Updated: Sep 9, 2020
The Word: Psalm 105:1-11, 23-27, 42-45
Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past helps us to trust Him in the present and the future.
Psalm 105 summons Israel to remember God, because God had remembered Israel. God had called them into existence as His people and committed himself to them in a covenant. When they were in distress in Egypt, God rescued them and brought them safely to the land He had promised them centuries earlier. This hymn calls Israel to praise Yahweh for making and keeping His promise.
After the opening call to praise (vv. 1-5), the hymn provides the reasons to praise with a focus on Israel’s history from the call of Abram to the conquest of Canaan (vv. 6-44). It concludes with a call to obedience and a final summons to praise (v. 45). The purpose of Psalm 105 was to remind Israel of God’s covenant in order to secure their ongoing obedience and praise (v. 45).
According to 1 Chronicles 16:18-22, David sang the first 15 verses of this psalm as he brought the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem. First Chronicles was written in the difficult days following the exile. Referring to their covenant relationship with Yahweh and to His promise of the land would be incredibly encouraging to the people, having just returned from captivity in Babylon. According to Jewish tradition, Ezra wrote Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. He also may have been the author of Psalms 104-107. Ezra’s authorship cannot be established with any amount of certainty. Chronicles was written to teach the returning exiles, (mainly Judah, Benjamin, and the Levites,) about their past.
A. Call to Worship
Remembering through telling stories together is a very effective way to bring past events into the present, especially if the stories are being told by those who were there. Stories carry significant power to communicate in such a way that the events don’t seem like distant memories. They can become present, living, breathing episodes. When we worship together, we are living out God’s story in such a way that it can become our story as well. The sacrament of Communion, or Eucharist, is a particular place where the story of God redeeming the world in Christ is retold in a profound way. In receiving the elements representing the broken body and shed blood of Christ, we participate in a new event of God’s redemption in the present day.
(Read Psalm 105:1-7)
The first part of the psalm is a call to worship through remembering all God has done. God’s people are to shout it from the rooftops: The Lord has been faithful.
Remembering God’s faithfulness prompts praise, rejoicing, and further trusting and seeking the Lord. The psalmist summons Israel to praise God by piling one command upon another: give praise, proclaim, make known, sing, sing praise, tell, glory in, let . . . rejoice. Those worshipers who obey the first seven commands will certainly find it easy to obey the eighth, to let their hearts . . . rejoice.
Why is it important to praise God? How can we learn to praise God during unpleasant circumstances in our lives today like Covid-19?
In v.4 the psalmist shifts his focus from the commands (listed above) toward obedience based on to “look to the Lord” and to “seek his face always”. Israel was being summoned to praise and obey. They were to seek His face always, but could be confident that such a search ends in joy (v. 3).
What would it mean for us to remember what God has done in our own history and immediately turn to praise?
The context of this remembering is worship. (Remember the psalms are Israel’s hymnal.) In what specific ways do we retell the story of God when we worship together?
B. Historical Recollection (Read Psalm 105:8-11)
Verses 8-11 tell of the first covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Remember, when the Lord speaks in the Old Testament, He tends to introduce himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Retelling this original part of the story takes the readers back to square one of God’s relationship with God’s people.
What are the promises God made to Abraham? (Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore, and they would inherit the land of Canaan.)
Are God’s wonders and judgments for the Patriarchs only? (Verse 6: God’s promises are for the descendants of Abraham. Remember in Christ, we are all children of Abraham. Verse 7: Indeed, God’s Words go to all the earth.)
The covenant was a triangular relationship or bond between God, His people, and the land. Although this was in the past, God “remembers his covenant forever” (v. 8a); the promises, therefore apply to this generation and all generations to come (“a thousand” was a metaphor for “all”). And all means….?
C. Israel in Egypt (Read Psalm 105:23-27)
Beginning in verse 12, the psalmist provides a poetic summary of Genesis from Abraham to Joseph. We hear of the wandering of the patriarchs (vv. 12-13) and of God’s protection (vv. 14-15; cf. Gen. 20), but most of the verses describe how Israel ended up in Egypt and how God provided for them (vv. 16-22).
God’s story with Abraham’s children did not end while they were in captivity in Egypt. Even in their suffering, God remembered His covenant and interceded for them in amazing ways. By this time, all of the original witnesses to the plagues of Egypt, the Passover, and the crossing of the Red Sea had been dead for generations. Retelling the story made those events alive again.
Who will tell your stories of God’s faithfulness when you’re gone? Have you written them down for the generations to come? Why or why not?
How important are testimonies in retelling the story of God’s faithfulness in the past?
D. Deliverance into Canaan (Read Psalm 105:42-45)
Verses 42-45 are summary statements—after all was said and done, God was faithful to the covenant He made and remade with His people.
The theme of remembering continues at the end. Notice God is presented here (as in verse 8) as one who remembers forever.
What does it mean for God to be faithful in remembering? (God will not forget His people or His covenant. No matter how much people forget, God’s memory never fails.)
The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. How does God’s faithfulness in the past inspire us not only to praise and worship Him, but also to trust Him for our future?
One important benefit of Bible study is to understand how God moved in the past and worked in the lives of people.
In what ways has reading in God’s Word of how God worked in the past helped you in the present?
Although written thousands of years ago, why is God’s Word just as relevant now as it was when it was written?
Psalm hymns usually conclude with a call to praise such as Psalm 103:20-22 (AMP ). 20"Bless the Lord, you His angels, You mighty ones who do His commandments, Obeying the voice of His word!"
21"Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, You who serve Him and do His will. 22Bless the Lord, all you works of His, in all places of His dominion; Bless and affectionately praise the Lord, O my soul!"
This psalm also contains such a call to praise, the single word, Hallelujah, translated as Praise the Lord. Verse 45 contains something else, a clue to the psalmist’s purpose. He related the history of God’s faithfulness to the Israelites so they would keep his precepts and observe his laws. He told how God remembered them so that they would remember God.
E. Connect to My Life and the World
In what ways can we look back to what God has done in the past, see what God is doing in the present, and look forward to what God will do in the future?
What is one thing we can do this week to share with someone what God has done in the past?
What is one thing we can do this week to share with someone what God is doing in the present?
Take time to pray, thanking God for His faithfulness to all generations, and committing your lives—past, present, and future—to His Lordship.