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“This it the first of a series of Hallelujah Psalms: Psalms of which the word Hallelujah is, as it were, the inscription (106, 111–113, 117, 135, 146–150.). As in the last Psalm, so here the history of Israel is recapitulated. In that it was turned into a thanksgiving; in this it forms the burden of a confession. There God’s mighty acts for His people were celebrated with joy; here His people’s Bin is humbly and sorrowfully acknowledged. Nothing is more remarkable in these great historical Psalms than the utter absence of any word or sentiment tending to feed the national vanity. All the glory of Israel’s history is confessed to be due, not to her heroes, her priests, her prophets, but to God; all the failures which are written upon that history, all discomfitures, losses, reverses, the sword, famine, exile, are recognised as the righteous chastisement which the sin of the nation has provoked. This is the strain of such Psalms as the 78th, the 105th, the 106th. This is invariably the tone assumed by all the divinely-instructed teachers of the people, by the prophets in their great sermons, by the poets in their contributions to the national liturgy.
“From Psalms 106:47 it may be fairly inferred that the Psalm is of the date of the Exile, or was written shortly after the return of the first company of exiles.”—Perowne.
Hengstenberg: “The situation is described exactly in Psalms 106:46-47;” and “is that towards the end of the captivity.”
The author of the Psalm is not known.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BLESSED PEOPLE
“The first five verges,” says Perowne, “seem to stand alone, and to have little or no direct connection with the rest of the Psalm.… The first verse, no doubt, is of the nature of a doxological formula, such as we find in some other of these later Psalms. But the second and third verses have an immediate bearing on what follows. What so fitting to introduce the confession of a nation’s sin and ingratitude as the rehearsal of God’s goodness manifested to it, and the acknowledgment of the blessedness of those who, instead of despising that goodness, as Israel had done, walked in the ways of the Lord, keeping judgment and doing righteousness (Psalms 106:3)? Or, again, what more natural than that the sense of the national privilege, the claim of a personal share in that privilege, should spring in the heart and rise to the lips of one who felt most deeply the national sin and ingratitude?”
We regard these verses as presenting to us certain characteristics of the blessed people.
I. They are a worshipping people.
1. They have exalted views of the Divine greatness and glory. “Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? Who can show forth all His praise?” The acts of the Lord are so many, so great, so marvellous, and so glorious, that man is unable adequately to celebrate them. “The transcendent greatness of the deeds of God ought not to keep us back from praising Him, but contains in it the strongest motive to praise; the farther off the goal is, the more earnestly must we strive.”—Hengstenberg.
2. They appreciate the Divine benefits. “He is good, His mercy endureth for ever.” The goodness here mentioned is not so much the excellence of His own nature, as His gracious dealings with man. The manifestations of His mercy and generosity were so numerous, so constant, so glorious, that the Poet was moved by admiration, and desired to give God the honour of them.
3. They praise the Divine Being. “Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord.” Worship—the adoration of the Divine excellence, and beneficence, and beauty—is an essential element of the highest blessedness. The true worship of the true God is the heaven of the soul.
II. They are a righteous people. “Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times.” For moral beings there can be no blessedness except that which is based upon righteousness of principle and of practice. Conscience will not admit of blessedness on any other condition. The Psalmist speaks of habitual righteousness. If we would be truly blessed, righteousness must be not an occasional but a constant disposition of heart and rule of conduct. The blessed man is one who “doeth righteousness at all times.” Barnes points out that “the Psalm is designed to illustrate by contrast; that is, by showing, in the conduct of the Hebrew people, the consequences of disobedience, and thus implying what would have been, and what always must be, the consequences of the opposite course”
III. They are the Lord’s people. We cannot be truly blessed without a hearty recognition of our true relation to God. When by faith and consecration we are His people, great is our blessedness. Concerning the people of God and their blessedness the Poet indicates—
1. The source of all their blessings. “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour of Thy people.” All our blessings flow from the unmerited and free “favour” of the Lord.
2. The sum of all their blessings. “Oh visit me with Thy salvation.” “Salvation” includes pardon for past sin, “grace to help in time of need,” and eternal and blessed life.
3. The result of all their blessings.
(1.) Gladness to man. “That I may rejoice in the gladness of Thy nation.” The favour of God is joy-inspiring.
(2.) Glory to God. “That I may glory with Thine inheritance.” The people of God glory not in their wisdom, wealth, or power, but in their relation to Him. In Him they make their boast. To Him they ascribe their praise.
1. God has a people who are in a special manner His.
2. To these people He imparts special blessings.
3. Are we of the number of these people?
THE FAVOUR OF GOD DESIRED
Psalms 106:4. “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour of Thy people.”
I. That the Lord has a people, who in a different way from others are His. They are so by adopting love, Romans 9:25; by renewing grace, Ephesians 2:10; by voluntary consent, 2 Corinthians 7:5; by public avowal, Isaiah 44:5; by inward testimony, 1 John 5:19, Romans 8:16; by divine appropriation, Zechariah 13:9, and by open evidence, 2 Corinthians 3:2-3.
II. That to these He bears a peculiar and distinguished favour. While others are the recipients of common mercies, they have blessings of a peculiar and pre-eminent description, so that the congratulation given by Moses to the Israelites is applicable to the Lord’s people in every age and place. (Deuteronomy 33:29.)
III. That to be remembered of God with this favour is infinitely desirable. And why is this the case? Because it sweetens the comforts of life; because it quickens us in the performance of duty; because it yields relief in scenes of sorrow and suffering; and because it is the ground of all our hope.
IV. That those who would have the Divine favour must pray for it. “God is ready to bestow His favour upon us (1 John 4:10, Romans 8:32), but application on our part must be made (Ezekiel 36:37); and the reasonableness of the duty leaves without excuse those persons who refuse to comply with it. Let us never despise a favour so freely offered, so greatly needed; a favour which may be obtained on terms so easy.”—W. Sleigh.
THE LORD’S GOODNESS AND MAN’S SIN
In these verses the Psalmist begins the confession of the sin of the Israelites as manifested in their history. Let us notice—
I. Man’s sin notwithstanding the Lord’s goodness. Psalms 106:6-8. We have here—-
1. The sins acknowledged.
(1) Thoughtlessness. “Our fathers understood not Thy wonders in Egypt.” Perowne: “Our fathers in Egypt considered not,” &c. The marvellous and glorious deeds of the Lord in their behalf they saw but did not consider, and therefore did not understand them. “They thought the plagues of Egypt were intended for their deliverance, whereas they were intended also for their instruction and conviction, not only to force them out of their Egyptian slavery, but to cure them of their inclination to Egyptian idolatry, by evidencing the sovereign power and dominion of the God of Israel above all gods, and His particular concern for them.”—M. Henry. Want of consideration is a sin frequently charged against Israel, and to which men are painfully prone in our own day. We see the Divine wonders, receive the Divine benefits, but do not reflect on their significance, &c.
(2) Forgetfulness. ‘ ‘They remembered not the multitude of Thy mercies.” Although the wonders in Egypt were so many and great, yet they made so small an impression upon the people on whose behalf they were wrought that they were speedily forgotten by them. “Eaten bread is soon forgotten.”
(3) Rebellion. “But provoked Him at the sea, at the Red Sea. Hengstenberg and Perowne translate: “rebelled at the sea.” (See Exodus 14:10-12.) Not withstanding all the mighty works that had been wrought for their deliverance from Egypt, on the first approach of danger they distrusted the Lord, and, like craven-hearted slaves, they murmured against the servant of the Lord. They distrusted the power, mercy, and faithfulness of God. Observe the gradation and connection of their sins. Want of reflection upon the mercy of God leads to forgetfulness of those mercies, and forgetfulness of His mercies leads to distrust, &c Evil is terribly progressive.
2. The aggravation of their sins. Many were the “wonders” wrought on their behalf, yet they failed to consider them. The Lord bestowed upon them a “multitude of mercies;” it is sinful to forget one of His loving-kindnesses; yet they forgot a “multitude” of them. The sin of their rebellion also was aggravated by the place in which they were guilty of it. It was “at the Red Sea,” directly after their emancipation from Egypt, when the wonders of power and grace which God had wrought for them should have been fresh in their minds, and a powerful inspiration to faith.
3. The confession of their sins. “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.” Here is
(1) A deep sense of great and manifold transgressions. This is impressively indicated by the three verbs.
(2) A sad successiveness of sin. “We have sinned with our fathers.” The sins of the fathers had been reproduced in the children, generation after generation; so that the nation as a whole was regarded by the Psalmist as guilty before God.
In most of the points which we have touched upon the sins of the Israelites, notwithstanding the goodness of the Lord, represent the sins of the men of our age and country. (Show this, and urge confession).
II. The Lord’s goodness notwithstanding man’s sin. Psalms 106:8-12. Though the sins of Israel were so aggravated, yet the Lord continued to manifest His mercy to them.
1. His goodness was displayed in their salvation. The deliverance here referred to was a very remarkable one. It was
(1) A deliverance from extreme danger. They were shut in by the mountains, the sea, and the Egyptians. There seemed to be no way of escape.
(2) A deliverance marvellously effected. A path was opened through the sea, whose waters stood as guardian-walls on either hand of them.
(3) A deliverance effected with the utmost ease. The Poet represents the sea as “dried up” at the “rebuke” of the Lord. Nature is thoroughly loyal to the Divine will.
(4) A deliverance gloriously complete. Israel not only crossed over in safety, but “the waters covered their enemies, there was not one of them left.”
2. His goodness was displayed for His own glory. “He saved them for His Name’s sake, that He might make His mighty power to be known.” Notwithstanding their offences He saved them because of what He is in Himself,—a being of unchanging truth and mercy; and that the glory of His power might be manifested.
3. The display of His goodness awoke them to a transient exercise of faith and praise. “Then believed they His words; they sang His praise.” (See Exodus 14:31; Exodus 15:1.) For a time distrust gave place to faith, and murmuring to praise. But it was only for a little time; for “both the faith and the song are mentioned, not in praise of their conduct, but only as still further proof that whatever impressions were produced, whether by God’s judgments or His mercies, were but temporary and on the surface. The goodness of Israel was like the dew, early gone.”—Perowne.
CONCLUSION.—This scene from Hebrew history presents to us
(1) Admonition. Let us not sin against that Being who is ever manifesting so much goodness to us.
(2) Encouragement. God does not “deal with us after our sins,” &c.
SIN IN ITS ROOT, EXPRESSIONS, AND PUNISHMENTS
We now come to the confession of the transgressions of the Israelites in the wilderness; and in the verses now before us three of their offences are mentioned. As the Homiletic suggestions arising out of these sins and their punishments will be brought out in treating of their history as recorded in Exodus and Numbers, we shall simply deal with the points suggested by the Psalmist.
I. Sin in its root. “They soon forgat His works … They forgat God their Saviour, which had done great things in Egypt; wondrous things in the land of Ham; terrible things by the Red Sea.” (See our remarks on Psalms 106:7, and on Psalms 78:11-12.) The small impression which the greatest mercies and most marvellous deliverances made upon them is astonishing. Bad as men are, it is not often that favours so extraordinary are forgotten so quickly. “They made haste, they forgat His works.” They, as it were, manifested impatience to rid themselves of the recollection of His glorious deeds wrought for them. Even the mighty miracles in Egypt and at the Red Sea passed away from them as tales that were told. Had they retained in their mind the great things which God had done for them, they would have had in these things such a revelation of His character as would have precluded the committal of their offences against Him. Forgetfulness of deeds of marvellous mercy and power wrought on their behalf, and of Him who wrought them, was the root from which their base rebellion sprang.
II. Sin in its expressions. From the root of forgetfulness of God there sprang up some base and pernicious branches. Here are three heinous sins—
1. Their sin as regards the Divine provision. “They waited not for His counsel; but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,” &c. “They were not content,” says Perowne, “to exercise a patient dependence upon God, leaving it to Him to fulfil His own purposes in His own way, but would rather rule Him than submit themselves to His rule.” (See Homiletic Commentary on Psalms 78:17-18.)
2. Their sin as regards the Divinely-appointed leaders. “They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the Lord.” (Numbers 16:1-3.) The reference in this place is rather to the rebellion which resulted from the envy, than to the envy itself. Aaron is denominated “the saint,” or “the holy one of Jehovah,” because of his priestly office. It is an official, not a personal designation. The leaders of the insurrection claimed that the whole congregation was “holy,” that they were all set apart and consecrated, and were therefore on an equality with Moses and Aaron. Rebellion against the Divinely-appointed leaders was equivalent to rebellion against Him who appointed them.
3. Their sin as regards the Divine Person. “They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.” (Exodus 32:0) “They made—contrary to the prohibition in Exodus 20:4-5—a calf, intended to represent an ox (comp. Psalms 106:20). They would gladly have made an ox, but they were not able to get this length, so contemptible was the whole undertaking. The name ‘calf’ is everywhere used in contempt; the worshippers without doubt called it a bull; according to Philo they made ‘a golden bull.’ ”—Hengstenberg. “Their glory” was the Lord God, and they changed Him for the likeness “of an ox that eateth grass.” (Comp. Romans 1:23.) The intention of the people was to worship God under the symbol of the calf, but as this symbolising was utterly incompatible with the nature of Jehovah, and opposed to His express command, it was regarded by God as bartering Him for the image, the renunciation of Jehovah for the model of a calf. Miserable and terribly sinful absurdity to exchange the Lord of heaven and earth for a calf-like model of a grass-eating ox! The sin which began in forgetfulness of God ended in idolatry. The development of evil is from bad to worse, and is sometimes fearfully rapid.
II. Sin in its punishments. We have here—
1. Punishment corresponding with sin. (On the punishment of those who lusted for flesh in the wilderness see Homiletic Commentary on Psalms 78:30-31). “He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul.” The “soul” here means the animal soul, the physical life. The Lord gratified their sinful desire, and in so doing and by the same means punished their sin; for they ate until there came on a wasting sickness which led to alarming mortality. But although the “soul” is here used with its physical meaning, “the figurative sense is equally true, and equally pertinent. The very heart and spirit of a man, when bent only or supremely on the satisfaction of its earthly desires and appetites, is always dried up and withered. It becomes a lean, shrunk, miserable thing, always craving more food, yet drawing thence no nourishment, ‘magnas inter opes inops.’ ”—Perowne.
“Heaven is most just, and of our pleasant vices
Makes instruments to scourge us.”
In the rebellion against Moses and Aaron we note a correspondence between the sin and its punishment. In the rebellion against Moses, who was the ruler in all affairs of state, “Dathan and Abiram, as princes of the tribe of Reuben, Jacob’s eldest son, would claim to be chief magistrates, by the so-much-admired right of primogeniture.” And for rebelling against “the civil authority they were punished by the earth, which opened and swallowed them up, as not fit to go upon God’s ground, because they would not submit to God’s government.”—M. Henry. In the rebellion against Aaron, which took place among the Levites and was headed by Korah, “a fire was kindled in their company, a flame burnt up the wicked.” “These had sinned by fire and were punished by fire like the sons of Aaron” (Leviticus 10:2). (Comp. Numbers 16:1-35.)
2. Punishment averted by intercession. When the people made and worshipped the golden calf, God “said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He should destroy them.” Moses is here compared to a brave soldier who, when a breach has been made in the walls of the fortress which he is defending, plants himself in the breach, and so keeps back the invaders. (Comp. Exodus 32:11-14.) God would have destroyed the people, if Moses had not interposed and interceded for them. See here—
1. The power of prayer.
2. The greatness of the Divine mercy.
3. An illustration of the intercession of Christ for our race.
FORGETFULNESS OF THE DIVINE WORKS
(Psalms 106:13.—“But they soon forgot His works.”)
I. That the works of God are supremely worthy of an attentive review, and a thankful remembrance.
1. What did they forget? His works. Review all their variety—the creation, the appointment of a salvation, the work of redemption, the works of Providence; they are to be considered in their peculiar aspect, whether prosperous or adverse. Review their multitude; they are to be considered in their meaning. Providence is our daily preacher.
2. What sort of recollection should it be? Not a mere notional recollection—a recollection accompanied with suitable emotions—astonishment, gratitude, love, and heartfelt consideration. It must be a devotional and practical recollection.
3. Why are these works to be remembered? Because they are God’s works; because they are all-important; because the least of them is the purchase of infinite price.
II. That there is in human nature a strange tendency to forget the works of God.
This is no calumny on human nature. It is the express statement of Scripture, and is confirmed by daily experience. It arises from—
1. The injury the memory has sustained by the Fall: it retains what is impure, but not what is holy.
2. The bias of our mind is directed to earthly things.
3. The secret disinclination to contemplate a subject in which God is intimately concerned.
III. The sinfulness and danger of thus forgetting the works of God.
1. It arises out of a sinful state of mind, and it is culpable forgetfulness.
2. It is an actual transgression of God’s Word. (Deuteronomy 4:9; 1 Chronicles 16:12.)
3. It involves in it the commission of other sins—inconsideration and ingratitude.
4. They who forget their mercies forfeit them.
5. God has denounced fearful judgments on such. (Psalms 9:17.)
IV. What are the best means of preserving in our minds a grateful sense of the Divine goodness?
1. Seek that you be renewed and sanctified.
2. Attention will much assist in the recollection of mercies. (Proverbs 4:20.)
3. Meditation cannot be done in a crowd; then seek solitude.
4. Order and arrangement are like cells in which our mercies may be deposited and called out in order.
5. Strive to maintain lively affections towards God; for what we love we do not easily forget.
1. How mistaken are those who suppose that forgetfulness is not a sin!
2. Here a wide field is opened for the exercise of repentance.
3. Reprove those who have a good memory for their calamities and a bad one for their mercies.
4. Address those who will not recollect. God will not forget.—George Clayton.—From “The Homiletic Quarterly.”
THE GRANTING OF SELFISH DESIRES AN INJURY TO THE SOUL
The history of the event referred to is given in Numbers 11:0.
I. Many things which are good in themselves may not be good for us individually. Material wealth is good; but upon attaining it some men have become spiritually bankrupt. (Luke 12:15-21.) Popularity may be a good thing; but, having gained it, many a man has lost his integrity, independence, heroism. How this view of things corrects the prevalent notion of success in life! “Success in life,” says the world, “is getting on in business, making money quickly, living well” (by which is meant eating and drinking luxuriously), “mixing in good society.” How shallow, false, ruinous! These things may not only consist with spiritual poverty, imbecility, and ruin, but very frequently lead to them.
II. Many things may be good for us at one time and under certain circumstances which may not be good for us at another time and under other circumstances. The flesh which the Israelites desired would have been good for them when they arrived in Canaan; but in the wilderness, where they should have been satisfied with the Divinely-provided manna, it proved a terrible curse.
III. The most fervent prayers are not always most acceptable. The motive and the character of the fervour must be taken into consideration. Fervent prayers are sometimes only the passionate cries of selfish hearts—the determined pursuit of an object of selfish desire.
IV. God may grant the passionate desire of a selfish heart with terrible results. He may give the fancied good which is so eagerly demanded, and it may prove to be a direful injury. It was so in the case before us. Instances are numerous in which unsubmissive requests have been granted with most painful results.
V. God may refuse to grant the request of even a good man, and the refusal may be a blessing. It was in love that the Lord refused the repeated request of St. Paul for the removal of the “thorn in the flesh.” That torturing thorn was the means of preventing the spiritual pride which might otherwise have effected his overthrow. (1 Corinthians 12:7-9.)
“We, ignorant of ourselves,
Beg often our own harms, which the wise powers
Deny us for our good; so find we profit By losing of our prayers.”—Shakespeare.
VI. The wisest, holiest, most acceptable prayer is for conformity with the will of God. “Not my will, but Thine be done,” expresses the true spirit of acceptable prayer.
“Covet earnestly the best gifts.” Seek those things which are pure blessings for all persons, at all times and under all circumstances.
A SAD PICTURE OF HUMAN PERVERSITY
The sinful perversity of the Israelites appears here in several mournful aspects.
I. Despising the choicest inheritance. “They despised the pleasant land.” Margin: “A land of desire.” Perowne: “They rejected the desirable land.” (Deuteronomy 8:7-9; Deuteronomy 11:9.) The Israelites frequently manifested a desire to return to Egypt. The good land before them had few attractions for them. God calls men to holiness, communion with Himself, heaven. All who do not heartily respond to His call despise the most glorious inheritance.
II. Disbelieving the best authenticated word. “They believed not His word.” They had proved the reliableness of the word of God; yet they did not believe it as regards the land which He had promised to them. They preferred to accept the testimony of the unbelieving and cowardly spies. (Numbers 14:1-6; Numbers 14:10.) We have here—
1. Unbelief dishonouring God.
2. Unbelief excluding man from his inheritance. Man’s unbelief has kept him out of many “a good land.”
III. Murmuring against the arrangements of the wisest and kindest of beings. They “murmured in their tents.” This they did repeatedly. (Numbers 14:2-3; Numbers 14:27.) “They complained of Moses, of their food, of the hardships of their journey, of God. They did this when ‘in their tents;’ when they had a comfortable home; when safe; when provided for; when under the direct Divine protection and care. So men often complain; perhaps oftener when they have many comforts than when they have few.”—Barnes.
IV. Disobeying the commands of the most sovereign authority. “They hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord.” Unbelief of God’s word speedily leads to refusal to listen to His voice and disregard of His commands. They disobeyed their Creator, Sustainer, Sovereign, and generous Benefactor—not only the greatest, but the best being. His will is supremely binding. Yet they disobeyed it.
V. Receiving deserved punishment. “Therefore He lifted up His hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness.” The lifting up of the hand is the gesture of swearing. “Ye shall not come into the land which I lifted up My hand to make you dwell therein” (Numbers 14:30). “I lifted up My hand also to them in the wilderness,” &c. (Ezekiel 20:23). “I sware in My wrath, They shall not enter into My rest.” It is fitting that they who despise their inheritance shall not enter upon it.
VI. Entailing misery upon their posterity. “He lifted up His hand to overthrow their seed also among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands.” “The result of their rebellion and murmuring would not terminate with them. It would extend to their posterity, and the rebellion of the fathers would be remembered in distant generations. The overthrow of the nation, and its captivity in Babylon, was thus one of the remote consequences of their rebellion in the wilderness.”—Barnes.
1. Shun sin; for by committing it you may hand down to your descendants a heritage of woe.
2. “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief,” &c. (Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 4:1; Hebrews 4:11).
PASSAGES FROM THE HISTORY OF A REBELLIOUS PEOPLE
The heart grows weary and sad as we follow this narrative with its abounding unbelief, ingratitude, meanness, and rebellion. The picture which the Poet draws of Israel is painfully sombre, yet it is true. In no portion of it has he inserted too much shadow. We have in these verses—
I. An incorrigibly rebellious people.
1. Here is idolatry. “They joined themselves also unto Baal-Peor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.” “Baal was the name of an idol; Peor was the name of a mountain in Moab where the idol was worshipped.” “The sacrifices of the dead” are the sacrifices offered to idols, in contradistinction from the living God (Numbers 25:1-3).
2. Here is adultery. The worship of Baal-Peor was connected with licentious rites. Fuerst: “Baal of the shame uncovering, in whose honour virgins yielded up their innocence.” (Numbers 25:1-6.)
3. Here is rebellious murmuring. “They angered Him also at the Waters of Strife” (Numbers 20:1-5; Numbers 20:13). Here in the fortieth year of their wandering they are still an unbelieving, complaining, rebellious people.
II. A brave man acting as minister of justice in a critical time. “Then stood up Phinehas and executed judgment, and so the plague was stayed” (Numbers 25:5-8).
1. Here is a brave act of justice. Moses had commanded the judges of Israel to stay the idolaters; but they seemed to have been deficient in the strength and courage necessary to enable them to obey the command; they only stand and weep. At this critical moment, with zeal and courage and energy, Phinehas rose up and slew two of the offenders of the first rank.
2. A brave act of justice staying the Divine vengeance. “And the so plague was stayed.” This act of justice was propitiatory; it appeased and turned away the wrath of God. “National justice prevents national judgments.”
3. A brave act of justice recognised and rewarded by God. “And that was counted unto him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore” (Numbers 25:10-13). Perowne says: “It was looked upon as a righteous act, and rewarded accordingly.… This verse has given occasion to whole disquisitions on the subject of justification, with which it really has nothing to do, though at least the language is in perfect accordance with that of St. James (James 2:20-26). The reward of this righteousness was the perpetual continuance of the priesthood in the family.” Hereafter the position of Phinehas and his posterity was one of marked distinction and honour.
III. A holy man sinning and suffering by reason of the sin of others. “It went ill with Moses for their sakes; because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips.” Through the sin of the people Moses lost his self-control, was betrayed into the utterance of unbecoming and rash words, and to undue assumption of power; and in consequence was not permitted to enter the promised land. (Numbers 20:7-12.)
1. Their provocation of Moses agravated the guilt of the rebellious people.
2. Their provocation does not exonerate Moses from guilt. Provocation is not compulsion.
3. God punishes sin even in the best of men, in whom it is a great exception.
IV. The great God contending against human sin.
1. By the plague, because of the idolatry and licentiousness of the people. “The plague brake in upon them.” “Those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.”
2. By the exclusion of Moses from the promised land. God is the determined antagonist of moral evil. The arrangements of the material universe, the workings of Providence, and the grand aim of redemption, are all utterly hostile to sin. The voice of God to man concerning sin in all history is, “Oh, do not this abominable thing which I hate!” From the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ He utters this entreaty in a manner that ought to arrest the attention and secure the compliance of all men. Let us listen to His voice, and heartily strive to comply with His entreaty.
SIN IN ITS PROGRESS, POLLUTION, AND PUNISHMENT
In these verses we have—
I. Sin in its progress. Here is—
1. Disobedience. “They did not destroy the nations concerning whom the Lord commanded them.” (For the command and its reasons see Homiletic Commentary on Exodus 23:27-33; Exodus 34:11-16; Numbers 33:50-56.) Though the command was express, solemn, and repeatedly proclaimed, yet they did not obey it by driving out or destroying the Canaanites.
2. Evil associations. They “were mingled among the heathen and learned their works.” By intermarriage and commerce they became mixed up among the Canaanites, and conformed to their evil customs and practices. Had they not first been guilty of disobedience, they could not have been guilty of entering into these prohibited and evil associations.
3. Idolatry. “They served their idols, which were a snare unto them” (Judges 2:11-13). God had warned them that, if they did not drive out the Canaanites, they would be snared by them and drawn into their idolatrous customs. And this result very speedily appeared.
4. Offering human sacrifices. “Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood,” &c. Hengstenberg: “And offered their sons and their daughters to the lords.” Perowne: “And they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to false gods.” Heb. שֵׁדִים = lords; it is here used to designate the gods of the Canaanites. God had strictly prohibited the offering of these sacrifices (Deuteronomy 12:29-32; Deuteronomy 18:10). Yet they offered them, thus adding to their idolatry the most unnatural and horrible murder. Now, mark their progress in evil. “The way of sin,” says Matthew Henry, “is down hill; omissions make way for commissions; when they neglect to destroy the heathen, the next news we hear is, ‘They were mingled among the heathen, made leagues with them, and contracted an intimacy with them, so that they learned their works.’ … The beginning of idolatry and superstition, like that of strife, is as the letting forth of water, and there is no villany which those that venture upon it can be sure they shall stop short of, for God justly gives them up to a reprobate mind.” Avoid the first step in evil courses.
These sins are still flourishing in different forms. The professed people of God are still guilty of disobedience in many things, and of conformity to the world in many customs that are questionable, and in some which are unmistakably evil; they are often found bowing at the shrines of mammon and fashion, and still they sacrifice their sons and daughters to idols. “Among us such sacrifices take place by careless bringing up of children, when parents encourage them, for example, in pride and other sins, offer them to the god of the world, carefully inculcate the maxims of the world, and fill them with love of vanity and show.”—Berleb.
II. Sin in its pollution. “The land was polluted with blood. Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring after their own inventions.” The very soil itself is here represented as polluted and accursed by reason of the sin of the people. The religious practices which they had adopted became a source of terrible contamination and corruption to their nature. Their very worship was spiritual whoredom. This corrupting tendency of sin is one of its most fearful characteristics. It effects a terrible deterioration in man’s moral and religious nature.
III. Sin in its punishment. Psalms 106:40-43.
1. Their punishment was long delayed. “Many times did He deliver them.” The reference is to the deliverances effected on their behalf during the time of the judges, and afterwards during the time of the kings. Judges 2:11-19 furnishes a clear exposition of Psalms 106:43. The Lord was loath to leave them in the hands of their enemies, or to send them into captivity. He is “slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.”
2. Their punishment was an expression of Divine anger. “Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against His people, insomuch that He abhorred His own inheritance.” God’s anger burns against sin and against the workers of iniquity. God pities the sinner as a man, and seeks to save him, but as a worker of iniquity He abhors him. Sin persisted in renders the people of God an offence and abomination unto Him. Nothing shows the enormity of sin more than this, that it renders those who were once well-pleasing in His sight loathsome unto Him.
3. Their punishment corresponded with their sin. “He gave them into the hand of the heathen,” &c. (Psalms 106:41-42). This punishment the Lord had threatened them with if they failed to drive out the Canaanites. (Numbers 33:55-56.) And it came to pass according to His word. Their punishment grew out of their sin, and was its natural result. In opposition to the will of God, they intermingled with the heathen and adopted their worst customs; and, after long forbearance and many deliverances, God at length abandoned them to the heathen, who led them into captivity, and tyrannically lorded it over them. They had forsaken the Lord, and given their hearts to heathen customs, and after “long patience” the Lord forsook them, leaving them to the heathens, whose ways they so much admired. “Sinners often see themselves ruined by those by whom they have suffered themselves to be debauched. Satan, who is a tempter, will be a tormentor. The heathen ‘hated them.’ Apostates lose all the love on God’s side, and get none on Satan’s.” Thus a man’s punishment is not a something tacked on to his sin, but ever grows out of his sin. The wicked man collects the fuel for his own hell-fire.
CONCLUSION. The chief Lessons of our subject are:—
(1) Do not enter upon an evil course.
(2) If any one find himself already in the way of evil, let him retrace his steps at once. “Let the wicked forsake his way,” &c.
(3) The surest means of guarding against evil courses is to walk diligently in the way prescribed by God. He will give us wisdom and strength so to do, if we ask Him.
STAGES FROM MISERY TO EXULTATION
The Poet now presents to us another aspect of the dealings of the Lord with His people. He visited them in anger, because of their ungodly counsels and iniquitous practices. But He never forgets His loving-kindness and His truth concerning them. Soon as their sufferings led them to cry unto Him, He sent them relief. The Psalmist indicates the stages from misery to exultation.
I. Misery leading to a cry for mercy.
“He heard their cry.” In their prosperity they had forgotten the Lord, had forsaken Him for idols. In their misery they cried to Him for relief. This is common. Sometimes the cry is the utterance of mere selfishness. In this case, when the suffering is removed, men pursue their old course of ingratitude and rebellion. Sometimes the cry is the utterance of penitence. In this case the sin which caused the suffering is felt more keenly than any outward affliction. Reformation of life is the result. In the former case the cry is worthless and mean; in the latter it indicates that suffering has led to gracious results.
II. A cry for mercy securing the Divine regard. “He regarded their affliction when He heard their cry.”
1. God heard their cry. The cry of distress, the sigh of unutterable sorrow, the whispered longing of the heart, the reverent prayer of devout worship, all are heard by God. This is a fact fraught with consolation, inspiration, and strength.
2. God graciously regarded their cry. “He remembered for them His covenant, and repented according to the multitude of His mercies.” Perowne: “And pitied them according to the greatness of His loving-kindness.” “God’s repentance is not a change of His will, but of His work. Repentance with man is the changing of his will; repentance with God is the willing of a change. Mutatio rei, non Dei; effectus, non affectus; facti, non consilii.” In answer to their cry the Lord turned to them in mercy. Man may forget Him, but He never forgets His covenant. Great is the sin of man; but the mercy of God is incomparably greater. The reason of His loving-kindness to the Jews, and to all men, is to be found in the perfections of His own nature.
III. The Divine regard securing relief from trouble. “He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captive.” Notice here—
1. The power of God over all men. He made the hearts of the oppressors of His people to relent towards them, so that they treated them with kindness. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: He turneth it whithersoever He will.” Even so can He turn the hearts of all men.
2. The kindness of God to His people. He influenced the hearts of their oppressors in their favour. He employs His power to promote the interests of His Church.
IV. Relief from trouble awakening prayer for complete salvation. “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen,” &c. “The grace of God, already shown to His people,” says Perowne, “leads to the prayer of this verse—a supplication for which the whole Psalm has prepared the way. The language would seem to indicate that the Psalm was written in exile, though the same prayer might also have been uttered by one of those who returned in the first caravan, on behalf of his brethren who were still dispersed.”
1. The beginning of the work of Divine grace is an encouragement to expect and pray for full salvation.
2. The Divine praise should ever be regarded as the grand end of salvation. The glory of redemption is due wholly and solely to God in Christ.
This Doxology marks the close of the fourth book of the Psalms. For its Homiletic suggestions see a Sketch on the Doxology to the first book, Psalms 41:13; on that to the second book, Psalms 72:18-20; and on that to the third book, Psalms 89:52.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 106". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20