Friday, 15 August 2014

(228) August 16: Psalm 105-106 & Romans 15:1-20

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider how God’s commitment to his covenant is displayed.

To ponder:
Psalm 105 begins with the familiar call to thank, praise and rejoice in God, telling of his acts to the nations. Yet it also urges the worshipper to call on his name, look to him and seek his strength. It will provide much about God’s acts to give us confidence in doing this. To “glory in his holy name” seems to be about rejoicing in his glory because of what it means for those who seek him (105v1-4).
            The psalm continues with a second call - to “remember” his wonders, miracles and judgements. These are the “wonderful acts” he has done for Israel, who are described as “descendents of Abraham” because the Abrahamic covenant is the theme (105v5-7). So we are told God remembers the covenant he made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give them Canaan as their inheritance. It is for a thousand generations in the sense that God would ensure it is fulfilled despite the failings of the people (105v8-11). And so he protected Abraham and his household as they wandered, and particularly when his deception in Egypt made him subject to the Pharoah’s anger (Ps 105v12-15, Gen 20v1-7). God then brought Joseph to Egypt, proving that his “word” comes true. The description of Joseph as ruler over Pharoah’s household and teaching his princes and elders wisdom is a picture of God’s intent for Israel as eventually ruling the nations and teaching them God’s ways (105v16-22, Is 2v1-5). Joseph was God’s means of bringing Israel (that is Jacob and his family) to Egypt, where he made them fruitful (see Gen 1v26-28) but turned the Egyptians against them. Here, God is seen as the orchestrator of all events. God’s miraculous signs in the plagues are then recounted, with stress that they came because Egypt rebelled against his word (ie. to let his people go) – a warning perhaps to Israel (105v26-36). And so God redeemed Israel, providing wealth from the Egyptians, covering them with the cloud at the Red Sea to protect them from the pursuing army, leading them by the pillar of fire at night, and supplying them with quail, bread and water (105v37-41). The reversal of Israel’s fortunes is seen in her being “glad” when leaving Egypt, with the Egyptians being in dread of them. The note that none of the tribes faltered may again be noted as an example to the tribes in the psalmists day. Bracketing this history with verse 8, verse 42 tells us all this was because God “remembered” his promise to Abraham, and so not only brought his people out with rejoicing, but gave them the land that others had toiled for as their inheritance.
            The final note is that this was all so that Israel might keep God’s precepts (105v45) – a note that the people were redeemed in order to be holy and display God’s holiness to the world. The goal of the psalm is therefore not only to move Israelites to praise and call on God, but remind them of this destiny, which has been hinted at throughout (105v21-22, 28, 37). In this, they were to be a scale model of the greater Israel, comprising all with faith in Christ, who would fill and then inherit the earth. So the psalm urges us to the same.
            From the positive of Psalm 105 to the negative of Psalm 106, which recounts how Israel failed to obey God’s precepts. It begins (106v1-5) calling people to thanks and praise, whilst noting that now can adequately do so. The psalmist then affirms the blessedness of those who do right, readying us for contemplating how Israel failed to do so. He then asks God to remember him when saving his people so that he may prosper and rejoice with his the nation (the chosen ones and inheritance). Originally, this was a call for God to bring his people out of exile (106v47), but looks to our final salvation.
            The psalm is essentially a confession of the sins of Israel, asserting that they have acted just as their fathers had (106v6), and so have received in exile only what they deserve. Their fathers’ sin is recounted (106v7-43): Despite the miracles they had witnessed in Egypt, they rebelled by the Red Sea by assuming they would die. Yet God saved them and they came to believe his promises and sing his praise (106v7-12). But it didn’t last. In the desert they tested God by complaining about a lack of food rather than waiting for his wisdom, and so were punished with disease. They grew envious of Moses and Aaron, and earthquake and fire consumed those who rebelled. They forgot God (their Glory) and worshipped the calf, and would have been destroyed but for Moses interceding on their behalf. They showed a lack of faith in God’s promise by grumbling that they wouldn’t be able to take the land, and so he swore that generation would die in the desert. The note about their descendents being scattered amongst the nations refers to Moses’ speech on the edge of the land forty years later (Deut 28v64-68), in anticipation of such sin continuing. And it did. During those forty years Israel committed idolatry with Baal (Num 25), and were punished with plague, which was ended when Phinehas killed one of the perpetrators, displaying faith that was credited as righteousness and brought privilege to his descendents. At Meribah they complained over a lack of water again, and even Moses sinned by honouring himself rather than God with its provision. Even when finally inheriting the land, the people did not obey God by destroying the peoples there, but took on their ways and gods, even sacrificing their children, defiling themselves and desecrating the land. They were therefore repeatedly conquered by their enemies, and continued in sin even though God delivered them many times. 106v44-46 note that these deliverances were for the sake of God’s covenant love. So the psalmist ends praying (no doubt, on the same grounds) that God would do the same, gathering them from the nations to which they are scattered so that they may thank and praise him. 106v48 then ends this section of psalms as with previous sections.
            The point throughout is of God’s gracious commitment to his covenant despite the sinfulness of his people and the wrath they rightly endure. It should give us certain confidence that all his promises will be fulfilled at the return of Christ, despite the evident unfaithfulness of many within the church.
Praying it home:                                                                                   
Praise God for his patience and faithfulness. Pray that you would obey him through faith and be a testimony to the nations.

Thinking further:                              
None today.

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