PSALM 106 OVERVIEW.
GENERAL REMARKS. -- This Psalm begins and ends with Hallelujah -- "Praise ye the Lord." The space between these two descriptions of praise is filled up with the mournful details of Israel's sin, and the extraordinary patience of God; and truly we do well to bless the Lord both at the beginning and the end of our meditations when sin and grace are the themes. This sacred song is occupied with the historical part of the Old Testament, and is one of many which are thus composed: surely this should be a sufficient rebuke to those who speak slightingly of the historical Scriptures; it in becomes a child of God to think lightly of that which the Holy Spirit so frequently uses for our instruction. What other Scriptures had David beside those very histories which are so depreciated, and yet he esteemed them beyond his necessary food, and made them his songs in the house of his pilgrimage?
Israel's history is here written with the view of showing human sin, even as the preceding psalm was composed to magnify divine goodness. It is, in fact, a national confession, and includes an acknowledgment of the transgressions of Israel in Egypt, in the wilderness, and in Canaan, with devout petitions for forgiveness such as rendered the Psalm suitable for use in all succeeding generations, and especially in times of national captivity. It was probably written by David, -- at any rate its first and last two verses are to be found in that sacred song which David delivered to Asaph when he brought up the ark of the Lord ( 1 Chronicles 16:34 1 Chronicles 16:35 1 Chronicles 16:36 ).
While we are studying this holy Psalm, let us all along see ourselves in the Lord's ancient people, and bemoan our own provocations of the Most High, at the same time admiring his infinite patience, and adoring him because of it. May the Holy Spirit sanctify it to the promotion of humility and gratitude.
Division. -- Praise and prayer are blended in the introduction ( Psalms 106:1-5 ). Then comes the story of the nation's sins, which continues till the closing prayer and praise of the last two verses. While making confession the Psalmist acknowledges the sins committed in Egypt and at the Red Sea ( Psalms 106:6-12 ), the lusting in the wilderness ( Psalms 106:13-15 ), the envying of Moses and Aaron ( Psalms 106:16-18 ), the worship of the golden calf ( Psalms 106:19 - 23) the despising of the promised land ( Psalms 106:24-27 ), the iniquity of Baal Peor (Ps 106:28-30), and the waters of Meribah ( Psalms 106:28-33 ). Then he owns the failure of Israel when settled in Canaan, and mentions their consequent chastisement ( Psalms 106:34-44 ), together with the quick compassion which came to their relief when they were brought low ( Psalms 106:44-46 ). The closing prayer and doxology fill up the remaining verses.
Verse 1. Praise ye the Lord. Hallelujah. Praise ye Jah. This song is for the assembled people, and they are all exhorted to join in praise to Jehovah. It is not meet for a few to praise and the rest to be silent; but all should join. If David were present in churches where quartets and choirs carry on all the singing, he would turn to the congregation and say, "Praise ye the Lord." Our meditation dwells upon human sin; but on all occasions and in all occupations it is seasonable and profitable to praise the Lord.
O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good. To us needy creatures the goodness of God is the first attribute which excites praise, and that praise takes the form of gratitude. We praise the Lord truly when we give him thanks for what we have received from his goodness. Let us never be slow to return unto the Lord our praise; to thank him is the least we can do -- let us not neglect it.
For his mercy endureth for ever. Goodness towards sinners assumes the form of mercy, mercy should therefore be a leading note in our song. Since man ceases not to be sinful, it is a great blessing that Jehovah ceases not to be merciful. From age to age the Lord deals graciously with his church, and to every individual in it he is constant and faithful in his grace, even for evermore. In a short space we have here two arguments for praise, "for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever," and these two arguments are themselves praises. The very best language of adoration is that which adoringly in the plainest words sets forth the simple truth with regard to our great Lord. No rhetorical flourishes or poetical hyperboles are needed, the bare facts are sublime poetry, and the narration of them with reverence is the essence of adoration. This first verse is the text of all that which follows; we are now to see how from generation to generation the mercy of God endured to his chosen people.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 1. -- For he is good; essentially, solely and originally; is communicative and diffusive of his goodness; is the author of all good and no evil; and is gracious and merciful and ready to forgive. --John Gill.
Verse 1. -- For he is good: for his goodness endureth for ever. Observe here what is a true and perfect confession of the divine goodness. Whenever God so blesses his own people that his goodness is perceived by carnal sense, in bestowing riches, honours, peace, health and things of that kind, then it is easy to acknowledge that God is good, and that acknowledgment can be made by the most carnal men. The case stands otherwise when he visits offenders with the rod of correction and scourges them with the grace of chastisement. Then the flesh hardly bears to confess what by its own sense it does not perceive. It fails to discern the goodness of God unto salvation in the severity of the rod and the scourging, and therefore refuses to acknowledge that goodness in strokes and sufferings. The prophet, however, throughout this Psalm celebrates in many instances the way wherein the sinning people were arrested and smitten. And when he proposed that this Psalm should be sung in the church of God, Israel was under the cross and afflictions. Yet he demands that Israel should acknowledge that the Lord is good, that his mercy endureth for ever, even in the act of smiting the offender. That therefore alone is a true and full confession of the divine goodness which is made not only in prosperity but also in adversity. --Musculus.
Verse 1 -- There is,
- The doxology;
- The reason that we should, and why we should, give thanks always;
- The greatness of the work. But "who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD? who can shew forth all his praise?" That is, it is impossible for any man in the world to do this great duty aright, as he should.
- The best mode and method of giving thanks. "Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doeth righteousness at all times." As if he had said, "This is indeed a vast duty; but yet he makes the best essay towards it that sets himself constantly to serve God and keep his commandments." --William Cooper, in the "Morning Exercises".
Verse 1. -- The first and two last verses of this psalm form a part of that psalm which David delivered into the hand of Asaph and his brethren, to be sung before the ark of the covenant, after it was brought from the house of Obededom to Mount Zion. See 1Ch 16:34-36. Hence it has been ascribed to the pen of David. Many of the ancients thought, and they are followed by Horsley and Mudge, that it was written during the captivity; resting their opinion chiefly on verse 47; but as that verse occurs in the Psalm of David recorded in 1 Chronicles 16:35 , this argument is clearly without force. --James Anderson's Note to Calvin in loc.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. Take this verse as the theme of the Psalm, and we shall then see that its exhortation to praise,
- Is directed to a special people: chosen, redeemed, but sinful, borne with, and forgiven.
- Is supported by abundant arguments. Man not to be praised, for he sins. God gives in his goodness, and forgives in his mercy, and is therefore to be thanked.
- Is as applicable now as ever: for our story is a transcript of Israel's.