord has done, all the way back to Abraham. The psalmist here is trying to remind God’s people of His goodness. In this psalm the name for the Lord that is used, is Jehovah. This is the covenant name of God, the “holy name” that Israel was to call on, and glory in as they worshiped. Israel was God’s chosen people and He had chosen no others. In verses 1-5 there are Ten Commandments, seek being used twice. And all this ends with the command to remember. Their worship, thanksgiving, praising, and singing were supposed to be a witness to all the nations around them. They were to make the name of the Lord known. This is our command today as well. God has richly blessed us. He sent His son to bear the brunt of His wrath so we can spend eternity with Him. And He has commanded us to go and make disciples, wherever we go.
It was purely out of God’s goodness and Grace that He chose Abraham to make His covenant with. But the covenant wasn’t just with Abraham. It was with his descendants as well. The covenant was God’s irrevocable oath to be the Father of Abraham and his descendants. The psalmist reminded the people that even when they did not remember the Lord, He remembered them. We read the covenant in Genesis 12:1-3 where God set out the terms of His obligation to Abraham his descendants. These ideas are reinforced in Genesis 15 and again in Genesis 22 when the Lord asked Abraham to sacrifice his only begotten son Isaac. In this account the Lord once again undertakes an irrevocable oath of obligation. One of the covenant promises was the gift of land, the land of Canaan, that would be given to Abraham’s ancestors. The promise was repeated to Isaac and again to Jacob. This covenant will endure forever. In these readings in the Book of Genesis, we see God being God, choosing the younger son over the older twice; Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esau. Again we see Grace. God did not owe the patriarchs anything. They did not have any right or reason to lay claim on the Lord. They were homeless nomads…pilgrims and strangers in the land. God protected them, even when the erred.
Verse 16 begins the psalmists recitation of the story of Joseph. This story can be found in Genesis 37-41. Joseph had, had dreams that he did not fully understand and when he shared them with his family, his brothers were filled with jealousy and envy. His brothers hatred led them to sell him into slavery and Joseph ended up in Egypt. However, when Joseph arrived in Egypt, he needed some seasoning and pruning before God could use Him in the way He needed and wanted to. God’s economy does not work like ours does and in His economy, suffering comes before glory and being a servant precedes being a ruler. Joseph experienced all of that. Everything God had given to Joseph came to fruition, and eventually his family came to Egypt to live. It was in this foreign land that the Lord turned Jacob’s family of 70 into a nation so large and powerful that it threatened the security of Egypt. What we see in Joseph’s story is that suffering is one of the secrets of being fruitful. God did not force the Egyptians to hate the Israelites and He did not force pharaoh to harden his heart. But the Lord did arrange the circumstances such that pharaoh and his advisers could either obey or disobey His Word. Their repeated disobedience served to continue hardening their hearts.
The psalmist continues on in verse 26 with the story of Moses and the plagues in Egypt. The recitation of the plagues served to demonstrate God’s power and might. These plagues took place within time and space and they were the action of God with humans in the real world. These verses are not historical prose. They are a poetic version of the events that capture the horror of it all. The order of the plagues is not followed strictly here and only eight of the ten are listed. The plagues God performed in Israel served several purposes. They showed Egypt God’s raw power. They were a condemnation of Egypt’s gods. And they also showed the Israelites the power and might of the Lord. They too needed to be reminded of what their God was capable of as they prepared to leave Egypt and move to the promised land as a nation dedicated to the one true living God.
Egypt worshiped the sun so God brought three days of darkness. The Nile River was considered a god so God turned the water into blood. The Egyptians worshiped over 80 different gods and goddesses, all of whom were helpless to deliver the land from the onslaught of plagues. God proved they were powerless…false gods who could do nothing. The only plagues the psalmist left out were the death of the Egyptians livestock and the boils. These plagues were an amazing demonstration of the power and might of Jehovah, Israel’s covenant God. The first nine plagues were a warmup for the tenth plague, the death of the first born of every Egyptian household. Once the angel of death had passed over the houses of the Jews, the Egyptians told them to leave. Israel left, taking gold and silver and precious stones and jewels from the Egyptians. This was payment all the years of slave labor. God led His people by a Pilar of cloud by day and a Pilar of fire by night. His presence never left the Israelites. God led them through the Red Sea, provided food and water in the wilderness and eventually led them to the promised land.
Next the psalmist moved to the conquest of the land of Canaan. He managed to leave out the incident with the golden calf at Mount Sinai, the complaining in the wilderness and Israel’s failure to trust God by being afraid to enter the promised land initially. So the psalmist focused on the amazing things God did, and not Israel’s failures. Verses 42-45 focus on the Lord’s story of the redemption of His people, and His faithfulness. Canaan was a land of pagan nations and the Lord planned for the Israelites to testify about Him by being obedient. Israel was to be the Lord’s model people. And think about this. Since this psalm was most likely written after the Babylonian exile and the peoples return to Jerusalem, what better way to remind the people of how God keeps His promises than to recount how God went before His people and led the conquest of the promised land. The celebration of God’s gift of land would have been a source of tremendous encouragement to the returning exiles. God’s people live on His promises, not explanations. We live through faith and confidence…waiting on the Lord to do His will. Just before his death Joshua’s challenged the Israelites to remember what the Lord had done for His people and to stay away from idols. When you and I consider all that the Lord has done for us, we really need to find that same obligation.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W