“We Have Sinned” — Bill Boyd

Psalm 106 is one of the fifteen “Hallelujah” psalms. These are the psalms that have in them that ancient Hebrew word. In the King James Version, “hallelujah” is translated “Praise ye the Lord.” It is a call to worship. The beginning and the end of this Psalm was sung when David brought the ark of God into Jerusalem (compare Psalm 106:1, 47- 48 with 1 Chronicles 16:34-36). Parts of Psalm 105 were sung at that time. Psalm 105 is about the faithfulness of God; Psalm 106 is about the unfaithfulness of man. If Psalm 105 can be thought of as a national anthem, then Psalm 106 can be thought of as a national confession.

A key verse is Psalm 106:6:  “We have sinned with our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.” These very words are spoken by Daniel in his prayer to God for the sins of his people in his time (Dan. 9:5). We would be wise to learn to incorporate words from the psalms into our own prayers. In 1 Corinthians 10:5-12 Paul recalls the sins of Israel to warn the saints in Corinth against falling back into their sins. This psalmist also recalls the sins of Israel, but he does so to show that God is merciful.

The psalm begins on a high note, “Hallelujah.” He then gets right into his subject, “…his mercy endureth forever.” He lauds God for his mighty acts, his goodness, and his blessings for toward those who “keep judgment” and “doeth righteousness.” His prayer is to be remembered and to be part of those who rejoice in God’s salvation. In Psalm 106:6 he makes his confession. He does not say, “Mistakes were made,” or “If I have offended anyone…” He did not make excuses or try to shift the blame to others. He said, “We have sinned with our fathers… committed iniquity… done wickedly.”

In Psalm 106:7 he begins to recount the sins of the fathers. He begins with how they provoked God at the Red Sea (cf. Ex. 14:10-12). Nevertheless, God saved them (Ps. 106:8-11). The psalmist writes, “Then believed they his words; they sang his praise” (Ps. 106:12), but their praise did not last. “They soon forgot his works…” (Ps. 106:13), they “waited not for his counsel” (Ps. 106:13), they “lusted exceedingly,” and they “tempted God” (Ps. 106:14). God gave them manna and quail. They fed their faces, but they did not feed their souls. Consider Psalm 106:15 in light of Deuteronomy 8:3. Here is where they were to learn, “Man shall not live by bread alone…”

Israel “envied” Moses and Aaron (Ps. 106:16-18). The earth opened and a plague raged through them as a fire (cf. Num. 16). Israel ignored God when he said to them “Thou shalt not make unto any graven image” (Ex. 20:4) and they turned to idolatry (Ps. 106:19-20). God would have destroyed them there had not Moses stood in the breach and turned his wrath (Ps. 106:21-23, cf. Ex. 32). When the spies returned from the promised land with their report, Israel “believed not his word: but murmured in their tents” (Ps. 106:24-25). That generation died in the wilderness (Ps. 106:26-27; cf. Num. 14). When the children of that generation arrived at the borders of the pleasant land, they joined themselves to Baal-peor, ate the sacrifices of the dead, and provoked God to anger with their inventions. This is when Phinehas executed a judgment that was counted to him for righteousness for generations (Ps. 106:28-31; cf. Num. 25).

In the desert of Zin they provoked Moses so that he spoke “unadvisedly” to bring water from a rock (Ps. 106:32-33; cf. Num. 20:1-13). Note that word, “unadvisedly.” God had once told Moses to strike a rock that it may bring forth water (Ex. 17:1-7), but this time God told Moses to speak to the rock (Num. 20:8). Moses said to the congregation, “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice” (Num. 20:10-11). Moses added the old striking to his speaking. The Greek word psallo means “strike.” God had once had told Israel to psallo-strike the harp, but now he tells us to psallo-strike the heart (Eph. 5:19). God had once said to strike the instrument; now God says to speak (Eph. 5:19). God did not tell Moses not to strike the rock, and God does not tell us not to strike the strings of an instrument, but we would do well not to add the old striking to our singing lest we sing “unadvisedly.”

The sins of Israel did not end in the wilderness. “They did not destroy the nations…  mingled among the heathen… learned their works… served their idols… sacrificed their sons… shed innocent blood… defiled with their own works… went a whoring with their own inventions” (Ps. 106:34-39). The psalmist tells us, “Many times did he deliver them; but they provoked him with their counsel, and were brought low for their iniquity” (Ps. 106:43). Nevertheless, God remembered them and pitied them (Ps. 106:44-46). Indeed, “his mercy endureth forever.”  In Psalm 106:47 the psalmist makes his plea, “Save us, O Lord our God.”

Like Israel, “we have sinned” (Ps. 106:6).  Can God forgive us?  Oh yes!  Look how he forgave the fathers and showed mercy to Israel.  His mercy still “endureth forever.”  God sent his Son to die as a propitiation that he might save us (Rom. 3:23-24; 8:32). What this psalm teaches us about God should fill our hearts with humility for our sins and with gratitude for God’s mercy. The psalm ends with praise: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the Lord” (Ps. 106:48). That is to say… “Hallelujah!”

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