Psalms Lecture 12: Psalm 105

THE FOLLOWING ARE NOTES FOR LECTURES GIVEN AT NEW COLLEGE, BIRMINGHAM. I AM NOT AN EXPERT AND BOOKS WILL BE CREDITED TO SHOW WHERE MY INFORMATION IS COMING FROM. IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, COMMENT ON THIS POST AND I WILL TRY MY BEST TO ANSWER.

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Psalm 105

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
make known among the nations what he has done.
Sing to him, sing praise to him;
tell of all his wonderful acts.
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
Look to the Lord and his strength;
seek his face always.

Remember the wonders he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced,
you his servants, the descendants of Abraham,
his chosen ones, the children of Jacob.
He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.

He remembers his covenant forever,
the promise he made, for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath he swore to Isaac.
10 He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
11 “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as the portion you will inherit.”

12 When they were but few in number,
few indeed, and strangers in it,
13 they wandered from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another.
14 He allowed no one to oppress them;
for their sake he rebuked kings:
15 “Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”

16 He called down famine on the land
and destroyed all their supplies of food;
17 and he sent a man before them—
Joseph, sold as a slave.
18 They bruised his feet with shackles,
his neck was put in irons,
19 till what he foretold came to pass,
till the word of the Lord proved him true.
20 The king sent and released him,
the ruler of peoples set him free.
21 He made him master of his household,
ruler over all he possessed,
22 to instruct his princes as he pleased
and teach his elders wisdom.

23 Then Israel entered Egypt;
Jacob resided as a foreigner in the land of Ham.
24 The Lord made his people very fruitful;
he made them too numerous for their foes,
25 whose hearts he turned to hate his people,
to conspire against his servants.
26 He sent Moses his servant,
and Aaron, whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them,
his wonders in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness and made the land dark—
for had they not rebelled against his words?
29 He turned their waters into blood,
causing their fish to die.
30 Their land teemed with frogs,
which went up into the bedrooms of their rulers.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32 He turned their rain into hail,
with lightning throughout their land;
33 he struck down their vines and fig trees
and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
grasshoppers without number;
35 they ate up every green thing in their land,
ate up the produce of their soil.
36 Then he struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the firstfruits of all their manhood.
37 He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold,
and from among their tribes no one faltered.
38 Egypt was glad when they left,
because dread of Israel had fallen on them.

39 He spread out a cloud as a covering,
and a fire to give light at night.
40 They asked, and he brought them quail;
he fed them well with the bread of heaven.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed like a river in the desert.

42 For he remembered his holy promise
given to his servant Abraham.
43 He brought out his people with rejoicing,
his chosen ones with shouts of joy;
44 he gave them the lands of the nations,
and they fell heir to what others had toiled for—
45 that they might keep his precepts
and observe his laws.

Praise the Lord.[a]

This psalm is read in the Jewish tradition at the first day of Passover. Alos despite being obviously corporate praise, it also fits into a smaller genre of being a Meditation on History. It looks back at what God has done for his people far back into Genesis and praises Him. It would not be a bad one to memorise and be inspired by as it reminds us of some huge parts of our collective history when it is all too easy sometimes to simply put the Old Testament into Children’s stories and leave them there.. which can cause issues later on.

I wanted to do something different with this psalm, because one of the things this brought to mind  was how we use scripture. We’ve looked a lot at how psalms can teach us things, and how they relate to our lives, and this is important, and psalms like 105 are great in that their purpose to to praise God and remind us of what he’s done. What we don’t want to do with this psalm, is use the reminder and forget about the rest – this psalm, like so many others including Psalm 1, point to the rest of scripture, it is encouraging you into reading it all, it is not the Sparknotes of a book you don’t want to read.

I think this psalm can tell us a lot about how to tell both Biblical stories to children, and how to tell the Gospel story as we evangelise, and how to tell our own testimonies. So first I want to point out a few things that have been done wrongly in the past, and how this psalm is a great example of how to do things right.

Abraham & Jacob

When telling our own testimonies, one of the things I’ve often noticed, is that we tend to focus on our part in the story of coming to faith. Don’t get me wrong, there are very good reasons for that but there is the danger that once we put ourselves down as the one in control of our conversion/point of entry, people can see it very much as just a decision. When you force yourself to ask a different question, from a different perspective, it changes the tone and power of the story. Instead of “Why did I decide to become a Christian?” a better question might be “What did God do to make me take notice?”, or “How did God see me, understand me and change me to bring me to this point?”, or even “What about Jesus was so inviting that you just couldn’t help but worship Him?”.

This psalm mentions Abraham and Jacob because they were obviously important in the progression of Israel as God’s chosen people, but the psalm is not for them. This psalm tells us to remember HIS miracles. God spoke, commanded and worked. God chose, directed and adopted us. God promised His people blessing upon blessing because HE is love, and He loved us and made a covenant with us. Abraham and Jacob were good men (mostly) but they hadn’t done much to deserve this amazing glory. God did it all, and that is something that should resonate in our own stories. We are His servants and children because He uses and adopted us. By talking about our testimonies we should always be pointing to God, to Jesus, to Spirit, and to Scripture, because it is incredible what He has done for us.

Joseph

This psalm uses Joseph as an example for Gods work, but the story of Joseph has been used so much for children’s stories. Unfortunately, the stories often don’t look to God and don’t have half the depth. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat is for a lot of people one of the only reasons they know the story of Joseph, and yet the musical doesn’t actually mention God once. Instead the lesson taught is to work for it, to push yourself, and no matter what your dream if you want it bad enough you’ll get it. To quote the prologue “If you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real. You are what you feel.” I don’t think that’s quite what God or Joseph felt when they were going through it all. Joseph didn’t prove himself, God was behind him all the way, with a plan. This psalm, points to God not our own actions. The master, the king, the ruler is the one who put Joseph in a place of authority. This is emphasised again and again and is something that should NOT be missed out of our stories. When we are preaching, encouraging others or passing on the truth about Jesus, we should remember this. However weak are feel, this psalm tells us that God is behind us, when there are shackles around our feet, that doesn’t mean God isn’t working. In our weakness there is God’s strength.

Moses

Again, the story of Moses is often distorted, both in accuracy and in who we give the credit to. We remember Moses bringing the people out of Egypt, but we tend to want to avoid the sometimes tense fact of God’s power shown through the plagues on Egypt. Psalm 105 does not avoid this because it was and is an incredibly important thing to remember about God: He is the lion, as well as the Lamb. God has power over nature and getting in His way is not a good idea. It was not Moses who came in like a warrior rescued the people and left in triumph. Moses was a man who prayed for Gods guidance every step of the way, who did not feel he was worthy, he did not think the Hebrews would listen to him at all. But it was Gods instructions he followed, it was God who performed the miracles through Moses, and it was God who parted the sea for His people. Then God protected them, provided them with food, produced water from stone. This psalm is not just a story, it is the facts of who God is and what He did for us.

All of this culminates in a praise psalm, because the people have seen this, lived through it, had it passed down to them and will now praise the Lord for His kindness to them. He gave them everything and they inherited everything. He did this so that righteousness might be fulfilled in them (Romans 8:4), which it was in Jesus.I wanted to share one part of The Prince of Egypt I always loved as it brought the joy out of the story and I felt it fit well with this psalm. This clip is of Miriam singing after they have been freed.

Sidenote:
The Hebrew sung by children is the Biblical poem Shirat Hayam שירת הים “Song of the Sea” from Exodus 15.
They sing parts of verses 1,11,13:
אָשִׁירָה לַה’ כִּי-גָאֹה גָּאָה
מִי כָמֹכָה בָּאֵלִם ה’ מִי כָּמֹכָה נֶאְדָּר בַּקֹּדֶשׁ
נָחִיתָ בְחַסְדְּךָ עַם-זוּ גָּאָלְתָּ

ashira laadonay ki gao gaa
mi chamocha baelim adonay mi kamocha needar bakodesh
nakhita vekhasdecha am zu gaalta

I will sing unto the LORD, for He is highly exalted
Who is like unto Thee, O LORD, among the mighty? who is like unto Thee, glorious in holiness
Thou in Thy love hast led the people that Thou hast redeemed

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  • Kidner, Derek. Psalms 73-150: A Commentary on Book III, IV and V of the Psalms (Inter-Varsity Press, England, 1973).
  • Spurgeon, C. H. The Treasury of David, Volume II, Psalm LVIII to CX (Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts).
  • Society of Biblical Literature. The Harper Collins Study Bible (New Revised Standard Version).
  • Walton, John H. Chronolgical and Background Charts of the Old Testament (Zondervan, Michigan, 1978).
    Also for interest read:
  • Bradley, Ian. The Theology of the Musical
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