How Does God’s Merciful Love Endure Forever in the Face of Sin and Rebellion? #168 #Psalms
Hello friends, and happy Lord’s Day to you! As always on Sunday, I’d love to invite you to join us on Facebook Live today at 11am Pacific for our church gathering. Just go to VBC Salinas at 11am, and join in – leave a comment so I can know you’re there! Our message today will be about the call of Jesus in Revelation to overcome, and how we shouldn’t long to return to the ‘normal’ we had pre-pandemic. Hope to see you there!
Today’s Bible readings include Deuteronomy 19, Psalms 106, Isaiah 46 and Revelation 16. We are entering into the parts of Revelation that I have a lower confidence in my ability to understand them, and thus, for the second straight day – we are in the Psalms today for our focus passage. Psalms 106 is a pretty fascinating passage. It begins and ends with an incredible burst of praise to God:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his faithful love endures forever.
2 Who can declare the Lord’s mighty acts
or proclaim all the praise due him? ….Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, so that we may give thanks to your holy name and rejoice in your praise. 48 Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Hallelujah!
Psalms 106:1-2; 47-48
That’s a great start, but the meat of the Psalm – almost the entirety of it is about how Israel has betrayed God over and over again -repeatedly ignoring His commands, sinning against Him, and turning away to follow other Gods. The many punishments and judgments of God are also recounted and remembered in this Psalms, and yet the passage begins and ends in exulting in God’s mercy. How can God be merciful when He obviously punishes sin? How can ‘His faithful love endure forever,’ given that His people continually provoke Him? Let’s tag in John Piper to help us think through some of these questions about the justice of God, the judgments of God, the mercy of God, and His faithfulness:
Psalm 106 begins and ends with the identical phrase: “Praise the Lord.” That’s where the psalmist wants us to begin and end. What is here in this psalm, with all its sin and sorrow and pain, is a reason to praise God. And that means not just say great things about God, but believe and feel that he is praiseworthy. He is great. Glorious. Wonderful. More valuable than anything else. More to be desired than anything else. That is what it means to praise God—to think and feel and say and sing those kinds of things about him. That’s the goal of the psalm.
Under this praise is a thankful heart—at the beginning and the end. Verse 1: “Oh give thanks to the Lord.” And verse 47, “… that we may give thanks to your holy name.”
The reason given for why this praise and this thanks are so fitting is (verse 1) “for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” So the psalmist wants us to see God as praiseworthy and good and loving as we read this psalm, including all his judgments.
We will come back to verses 3–4, but let’s look now at what the body of this psalm contains. It is a long litany of Israel’s rebellion and failures. Here’s the list;
• Verse 7 (near the end): “They rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.”
• Verse 14: “They had a wanton craving in the wilderness.”
• Verse 16: “They were jealous of Moses and Aaron.”
• Verse 19: “They made a calf at Horeb and worshipped a metal image.”
• Verse 24: “They despised the pleasant land, having no faith in the promise.”
• Verse 28: “They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead.”
• Verse 32: “They angered God at the waters of Meribah and made Moses spirit bitter.”
• Verse 34: “They did not destroy the peoples, but mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did.”
• Verse 36: “They served their idols.”
• Verse 37: “They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons.”
They Killed Their Children
Rebellion, craving, jealousy, idolatry, despising God’s good gifts, unbelief, necromancy, murmuring, assimilation among the nations, serving their gods, sacrificing their children. The list could have gone on. Why did he stop here? Perhaps because most human beings would feel that this was the bottom of the downward spiral of the dethroning of God and the dehumanizing of man. They killed their children….
[Piper notes that, in addition to there being a thread throughout this Psalm that points out the abundant sins of the Israelites – including child murder -there is also another thread running through the passage – the thread of divine mercy.]
Remember verse 1: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” Steadfast love. That is the point. And that is what we need. Listen to God’s mercy, God’s steadfast love, in this psalm.
Verse 8: They rebelled, “Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.”
Verse 10: “He saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.”
Verse 23: “Therefore he said he would destroy them—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.” He relented at Moses’ prayer.
Verse 30: As the plague was spreading, “Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed.” God responded in mercy to Phineas zeal for the Lord.
Verses 43–46: “Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity. Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”
In other words, time and time again, the people deserved to be utterly destroyed, but God passed over the sin of many—including the sin of child sacrifice. He had mercy. He kept covenant. How could he do that? How can he do it for you? For Abortion?
As Paul looked back over God’s mercy for centuries, he gave the answer in Romans 3:25, “God put [Jesus] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”
The reason God could forgive repentant sinners in the Old Testament, and the reason he can forgive us today—for [child murder], or for indifference to [child murder]—is that the death of Jesus, the Son of God, for sin shows that God does not sweep sin under the rug or take it lightly. Forgiving it cost the life of his Son. That was their hope, and that is our hope. By faith we receive Christ as the payment for all our sins.
John Piper, Sermons from John Piper (2000–2014) (Minneapolis, MN: Desiring God, 2014).