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This is the first of the strictly "Hallelujah psalms"—i.e. of the psalms beginning with the phrase "hallelujah"—which are Psalms 106:1-48, Psalms 111:1-10, Psalms 112:1-10, Psalms 113:1-9, Psalms 135:1-21, Psalms 146:1-10, Psalms 147:1-20, Psalms 148:1-14, Psalms 149:1-9, and Psalms 150:1-6. Eight of these ten also end with the phrase. Psalms 104:1-35, Psalms 105:1-45, and Psalms 107:1-43, end with it, but do not begin with it. This psalm has a general resemblance to Psalms 78:1-72 and Psalms 105:1-45, but carries the historical sketch to a later period, and makes more pointed allusion to the Babylonish captivity (Psa 105:41 -46). It consists of an introduction (Psalms 105:1-5), comprising praise and prayer; an historical sketch, which is mainly a confession of the sins of the people (Psa 105:6 -46); and a conclusion, in which prayer and praise are again united, as in the introduction.
Praise ye the Lord (comp. Psalms 104:35; Psalms 105:45). O give thanks unto the Lord (so in Psalms 105:1). Even in their greatest afflictions, the Israelites were bound to give God thanks. His mercies always exceeded his punishments. For he is good (see the comment on Psalms 100:5). For his mercy eudureth forever. According to Chronicles, this phrase was used at the dedication of David's tabernacle (1 Chronicles 16:34, 1 Chronicles 16:41), and again at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 5:13). It here first occurs in the Psalms.
Who can utter the mighty acts of the Lord? (comp. Psalms 50:2; and for the impossibility of expressing God's greatness, see Job 11:7-9; Psalms 92:5; Isaiah 40:12-17; Romans 11:33-36). Who can show forth all his praise? i.e. "all the praise really due to him."
Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times. No distinction of meaning is intended between "keeping judgment" and "doing righteousness." The second clause merely repeats the first.
Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people. A prayer for individual blessing, not very usual in a psalm concerned with national sins and national deliverances. Professor Cheyne compares the parenthetic utterances of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:19; Nehemiah 13:14, Nehemiah 13:22, Nehemiah 13:31), but doubts whether the entire passage (verses 4, 5) is not an interpolation. O visit me with thy salvation (comp. Psalms 18:35; Psalms 85:7).
That I may see the good of thy chosen; or, the good fortune, the prosperity, of thy chosen; i.e. their happiness when they are released from the captivity, and return to their own land (comp. Psalms 106:47). That I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation; i.e. "the gladness" that would be theirs when re-established in their own country (see Ezra 3:12; Ezra 6:22). That I may glory with thins inheritance; or, triumph.
The psalmist now enters on his main subject—the transgressions of Israel in the past, and God's manifold mercies vouchsafed to them. These he traces from the time of the Exodus (Psalms 106:7) to that of the Babylonish captivity (Psalms 106:46).
We have sinned with our fathers (comp. Leviticus 26:40; 1 Kings 8:47; Ezra 9:6, Ezra 9:7; Nehemiah 1:6, Nehemiah 1:7; Nehemiah 9:16-18, Nehemiah 9:26; Daniel 9:5-8). We have committed iniquity; or, "dealt perversely" (Kay). We have done wickedly. The confession is as broad and general as possible, including all under sin—the "fathers" from Moses downwards, the whole nation from the time of its settlement in Canaan, and even the afflicted exiles in Babylon. Their guilt is emphaized by the use of three verbs, each more forcible than the last.
Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; rather, considered not—did not give serious thought to them; took them as matters of course, and so were not impressed by them. They remembered not the multitude of thy mercies (comp. Psalms 69:16; Isaiah 63:7; Lamentations 3:32; and infra, Lamentations 3:45). But provoked him; rather, were rebellious (see the Revised Version). At the sea, even at the Red Sea (comp. Exodus 14:11, Exodus 14:12).
Nevertheless he saved them for his Name's sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known. (On this motive for the mighty works done in Egypt, see Exodus 7:5; Exodus 14:4, Exodus 14:18; Exodus 15:11-16.)
He rebuked the Red Sea also (comp. Psalms 104:7, "At thy rebuke they [i.e. the waters] fled;" see also Isaiah 50:2; Nahum 1:4). The Hebrew poets constantly represent God's dealings with inanimate nature in terms proper to his dealings with his rational creatures, thus personifying material things. And it was dried up (see Exodus 14:21, Exodus 14:22). So he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness (comp. Isaiah 63:13). Midbar, the word translated "wilderness," is properly a smooth stretch of down, very level, and suited for sheep walks.
And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them. The Pharaoh of the Exodus, whose "hatred" had been shown by his oppression (Exodus 2:23; Exodus 3:9; Exodus 5:6-19), his prolonged refusal to let Israel go, and final pursuit of them, and attempt to destroy them on the western shore of the Red Sea (Exodus 14:5-10). And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. The deliverance from Egypt, typifying man's deliverance from sin, is constantly spoken of as a "redemption" (Psalms 74:2; Psalms 107:2; Exodus 6:6, Exodus 6:7; Exodus 15:16, etc.).
And the waters covered their enemies (see Exodus 14:28-30; Exodus 15:10). There was not one of them left. The words of Exodus 14:28 (last clause) are almost exactly followed.
Then believed they his words. So in Exodus 14:31, "The people feared the Lord and believed the Lord"—believed, that is, when they could no longer disbelieve. They sang his praise. The allusion is to the "Song of Moses" (Exodus 15:1-18), in which the Israelites generally joined (Exodus 15:1, Exodus 15:20).
They soon forgat his works; literally, they hasted and forgat his works. Their gratitude and devotion were short-lived. They almost immediately forgot the omnipotence and extreme goodness of God towards them. They "murmured" at Marah (Exodus 15:24), complained in the wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:3), "lusted" (Numbers 11:4), "tempted God," etc. They waited not for his counsel; i.e. "they did not wait for the development of God's plans respecting them, preferring (Psalms 106:43) their own counsel" (Kay).
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness; literally, "lusted a lust." The expression is taken from Numbers 11:4, where it is translated in the Authorized Version by "fell a-lusting." The lust was for "flesh," and for "the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic, which they did eat in Egypt freely" (Numbers 11:5). And tempted God in the desert (comp. Psalms 78:18).
And he gave them their request. By sending the quails (Numbers 11:31, Numbers 11:32). But sent leanness into their soul. By "leanness" is meant dissatisfaction or disgust. After eating freely of the quails for a full month, the food became "loathsome" to them (Numbers 11:20). Whether it actually produced the pestilence which followed (Numbers 11:33). or whether that was a separate and distinct affliction, it is impossible to determine (compare, on the whole subject, Psalms 78:18-31, and the comment ad loc.).
They envied Moses also in the camp. The writer passes now to the sin of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, with their followers, which was "envy" or jealousy of the high position assigned by God himself (Exodus 3:10; Exodus 4:1-17) to Moses and Aaron (comp. Numbers 16:1-3). These "gainsayers" (Jude 1:11) maintained that they had as much right to be priests as Moses and Aaron, since "all the congregation was holy" (Numbers 16:3). And Aaron the saint of the Lord; or, the holy one. It is rather Aaron's official sanctity (Le Psa 8:2 -12) than his personal holiness that is intended. (Compare the use of the phrase "man of God" in 1 Kings 13:1, 1 Kings 13:4, 1 Kings 13:6, etc.)
The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan (see Numbers 16:31-33). And covered the company of Abiram. It is asked why there is no mention of Korah here, and suggested that he owed his escape from mention to the favouritism of the Levitical "temple poets" (Cheyne). But the real reason seems to be that Korah was not "swallowed up;" he and his company were destroyed by fire, and are alluded to in Psalms 106:18 (so Hengstenberg).
And a fire was kindled in their company (see Numbers 16:35, Numbers 16:40; Numbers 26:10). The flame burned up the wicked. Korah and his "company" were more "wicked" than Dathan, Abiram, and their followers, since they had received a favour from God which ought to have satisfied them (Numbers 16:9, Numbers 16:10), and since they ought to have been better instructed in the Law than ordinary Israelites. Hence Korah alone is mentioned in Jude 1:11.
They made a calf in Horeb (comp. Exodus 32:4; Deuteronomy 9:8-16). And worshipped the molten image; rather, a molten image (comp. Exodus 32:4, Exodus 32:24; Deuteronomy 9:12, Deuteronomy 9:16). The sin was not only against the light of nature, but was expressly forbidden by the second commandment (Exodus 20:4, Exodus 20:5).
Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass; i.e. they exchanged the spiritual revelation of Jehovah, in all his glorious attributes, for a material emblem, which would naturally suggest low and unworthy thoughts of the supreme Being. So Schultz and Cheyne. The expression, "an ox that eateth grass," emphasizes the contempt of the writer for a people who could so act. He has, probably, in his thoughts not only the golden calf, but the Apis bulls of Egypt.
They forgat God their Saviour (comp. Psalms 106:13). "God their Saviour" is "God who had so recently saved them out of the hands of Pharaoh." Which had done great things in Egypt. The allusion is principally to the long series of "plagues."
Wondrous works in the land of Ham (comp. Psalms 78:51; Psalms 105:23, Psalms 105:27, for the expression "land of Ham;" and for the "works" themselves, see Exodus 7-12). And terrible things by the Red Sea (see Exodus 14:24, Exodus 14:27-30).
Therefore he said that he would destroy them; literally, and he said. On the apostasy at Sinai, God expressed to Moses an intention to destroy the entire people of Israel, save only himself, and to "make of him a great nation" (Exodus 32:10; comp. Deuteronomy 9:14, Deuteronomy 9:25). Had not Moses his chosen steed before him in the breach. Moses was "chosen" by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 3:10), and forced to accept the office (Exodus 4:1-17). When Israel angered God at Sinai, he "stood in the gap," like a brave soldier guarding his city when the enemy has breached the wall (Exodus 32:11-13, Exodus 32:31-34). To turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them. God was ready to have destroyed all Israel, and to have raised up a new Israel out of the descendants of Moses, had not Moses pleaded with extreme earnestness on the people's behalf (Exodus 32:32).
Yea, they despised the pleasant land. The psalmist passes to the consideration of another sin. After the ill report of the spies (Numbers 13:27-33), the Israelites "despised" the land promised to them (Numbers 14:31), and relinquished all desire for it. They were ready to have turned back into Egypt (Numbers 14:3). They believed not his word; i.e. his promise to give them the land (Genesis 15:18-21; Exodus 23:31, etc.).
But murmured in their tents. The "murmuring" intended is undoubtedly that mentioned in Numbers 14:1-4. The phraseology employed is from Deuteronomy 1:27. And hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord; i.e. hearkened not to the many promises which God had made to drive out the Canaanitish nations before them (Exodus 3:17; Exodus 6:8; Exodus 15:15-17, etc.).
Therefore he lifted up his hand against them. The phrase is used with reference to the uplifting of the hand width accompanied an oath. To overthrow them in the wilderness (see Numbers 14:29, Numbers 14:32, Numbers 14:37). The death in the wilderness of the entire generation which had set out from Egypt, save only Joshua and Caleb, is the "overthrow" intended.
To overthrow their seed also among the nations. Like Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:23), the writer regards the Babylonish captivity as in part a punishment for the sins committed in the wilderness. And to scatter them in the lands (comp. Leviticus 26:33; Deuteronomy 28:64). The Israelites were punished, not merely by being carried into captivity, but by being completely broken up as a nation, and "scattered" widely over Western Asia—some in Gozan and on the Khabonr (2 Kings 17:6), some in Haran (1 Chronicles 5:26), some in "the cities of the Modes" (2 Kings 18:11; Tobit 1:14; 3:7), others in Babylonia (2 Kings 24:14-16; 2 Chronicles 36:20; Ezekiel 1:1-3, etc.). The "scattering" has in later times increased ever more and more.
They joined themselves also unto Baal-peor (see Numbers 25:3). The exact expression used in the Pentateuch is repeated. It signifies a mystic union, such as was supposed to exist between a heathen god and his worshippers, and to be kept up by sacrificial meals and the like. "Baal-peor"—i.e. "the Lord of Pehor"—is probably identified with Chemosh. And ate the sacrifices of the dead. The corresponding phrase in Numbers (Numbers 25:2) is, "the sacrifices of their gods," who were "dead," as opposed to the true living God.
Thus they provoked him to anger with their inventions; or, with their doings. And the plague; rather, a plague. Brake in upon them. The judicial slaughter inflicted by command of Moses (Numbers 25:4-8) is called here, as it is also in Numbers 25:8, Numbers 25:9, Numbers 25:18, "a plague."
Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment (see Numbers 25:7, Numbers 25:8). Some critics, however, translate יפלל, by "mediated" (Kay, Cheyne). And so the plague was stayed (comp. Numbers 25:8).
And that was counted unto him for righteousness (comp. Numbers 25:11-13, and see also Ecclesiastes 45:23, 24; 1 Macc. 2:26, 54). Unto all generations forevermore. The praise awarded to Phinehas, here and in Numbers 25:1-18; is an everlasting testimony to him, though the "everlasting priesthood" of Numbers 25:13 has passed away.
They angered him also at the waters of strife; or, "at the waters of Meribah" (Revised Version, Kay, Cheyne); comp. Numbers 20:2, Numbers 20:10, Numbers 20:13. So that it went ill with Moses for their sakes. Moses was not punished for the people's sin, but for his own sin (Numbers 20:10-12), to which theirs led. The expression, "for their sakes," is used loosely (comp. Deuteronomy 1:37; Deuteronomy 3:26).
Because they provoked his spirit, so that he spake unadvisedly with his lips. One man's sin often leads to another's, but does not necessitate it. The people "provoked Muses' spirit" by their murmurs and reproaches (Numbers 20:3-5). Moses, being provoked, made his rash utterance (Numbers 20:10). He was vexed, impatient, carried away by a gust of passion, and made the unfitting speech, "Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of the rock?" speaking as if the power were his own.
They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the Lord commanded them. This is reckoned as another sin. Israel, once comfortably settled in Palestine, with sufficient room for its numbers, did not carry out the Divine command to "destroy," or "cast out," the Canaanitish nations, but was content to share the land with them. "The children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who inhabited Jerusalem" (Judges 1:21); "neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns; nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns" (Judges 1:27); "neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer" (Judges 1:29); nor "Zebulon the inhabitants of Kitten, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol" (Judges 1:30); "neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho" (Judges 1:31); nor "Naphtali the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and Beth-anath" (Judges 1:33); nor Dan the Amorites, who "would dwell in Mount Heros in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim" (Judges 1:35). It was not compassion that restrained them, but love of ease, idleness, one of the seven deadly sins; and the results were those described in the next verse.
But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. This was the effect of the continuous contact. "Evil communications corrupted good manners." The command to exterminate, which to moderns seems so terribly severe, and almost cruel, was undoubtedly based upon God's foreknowledge of the fact, that otherwise there would be contact, and if contact, then contamination. (For the actual fact, see Judges 2:11-13, Judges 2:19; Judges 3:6, Judges 3:7; Judges 6:25; Judges 10:6, etc.)
And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them; or, which became a snare unto them. The idols worshipped were especially Baal and Ashtoreth—the nature-god and nature-goddess, sometimes identified with the sun and moon. These alone are mentioned in the time of the Judges. Afterwards, however, Chemosh, Molech, Remphan, the gods of Syria, and perhaps Ammon of Egypt, were added to the catalogue (1 Kings 11:7; 2Ki 21:19; 2 Chronicles 28:23; Acts 7:43).
Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils. The Moloch sacrifices of children by their parents are evidently intended (comp. Le Psalms 18:21; Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 3:27; Jeremiah 7:31; Ezekiel 23:37, etc.). (For the identification of the false gods of the heathen with "devils," comp. Le 17:71; Deuteronomy 32:17; 2 Chronicles 11:15; 1Co 10:20, 1 Corinthians 10:21.) It is argued by some that the use of the word "devils," or "demons," here does not imply that the objects of the worship were evil spirits. But it is difficult to see what else can be meant.
And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters. Infants, who could have committed no actual sin, were the ordinary victims in the Moloch sacrifices (see Jarchi on Jeremiah 7:31; Diod. Sic; Jeremiah 20:14; Dollinger, 'Judenthum und Heidenthum,' 1:427, Engl. trans.). Whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan. Bloody offerings of this horrible kind were made, not only to Moloch, but also to Baal (Jeremiah 19:5), to Chemosh (2 Kings 3:27), and perhaps to other deities. And the land was polluted with blood. Contrary to the commandment given in Deuteronomy 35:33, "Ye shall not pollute the laud wherein ye are." The "innocent blood" shed in the land is often declared to have been the especial cause of God's anger against Israel, and of his final casting away of his inheritance (2 Kings 24:4; Isaiah 59:7; Jeremiah 7:6; Jeremiah 22:3, Jeremiah 22:17, etc.).
Thus were they defiled with their own works. The heathen "works," which they adopted from them (Psalms 106:35), had become "their own works," and made them a "defiled" and "polluted" people. And went a-whoring with their own inventions; i.e. "became spiritually adulterous," deserted God, and were unfaithful to him (comp. Ezekiel 23:2-21; Hosea 2:2-5).
Therefore was the wrath of the Lord kindled against his people (comp. Psalms 78:58, Psalms 78:59). Insomuch that he abhorred his own inheritance (see Psalms 78:62). It justly increased God's anger that the sinners were his own people, his own inheritance.
And he gave them into the hand of the heathen. This is the great lesson taught by Jewish history, and especially impressed upon us by Judges and Chronicles. When a nation sins, it is delivered over to its enemies, partly for punishment, partly to lead it to repentance. Israel was delivered into the hand, first, of Mesopotamia (Judges 3:10), then of Moab (Judges 3:12), next of the Philistines (Judges 3:31), then of the Canaanites (Judges 4:2), later on of Midian (Judges 6:1), still later of Ammon (Judges 10:7-18), and then of the Philistines once more (Judges 13:1)—on each occasion because of some flagrant sins, and suffered chastisement until it repented. So we are told in Chronicles with respect to the invasions of Shishak (2 Chronicles 12:2-5), of Pul (1 Chronicles 5:25, 1 Chronicles 5:26), of Tiglath-pileser (2 Chronicles 28:19, 2 Chronicles 28:20), and of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chronicles 36:13-17), that they were on account of the people's transgressions. God "slew" them that they might "seek him," and the ordinary result was, that they "turned themselves, and inquired after God." And they that hated them ruled over them. Chushan-rishathaim for eight years (Judges 3:8), Eglon for eighteen (Judges 3:14), Jabin for twenty (Judges 4:3), the Midianites for seven (Judges 6:1), the Ammonites for eighteen (Judges 10:8), the Philistines for forty (Judges 13:1).
Their enemies also oppressed them (see Judges 4:3; Jdg 10:8; 1 Samuel 9:16; etc.). And they were brought into subjection under their hand. (For pictures of the "subjection," see Judges 4:6-11; 1 Samuel 13:19, 1 Samuel 13:20.)
Many times did he deliver them. By Othniel (Judges 3:9), by Ehud (Judges 3:15-29), by Shamgar (Judges 3:31), by Deborah and Barak (Judges 4:4-24), by Gideon (Judges 7:19-25), by Jephthah Judges 11:12-33), by Samson (Judges 15:1-20. (8-20), and finally by David (—2 Samuel 5:22-25). But they provoked him with their counsel; rather, they were rebellious in their counsel (see the Revised Version). And were brought low for their iniquity; rather, in their iniquity (comp. Leviticus 26:39).
Nevertheless he regarded their affliction; or, "he saw them in their trouble," i.e. he looked on them, and had regard to them (see 2 Kings 17:13; 2 Chronicles 36:15). When he heard their cry. As God "heard the cry" of his people, when they suffered oppression in Egypt (Exodus 2:23; Exodus 3:7, Exodus 3:9), so also in their other oppressions (Judges 3:9, Judges 3:15; Judges 4:3; Judges 6:6; Judges 10:10; 1Sa 12:10, 1 Samuel 12:11, etc), if they did but humble themselves and "cry" to him, he always hearkened and gave them deliverance (1 Chronicles 5:20; 2Ch 12:7; 2 Chronicles 14:11, 2 Chronicles 14:12; 2 Chronicles 20:4-24; 2Ch 32:20, 2 Chronicles 32:21; 2 Chronicles 33:11-13).
And he remembered for them his covenant. According to the promise in Leviticus 26:42. And repented according to the multitude of his mercies (comp. Exodus 32:14; 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Jeremiah 26:19, etc.). The expression is anthropomorphic, and must be understood so as not to clash with the declaration, "God is not a man, that he should repent" (1 Samuel 15:29).
He made them also to be pitied of all those that carried them captives. Solomon had prayed that so it might be (1 Kings 8:50). The fact that compassion was shown to many of the captives appears from 2 Kings 25:27-30; Daniel 1:3-5, Daniel 1:19; Daniel 2:49; Daniel 3:30; Daniel 6:28; Ezra 1:4-6; Nehemiah 1:11; Nehemiah 2:1-8.
The historical portion of the psalm here ends, and the writer, in a brief epilogue, returns to the topic of prayer (see Psalms 106:4, Psalms 106:5), only substituting now for the personal supplications of the prologue, a general prayer for the entire nation, and especially for its deliverance from captivity. "It can scarcely be doubted," as Dean Johnson well observes, "that the words of Psalms 106:47 refer to deliverance from the Babylonish captivity," which was the only one that involved the dispersion of the whole people, and the suspension of the liturgical offering of thanks and praise.
Save us, O Lord our God. Contrast with this the "remember me" of Psalms 106:4. The review of the national history has quickened the psalmist's sympathies and widened them. Previously he prayed only for himself. Now it will not content him unless the people generally are "saved." And gather us from among the heathen. (On the wide dispersion of the Israelites at the time of the Babylonian captivity, see the comment on Psalms 106:27.) To give thanks unto thy holy Name, and to triumph in thy praise. This is spoken of as the consequence of the gathering together. Dispersion could not, of course, prevent the rendering of praise and thanks by individual Israelites (Daniel 6:10); hut it had stopped the united liturgical expression of them. On the restoration of the Israelites to their own land, this was resumed (Ezra 3:2-11).
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting. This verse is not so much a part of the particular psalm, as a mark that here another Book of the Psalms has reached its conclusion (comp. Psalms 41:13; Psalms 72:19; Psalms 89:52). The form has, however, been modified so as to make it run on smoothly with the verse immediately preceding. And let all the people say. In their praises and thanks to God (see verse 47). Amen. Praise ye the Lord. The other terminal psalms end with "Amen and Amen;" here alone do we have "Amen. Praise ye the Lord." the intention being evidently that the last words of the psalm should be an echo of the first (see verse 1).
The spirit of godliness.
This, under all dispensations, is—
I. THE SPIRIT OF THANKFULNESS. (Psalms 106:1.) The godly man is he in whose mouth the praise of the Lord is found continually, because the spirit of gratitude is deep in his heart.
II. THE SPIRIT OF TRUSTFULNESS. (Psalms 106:1.) "His mercy endureth forever." To what the past has witnessed the future will testify. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow," etc. (Psalms 23:1-6.).
III. THE SPIRIT OF REVERENCE. (Psalms 106:2.) The godly man stands uncovered, awed, filled with a sense of the nearness and greatness of God, sensible of the wonderful works of his holy and mighty hand. This whole world is the temple of God, and every act of ours should be a sacrifice.
IV. THE SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE. (Psalms 106:3.) The godly man is earnestly desirous of "keeping judgment and doing righteousness," of preserving inward integrity and. bringing forth its fruits; and this because
(1) it is a blessed thing to be right;
(2) filial obedience secures the loving favour of the Divine Father;
(3) it is attended with a variety and continuity of blessings; it brings a large reward.
V. THE SPIRIT OF CONSCIOUS DEPENDENCE ON GOD. (Psalms 106:4.) He who is "of God" knows well that it is only as God enlarges and enriches him that he will be blessed indeed; therefore he lifts his heart in daily prayer for God's "remembrance" and his "salvation." He knows the need of perpetual supplies and of frequent interposition from above.
VI. THE SPIRIT OF SACRED, SOCIAL JOY. (Psalms 106:5.) It is not a truly Christian spirit to rest, let our hope and our joy to our own well being. This should continually overflow; it should spread and circulate far and wide. We should enter into the spirit of Moses and of Paul in their magnanimity (see Exodus 32:31, Exodus 32:32; Romans 9:3). Our joy is never so pure, so elevating, so noble, as when we are sharing it with others, and are rejoicing in their blessedness as well as, and as much as in our own.
Sin in many forms.
It is not only the psalmist who says, "I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord" (Psalms 32:5). It becomes us all to say, "We have sinned … we have committed iniquity" (Psalms 106:6). Sin takes many forms, as this psalm makes clear. We may be guilty of—
I. SINFUL FAILURE TO UNDERSTAND. (Psalms 106:7.) As the children of Israel "understood not God's wonders in Egypt," so we guiltily fail to recognize the wonderful working of the Divine hand, not only in human history and in domestic experience, but also in the daily and hourly ministries of nature, and in the ordering of our individual life (see James 1:16, James 1:17).
II. SINFUL FORGETFULNESS. (Psalms 106:7, Psalms 106:21, Psalms 106:22.)
1. We also "remember not the multitude of his mercies," oblivious of all that God has been doing for us and in us through all our days.
2. We are too ready to forget the special deliverances which, at the time of their occurrence, we resolved to keep continually before our eyes; we allow them to be hidden, and to disappear beneath the engagements and excitements that supervene.
III. THE SIN OF FITFULNESS. (Psalms 106:12, Psalms 106:13.) Is not the Divine Master grieved with us when he has to think of us as he did of his own apostle, who in a few hours passed from loud profession to positive denial (see John 13:36-38)? Spiritual fickleness is a very grave offence; it is also particularly injurious.
IV. THE SIN OF UNRESTRAINED APPETITE. (Psalms 106:14.) In this case it led to unhallowed importunity; to a request that became an impious demand, and that brought down retribution (Psalms 106:15). More often such "lust" of the flesh conducts to other evils—to bodily deterioration, to loss of self-respect, to injury wrought on others, to ruin and to death.
V. THE SIN OF ENVY. (Psalms 106:16-18.) To envy those who are distinguished from ourselves by the favour of God is most unworthy and culpable. Instead of being grateful to the Divine Giver for bestowing so great a blessing as a strong and helpful man, we cherish a spirit that is mean and selfish. It is a common but a serious sin.
VI. THE SIN OF IDOLATRY. (Psalms 106:19, Psalms 106:20, Psalms 106:28.) The guilt of idolatry is in the substitution of the creature for the Creator, rendering that honour to the visible or the human which is due only to the Divine (see Romans 1:19-25).
VII. THE SIN OF UNBELIEF; leading here (Psalms 106:24, Psalms 106:25) to discontent, to the loss of inheritance, to cowardly inactivity; leading, in our case, to the neglect of God's Word and will, to continuance in spiritual obduracy, to a fatal forfeiture of eternal life.
VIII. IMPERFECT OBEDIENCE, WARFARE, SEPARATION. (Psalms 106:34, Psalms 106:35.)
(1) To leave undone any duty of any kind to which our Lord is calling us, in discharge of what we owe to ourselves, or to our neighbours, or to our kindred, or to our race;
(2) to fail to subdue and cast forth from our soul the evil dispositions and unholy principles which are there, when Christ claims us as his own;
(3) to admit to close familiarity those who are alien in spirit and opposite in belief to ourselves;—this is to fall short of "the will of God in Christ Jesus," and it is to lay for ourselves a "snare," through which we may fall into grievous wrong.
Outward prosperity, inward decline.
Let no one think that God's goodness to us is to be measured by the degree in which he satisfies our craving. It may be that the worst thing that can happen to us is to secure
(1) the bodily gratification, or
(2) the unhallowed ambition, or
(3) the unfavourable friendship on which we have set our hearts.
God's truest kindnesses are often found in his withholding or his removing the objects of our regard. He "breaks our schemes of earthly joy," that we "may find our all" in him and his service.
Our God our glory.
The "glory" of Israel was found, as this verse indicates, in the God whom her sons worshipped; not in her cultivated fields, not in her varied scenery, not in her peculiar civilization, not even in her temple and its rites, but in her God. No other contemporary nation worshipped one, pure, righteous, pitiful God, who sought the well being, material and spiritual, of all his children. Well may we, to whom God has revealed himself in Jesus Christ, claim that our God is the glory of our land.
Psalms 106:44, Psalms 106:45
The hope of the exile.
Israel in exile had no hope at all, but in the mercy and the faithfulness of her redeeming God (Leviticus 26:41, Leviticus 26:42). When a human soul is far away from God, and can sing no song of joy in the "strange land" of sinful alienation; when it is brought very low with a sense of Divine disapproval, and of a future which it dare not face; when it shrinks from the society of those with whom it once had sweet and sacred fellowship, and shuns the eye of human piety;—there is one thing to remember, one refuge in which to hide—the boundless mercy and the inviolable Word of God. That will not fail a human soul at its very worst. Up that pathway there is an escape from the "lowest hell" to the highest heaven.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The nevertheless of God's mercy.
This is actually expressed in Psalms 106:44, but it is the theme of the whole psalm. Note concerning it—
I. IT IMPLIES PREVIOUS AND TERRIBLE PROVOCATION. And, indeed, there had been such:
1. In sins actually committed. What a catalogue of them the psalm contains! Sin at the very beginning (Psalms 106:7). The former psalm reviewed the history of God's people as a subject for adoring praise, because of God's never-failing care. Here, also, a "Hallelujah!" is raised, in view of the same history, because of God's never-failing forgiveness. And the sins that needed this forgiveness are confessed here—the shortlived gratitude (Psalms 106:13); the shameful murmuring (Psalms 106:15); the wicked envy (Psalms 106:16); the disgraceful idolatry (Psalms 106:19); their unbelief (Psalms 106:24); their sacrifices to Baal-peor (Psalms 106:28): their murmuring at Meribah (Psalms 106:32); their disobedience (Psalms 106:34). What a melancholy list it is! And this is not all; for see:
2. The mercies of God despised. (Psalms 106:13.)
3. Their treatment of Moses. (Psalms 106:16, Psalms 106:23, Psalms 106:32.)
4. Their hardened resistance, so that God's punishments had no power to change their evil will (cf. John 1:5). Yes, there had been provocation indeed.
II. IT PROCLAIMS THE INFINITE COMPASSION AND FORBEARANCE OF GOD. Sin is the dark foil on which the brightness of God's mercy is all the more seen. That is why the angels of God can never render the praises of the redeemed. What a marvel it is that he should have spared Israel! It is equalled only by the marvel of his sparing us.
III. WHEN THE SOUL BECOMES CONSCIOUS OF ALL THIS, IT IS OVERWHELMED IN GRATITUDE, LOVE, AND PRAISE. See the opening of this psalm and its close. Thus is God's mercy the spring and abiding impulse of the new life unto him. See the well known verse—
"Oh the sweet wonders of that cross
On which my Saviour groaned and died
Her noblest life my spirit draws
From his dear wounds and bleeding side."
The blessedness of the holy life.
I. SUCH LIFE IS POSSIBLE. It would not be spoken of here and throughout the Scriptures as it is, if it were only an ideal but not a possible life. Surely, if sin be the abominable thing which God hates, he must have contemplated, in his redemptive work, our deliverance from it. What is the first and great commandment, but a command to cherish that spirit towards God which is the spring of the holy life?
II. IT IS ENTERED INTO BY A DEFINITE WAY.
1. By self-surrender, which consists in the abandoning of whatever we know to be contrary to the will of God; giving it up, though it be dear as the right hand or eye; and in the surrender of all our powers and possessions to the absolute control and direction of God.
2. Then, when we have thus given ourselves up to God, we are to believe that he accepts us, and we are to keep trusting him, day by day and hour by hour, to cleanse us by the blood of Christ from all sin. If we will persevere in this surrender and trust, nothing can hinder our entering into this holy life. Then—
III. IT IS MOST BLESSED.
1. For what it escapes: the misery of a condemning conscience; of paralyzed power—for none can effectually work for God if they are abiding in sin; of knowing that your influence has been evil rather than good; of God's face hidden from you.
2. For what it wins: the blessedness of inward peace; of confidence towards God; of power with God for man, and with man for God; of the possession of God's loving kindness, which is better than life (Psalms 63:1-11), and of assured hope. When the people of God live this life, then there will be a turning to God on the part of the world, as now there is not, and for long ages has not been. For men will see that God's people possess a secret spring of joy, and peace, and purity, and strength, and they will come to covet it with a great desire (Psalms 106:4, Psalms 106:5).—S.C.
Psalms 106:4, Psalms 106:5
A holy aspiration.
It is threefold (see Psalms 106:5), and it is preceded by earnest prayer for that grace of God which, in the psalmist's belief, was indispensable for its fulfilment.
I. THE ASPIRATION.
1. "That I may see the good of thy chosen." He regards God's people as the subject of a Divine choice; as, indeed, they are. There were many others who, to human eyes, seemed more worthy and more likely to bring glory to God. But God had chosen them. And he had appointed "good" for them. Good outwardly, in the possession of the promised land; good inwardly, in the possession of God's Holy Spirit and the Divine Law written on their hearts; good instrumentally, in the blessed influence they should exert on others (cf. Psalms 67:1-7.). And all this abiding evermore. And this he craved to see; that is, to share in. It is a good desire.
2. "That I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation." He believed Israel to be God's nation; as, indeed, the true Israel of God are. And he believed that the mark of their life was gladness. In their best days Israel was a glad people (Psalms 144:15). And the Israelite, indeed, is ever a happy man. We are made for gladness—the ways of the Lord lead surely to it; but men do not believe this. Nevertheless, these "ways are ways of pleasantness," etc. (Proverbs 3:17). And in this gladness the psalmist would share.
3. "That I may glory with thine inheritance." Note, again, the title given to the people of God. They will glory in God himself, for he is their "exceeding joy;" in what he has done for them, in them, through them. What themes for glorying there are in all this! "Worthy is the Lamb," etc. (Revelation 5:12). Now, this holy aspiration is preceded by Psalms 106:4.
II. THE PRAYER for what is needed for its fulfilment. He prays:
1. "Remember me, O Lord, with," etc. What a humble prayer it is! as if he feared he might be overlooked and forgotten, and felt that he deserved to be. And what a holy prayer! And it is one that has never yet been refused.
2. "Visit me," etc. He would that God would have compassion on him, and actually bring him his salvation.—S.C.
But sent leanness into their soul.
Kibroth-Hattaavah, or "the graves of lust." So the place has been named, for it testified to the terrible truth declared in our text. The history to which it refers is familiar enough, And what followed for Israel has followed again and again, and does so still.
I. SEE INSTANCES OF IT.
1. Israel here. The leanness in their souls was caused by a sense of God's condemnation—they knew they had done wrong; terror of his wrath; hardening of their hearts in sin; the plague that followed.
2. Israel's desiring a king (Hosea 13:11).
3. Judas. He had plotted and planned, and thought success was sure; but when he saw Jesus was condemned, those thirty pieces of silver burnt him as with the fires of hell.
4. The rich fool. His desire for wealth had been granted; but the Lord had said, "Thou fool" (cf. also 2 Samuel 13:15). The full purse and the lean soul are common companions.
5. The "whips" with which "our pleasant vices" scourge us. Cf. Ecclesiastes: "Vanity of vanities; all," etc.; cf. Ahab's getting Naboth's vineyard, and Elijah along with it. "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" (1 Kings 21:20).
II. THE CAUSES OF IT.
1. Not necessary. If God give us our heart's desire, that need not send leanness into our soul. Cf. Psalms 116:1-19.: there was no "leanness" there, but the reverse. And, indeed, the sense of God's favour and help does aid the soul's true life.
2. But are found in the motive of the prayer, which may be sinful and selfish only; and in the use we make of the answer. If we love God's gifts better than the Giver of them, then "leanness" will be sure to follow.
III. THE LESSONS OF IT. The lines which follow tell them—
"Not what we wish, but what we want,
Oh let thy grace supply!
The good, unasked, in mercy grant;
The ill, though asked, deny."
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
Goodness is graciousness.
"For he is gracious" (Prayer book Version). The term which the Authorized Version and Revised Version render "good," the Prayer book renders "gracious;" and so is suggested what is perfectly true when applied to God, that goodness is graciousness. The goodness of God dwelt on in this psalm is his patience and long suffering gentleness with his most trying and wilful people. Psalms 105:1-45 treated Israel chiefly as the passive recipient of Divine favour. Psalms 106:1-48 portrays Israel as continually set in opposition to Jehovah; faithful only when afflicted, and succoured only to apostatize again. Eight illustrative instances are given.
I. GOODNESS IN THE LIGHT OF MAN'S RELATION TO GOD. In that light goodness is rightness; it is accordance with an authoritative standard. A good man is a good creature who is right with his Creator, a good servant who is obedient to his master, a good son who does the will of his father. This being man's goodness, and man's idea of goodness, he tries to transfer it to God, who then becomes the eternally right One. The "Judge of all the earth does right." God is good in the sense of being right, in the sense of willing that which is right, and in the sense of approving those who do the right. "Righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works."
II. GOODNESS IN THE LIGHT OF GOD'S RELATIONS WITH MAN. In this psalm with man corporate. But the national relations do but illustrate the personal and individual. Here comes in a difficulty. God, the infinitely right One, dealing with creatures who were right in all purpose and endeavour, would not need to show the special characteristics that are gathered into the word "gracious." God had to deal with a nation that was wayward, wilful, and self-pleasing, with a stiff-necked generation, one that was troublesome as any spoiled child. Goodness in dealing with such a nation must show itself as patience, pitifulness, considerateness, gentleness, or, to sum up in one word, "graciousness." Illustrate it as
(1) goodness that can chastise;
(2) that can limit chastisement;
(3) that can restore, and give fresh opportunity;
(4) that cannot be wearied out;
(5) that gives the fullest influence to all qualifying considerations;
(6) that keeps on hoping for the best, and working for it.
It may also be shown that the gracious goodness of God makes necessary judgments inflicted on some educational and moral forces for the warning and guiding of all.—R.T.
The roots of disobedience.
It is not sufficient to say that the root of disobedience is "wilfulness." Fairly reading human nature, we can find other roots from which it springs. In the history of the people Israel we can see that they did not always sin from sheer wilfulness. Sometimes they had really lost their faith hold of Jehovah, and sometimes the burdens and trials of the way brought them into conditions of despondency; and unbelief and despondency became roots of disobedience. It is usual to treat the conduct of the Israelites without giving due consideration to their difficult, perilous, perplexing, and wearisome circumstances. Rightly viewed, it would have been the supreme human marvel if they had not failed in obedience and trust. Think what a mighty host it was, yet how imperfectly organized. Think of the strain of their manifest peril at the Red Sea, and the exceeding toil and weariness of their climb up the wadies to Sinai. Think of the difficulty, in that arid region, of providing food and water for so many creatures. Think kindly of them, and though the sense of their sin is not lightened, considerateness for the sinners is nourished. The disobedience that roots in unbelief, or in despondency, puts men into the pitifulness and mercy of their God.
I. DISOBEDIENCE ROOTED IN UNBELIEF. Here a distinction is necessary. Here is an unbelief which is wilful, which a man chooses, and for which he seeks reasons, and this is wholly sinful, and needs humbling punishment. And there is an unbelief which is the natural human response to difficult and trying circumstances, which seem to force doubts upon us. All are liable to this kind of unbelief in sharing the trials of human life. But there is a Divine gentleness in the dealing with the disobedience which has its root in this unbelief.
II. DISOBEDIENCE ROOTED IN DESPONDENCY. This reminds us how differently things affect different dispositions. Some are naturally despondent. They always see the dark sides, are ever ready to give up in despair. And this spirit often leads to failing obedience. Men have not spirit enough to do what they ought. But God "knoweth our frame."—R.T.
Gratifying sinful wants creates sinful wants.
"And he gave them their desire: and sent leanness withal into their soul" (Prayer book Version). These people longed for food of a luxurious character; they asked for it, received what they asked, and discovered that self-indulgence nourished appetite into passion, which carried them away beyond all possibility of self-restraint. Indulgence involved loss of moral power. Feed the body and you will inevitably starve the soul, bring "leanness into the soul." "The gratification of wilful and presumptuous desire begets only an intenser sense of want." Chateaubriand tells how the "Meschacebe, soon after leaving its source among the hills, began to feel weary of being a simple brook, and so asked for snow from the mountains, water from the torrents, rain from the tempests, until, its petitions granted, it burst its bounds, and ravaged its hitherto delightsome banks. At first the proud stream exulted in its force, but seeing ere long that it carried desolation in its flow, that its progress was now doomed to solitude, and that its waters were forever turbid, it came to regret the humble bed hollowed out for it by nature, the birds, the flowers, the trees, and the brooks, hitherto the modest companions of its tranquil course." In Numbers 11:4 we are told that "the mixed multitude that was among them fell a-lusting," and the Israelites joined them in crying for flesh to eat. What ought they to have done?
I. SINFUL DESIRES WILL SOMETIMES ARISE EVEN IN GOOD MEN. Wanting what is not provided, or what is contrary to the Divine will, under the urgings of bodily passion, is a constant experience. It is even illustrated in the idea of making bread out of stones, to satisfy hunger, which came to Jesus in the wilderness. Every man must take account of the fact that his bodily passions may at any time become temptations.
II. SINFUL DESIRES MUST BE REPRESSED WITHIN SAFE LIMITS. And this we do by refusing to let them say anything or do anything. Compelled silence soon weakens them. That power of self-mastery a man may have and hold if he gains it in the first occasion of struggle with uprising desires; but it is very hard to win again if once it is lost.
III. SINFUL DESIRES INDULGED GAIN RUINOUS MASTERY. The common law of wanting to do a thing again which we have once done acts in this. And all indulgence tends to weaken moral power. Illustrated by the drunkard and by the devil possessions (Legion) of the New Testament.—R.T.
The character of Aaron.
"The saint of the Lord." Perowne renders, "the holy one of Jehovah." The word "saint" is equivalent to "set apart one," "consecrated priest." "The term denotes official sanctity—that derived from a Divine consecration. It will be remembered that Korah, Dathan, and Abiram denied the privileges of the priesthood on the ground that all the congregation were holy, every one of them, and that Moses replied, 'The man whom the Lord doth choose, he shall be the holy one'" (Numbers 16:3-7). Every man, to be studied fairly, must be viewed both in his public and his private character. Officialism may but present to us a character put on. It may be the fair and honest expression of what a man really is.
I. THE CHARACTER OF AARON AS A MAN. It has been summarized in this way: "Aaron was of an impulsive character, leaning for the most part on his brother, but occasionally showing, as is not infrequent with such minds, a desire to appear independent." It must be borne in mind that Aaron received no such personal revelations from God as Moses received, and that he never occupied other than a subordinate place, and so never felt the sanctifying pressure of supreme responsibility. He was a man who could follow, but could not lead; who could serve, but could not rule. There are such among us; men who are good and trustworthy servants, but who ruin every business of which they have control. And these very men are often like Aaron, hankering after the positions for which they are unfitted. There is tinder of jealousy in such men at the success of others, which a spark will easily set alight. Aarons can carry out; they cannot initiate.
II. THE CHARACTER OF AARON AS A PRIEST. This office suited him precisely, because in it he could be wholly occupied with providing details. A priest is a man who is not required to have a will of his own. A course is prescribed; he is to be loyal in following out that course. Aaron's official character comes out well, but it was subject to some severe strains. He would have kept all right if things had continued in their regular routine. Routine does not weary the Aaron-type of man. But the unusual upset him. He felt nervous. He could not decide and stand firm; he let others overrule him, and unduly influence him; he could not rely on his own judgment; he tried to master difficulties in the weakest of ways, by compromises.—R.T.
Psalms 106:19, Psalms 106:20
The sin of the golden calf.
"They changed their glory for the likeness of an ox that eateth grass" (Revised Version). "Into the similitude of a calf that eateth hay" (Prayer book Version). The idea is that the revelation of God as an unseen spiritual Being, requiring the service of righteousness, was the distinguishing glory of Israel. But this revelation they did not rightly value, but, at the first opportunity, bartered it away for a material god, of sensual character, who was served by the licence of self-indulgence. In this they were not merely disobedient; they showed their incapacity for high things, their unfitness to become the agents of God's most gracious designs for the human race. The sin was a fourfold one.
I. IT WAS THE SIN OF DISOBEDIENCE TO COMMAND. It should be clearly shown that Israel was bound to obedience to Jehovah before the Decalogue was given. The scene of Sinai is improperly called the giving of the Law; it is properly the formulating of the Law. The people owned allegiance to the God of their fathers, to the God who had delivered them from Egypt; and their willingness to obey was actually pledged afresh before Moses ascended the mount (see Exodus 19:7, Exodus 19:8). They were bidden wait to receive a communication from God; they disobeyed, and acted without direction. Disobedience is often due to the restlessness that cannot wait.
II. IT WAS THE SIN OF UNFAITHFULNESS TO TRUST. The spirituality of God was the supreme national trust. Neither Abraham, Isaac, nor Jacob ever saw God, but he was a real Power in their lives. In Egypt God was never seen, but he did mighty deeds. Put fully, the unity, spirituality, and holiness of Jehovah were committed to the care of the Abrahamic race, and that race was to preserve these truths while the rest of the world freely experimented on constructing religions and deities for itself. To make idolatrous images of God, the spiritual Being, was unfaithful to trust.
III. IT WAS THE SIN OF "FOLLOWING THE DEVICES OF THEIR OWN HEARTS." Or self-willedness. They asked what they liked, as if they were independent; not what God liked, as if they were dependent on him. The essence of sin for a creature is self-will. Triumph over self-will is the supreme aim of religion. That golden calf was a self-willed thing; as such there could be no religion in it. Through, and by means of, that golden calf the people did but worship themselves; what they personified was their own will, not God. Men deceive themselves when they fashion their own gods; they can only rightly take God as revealed to them.
IV. IT WAS THE SIN OF DISHONOURING GOD. The symbol they chose was an insult. True, their associations in Egypt suggested no other; and perhaps the ox was in some sense their national symbol. So their god was the personified nation. The spiritual Jehovah is degraded in men's minds when associated with a mere beast.—R.T.
Moses as mediator.
"Had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them." "The intercession of Moses is compared to the act of a brave leader, covering with his body the breach made in the walls of his fortress." See the figure as given in Ezekiel 22:30. The account of Moses' intercession is found in Exodus 32:10-14. The point on which we dwell is the fitness of Moses to be the mediator on this occasion.
I. THE FITNESS ARISING FROM HIS OFFICIAL POSITION. He was the agent appointed by God, through whom his will might be sent to the people. He was the representative of the people, appointed by them to conduct all negotiations with Jehovah in their name. He was the proper person; and foreshadows the Lord Jesus Christ as revealer of God to men, and negotiator for men with God.
II. THE FITNESS ARISING FROM THE CONFIDENCES MOSES HAD WON. He had gained both power and right by his faithful service of the people, and by his holy familiarity with God. We may say that God had proved him, and so had confidence in him. And the people had proved him, and knew well that they had no better friend. Christ is "beloved Son," and our best Friend.
III. THE FITNESS ARISING FROM THE PERSONAL FEELING OF Moses. He was supremely indignant at the sin of the people; so much so as to have lost his self-control, and flung down the tables. That right feeling towards the sin fitted him to mediate. He made no excuse; he could but plead for pardon. A man with no adequate sense of the iniquity could not have been acceptable as a mediator. But Moses was also supremely pitiful towards the erring people, and this gave him the fitting tenderness in pleading for their forgiveness. So in Christ we find deepest impressions of the evil of sin, uniting with supreme love for the sinners.
IV. THE FITNESS ARISING FROM THE VIGOUR OF MOSES' RULE. God knew that Moses could punish; and if the more serious judgment on the sin was removed, still there must be such punishment as would adequately impress the evil of the sin. Moses was a fitting mediator, because God was assured that he would not neglect this educative and disciplinary judgment. God, if we may so speak, graciously yielded to Moses' persuasions, because he knew that his honour was safe in Moses' hands. So Christ in his mediation "magnifies the Law, and makes it honourable."—R.T.
The atonement of Phinehas.
(See Numbers 25:11-13.) "Phinehas, himself perhaps a judge in authority, became the type of a righteous zeal, exercising summary vengeance, informal and unbidden, against outrage on decency and on reverence for God" (Dr. Barry). "It is a picture of the one zealous man rising up from the midst of the inactive multitude, who sit still and make no effort." The incident occurred toward the close of the wanderings, when the Israelites were in the neighbourhood of Moab. Unable to gain the right to curse Israel—as Balsam wished, and as it would have paid him well to do—Balsam persuaded King Balak to allow free intercourse between his people and them. "Let the Israelites fall into immorality and sin, and then their God will destroy them, and your end will be accomplished." The scheme succeeded. The vice and iniquity of Israel was full in God's sight, and the immediate execution of the Divine judgment was commanded. Some great public act of vindication was called for; such a manifest upholding of the Divine authority and holiness as would make a sin-cover, occupy the Divine attention, gain the Divine approval, and be a basis on which judgment might be stayed. Phinehas was the man to do it. A flagrant case of unlawful intercourse had occurred, and when he saw the wicked couple he "rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand, and he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel."
I. PHINEHAS WAS ZEALOUS FOR THE HONOUR OF JEHOVAH.
II. HIS PUBLIC ACT OF VINDICATION MADE A SIN-COVER.
III. BECAUSE OF THAT SIN-COVER, JEHOVAH'S JUDGMENT MIGHT BE STAYED.
See, then, what we must look for in the great atonement, made for us by the Son of God, is some fitting vindication of the outraged honour of God our Father, and so restored relations. Reconciliation can only come with solemn honouring of God's authority and claim by some public act of loyalty. Scripture presents to us different things that made atonement. A man's prayer made atonement (case of Moses). An act of official duty made atonement (case of Aaron). An act of judgment made atonement (case of Phinehas). We are left to think what act of Christ's made atonement for us all.—R.T.
Psalms 106:43, Psalms 106:44
The Divine pity and patience.
The exiles, when about to return to their own land, were brought to repentance by their sense of the goodness of God to them. In the spirit of penitence, the psalmist, a devout exile, reviews the national history, and finds that over and over again his people had to be penitent for their sins, and over and over again their God found them space and opportunity for repentance. Now, that exile read the national history aright, and he helps us in the endeavour to read our lives aright, and find in them ever-recurring proofs of the Divine pity and patience with the wilful and the wayward.
I. SOME OF THE SOURCES WHENCE COME OUR SINS.
1. Fear. Illustrate by provocation at Red Sea (Psalms 106:7).
2. Lust. Inordinate desire. Putting God to the test (Psalms 106:14). Envy.
3. Story of Dathan (Psalms 106:17).
4. Unspirituality. Incident of the calf (Psalms 106:19).
5. Impatience. Despising the pleasant land, because it did not come to them at once (Psalms 106:24).
6. Licence. Case of immorality at Beth-peor (Psalms 106:28)
7. Distrust. Waters of strife (Psalms 106:32).
8. Imperfect obedience, a sign of self-will.
They did not destroy the Canaanites, which they were commanded to do (Psalms 106:34).
II. THE SORROWS WHICH OUR SINS HAVE CAUSED GOOD MEN. These help us to realize how bad those sins must be. See what sorrow Moses felt in connection with the sin of the golden calf. See what sorrow Aaron felt in the matter of Dathan's rebellion. See what sorrow Phinehas felt in the matter of Ball-peor.
III. THE PITIFUL PATIENCE WITH WHICH GOD HAS EVER DEALT WITH OUR SINS.
1. Waiting until we came to a better mind. Let evil do its own work; it will be sure to punish and humble. God often does so much for us by doing nothing, leaving us to suffer the natural consequences of our sins.
2. Helping us by chastisements to come to a better mind. There may be occasions on which the infinite wisdom decides that it is better not to wait, because there may be active leaders in the evil, or strong self-will, which needs to be dealt with at once. Judgment for some, as in Dathan's case, may be chastisement for all. The worst thing that could happen to us would be to be finally "let alone." If God is in our life—acting in our life—all is right, however trying the circumstances of life may be.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
Man's misery and God's compassion.
"The design of the whole psalm is to awaken the people to a lively consciousness of the truth, that though there is much of sin in us, there is much more of grace in God;" that "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Suggests—
I. GOD LOVES ALL HIS CREATURES, BUT HATES THEIR SINS. (Psalms 106:40.) That is, he makes us feel sensible that he is forever opposed to our evil conduct, and creates in us a terror of the consequences of our sins—the punishment they entail.
II. PART OF THE PUNISHMENT OF SIN IS THAT WE ARE GIVEN OVER TO ITS TYRANNY. (Psalms 106:41.) Give ourselves over. This is a natural consequence, a Divine law of our constitution, and is a galling and terrible penalty of the habit of transgression. Our passions come thus to rule over us, instead of our ruling over them.
III. WHEN WE ATTEMPT TO RESIST THIS TYRANNY, WE FIND THAT OUR SLAVERY IS MORE OPPRESSIVE THAN WE THOUGHT. (Psalms 106:42). Men often may make some effort to break off from evil ways, but discover that they are under a heavier bondage to their sins than they had supposed. This, too, is a part of the punishment of sin—its enfeebling, debilitating influence.
IV. MEN WHOM GOD SEEMS TO HAVE DELIVERED FROM THEIR SINS, AFTER A TIME RETURN TO THEIR FORMER INIQUITY. (Psalms 106:43.) They are then brought low, or impoverished, or weakened—lower than they were before, because now they begin to lose all hope of recovery. House "swept and garnished" is prepared for the return of sevenfold powers of evil, that rule more absolutely than ever.
V. SUCH HELPLESS MISERY EXCITES THE DIVINE COMPASSION. (Psalms 106:44.) "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him." God pities those whom he cannot save—because of their unwillingness. "How often would I have gathered thee as a hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!"
VI. GOD DOES NOT REPENT TILL MEN REPENT. (Psalms 106:45) God does not change his laws to relieve the disobedient from suffering; but when they change from disobedience to obedience, the result is so great that God seems to them to have changed. To row against the current and to row with the current seems like rowing upon a different river.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 106". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20