Expository Sermon on Psalms 105 -107
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 11/16/2019
©2019 by Maylan Schurch
(To watch the YouTube recording of this service, click the white triangular “play” button on the line just below. The sermon starts at the 53:50 mark.)
Please open your Bibles to Psalm 105.
Just a note before I continue. Our social committee is inviting you to stay for our Thanksgiving Dinner immediately after the service. At the conclusion of my sermon, during the closing prayer, I will also have a blessing for the food. Thanks to our social committee, and to everyone who helped provide food and other assistance, for what will be a happy event.
Even though Thanksgiving Day is a little over two weeks away, I decided to preach a Thanksgiving sermon today, and I will probably do another one a week from today.
I’ve called this sermon “Thanksgiving 401.” This was such an unusual title that our administrative assistant Kayla double-checked with me that it was correct before putting it in the bulletin!
So why do I call it “Thanksgiving 401”?
I don’t know how colleges and universities categorize their classes these days, but back when I was a student at Northern State College in Aberdeen South Dakota, the class names had numbers after them. The 100 level classes were for freshman, the 200 level for sophomores, all the way up to the 400 level classes, which were for seniors.
One of the classes I took as a freshman was a basic history class. It was probably required for everybody, and it’s teacher was a delightful man named Dr. Irwin Thomle. Dr. Thomle was past retirement age at that point, and he must have said to himself, “This is a 100 level class, and only a very few students in this class are going to become history majors. The rest of these kids have to be there because it’s a required class, so I’m going to make it fun for them.”
So Dr. Thomle would simply tell us background stories about historical characters, and he had such a great sense of humor, and made those characters seem like the real human beings that they were, that we adored the class. Every Wednesday he gave us an easy five-question quiz, and as long as you attended and were listening, you got the questions right. In fact, I enjoyed that class so much that I almost changed my major from English to History.
But that was a 100 level class, maybe “World History 101” or something like that. And Dr. Thomle knew very well that whoever became a history major was going to have to take 200 level classes, and 300 level classes, and finally 400 level classes. And those 400 level classes would be where the deep historical concepts, as well as lots dates and other information, would be the topics of study.
The reason I called this sermon “Thanksgiving 401” is that I discovered three Bible Psalms that have helped me to go deeper into the thanking I usually do at this time of year. The way I found these Psalms was to look up the word “thank” in a Bible concordance, and I found three Psalms which were located one after the other, which began, “Oh give thanks unto the Lord.” The first Psalm is Psalm 105, and then there is Psalm 106 and then there is Psalm 107. And they all start with some form of “Give thanks to the Lord.”
So I decided to settle down and look at these Psalms to see how these Psalm writers thanked the Lord, and what they thanked Him for. As far as I can tell, none of these Psalms is by David. Instead they are by anonymous Psalm writers whose songs somehow got into Israel’s great hymnbook.
Because people sang these songs for church. They sang them in the synagogues, they sang them as they headed up to Jerusalem to the various festivals. The words of these songs were in the heads of the Israelite people.
And I found that even though these Psalms have a lot of similarities, they each take a slightly different approach to thanking the Lord. Let me show you what I mean. Let’s take a look at Psalm 105, starting with verse one.
Psalm 105:1 [NKJV]: Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples!
And the rest of this Psalm is going to refresh everybody’s memory about several of God’s dramatic deeds. Let’s keep reading.
Verses 2 – 15: Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore! Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth, O seed of Abraham His servant, You children of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth. He remembers His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac, And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel as an everlasting covenant, Saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment of your inheritance,” When they were few in number, Indeed very few, and strangers in it. When they went from one nation to another, From one kingdom to another people, He permitted no one to do them wrong; Yes, He rebuked kings for their sakes, Saying, “Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm.”
And then the psalm writer starts telling stories. He talks about the famine that happened, and how Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt, and how he later helped blunt the effect of the famine. Then the psalm tells how Moses eventually led the Israelites out of Egypt, and how God supplied the people with all their needs while they traveedl through the wilderness.
It’s interesting that in all the stories in this Psalm, there is no mention of Israel’s rebellion. This WILL be mentioned in the next Psalm we look at, but not in this one.
In fact, if you’re taking down sermon notes, I’ll give you something I think we could call Sermon Point One.
This Thanksgiving, as I try to thank the Lord in a 400-level way, I’m going to thank God for liberating me.
Because even though I’m thankful for many smaller things, such as a place to stay, a dependable car to drive, and this meal we’re about to enjoy, I think we dare not forget the ways God has liberated us.
The major liberation, of course, is that He has provided us with a way to escape the chains of sin, and the doom of eternal death. In John chapter 8, Jesus was having a tense religious discussion with some people, and He told them, “‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’” (John 8:34 – 36)
And not long after He spoke these words, Jesus dragged a cross to the top of a hill outside of Jerusalem. And then He stretched His hands out to receive the nails.
And if I accept Jesus’ death for my sins, and turn my heart over to Him, I will be liberated from the fate that He suffered for me. In Galatians 2:20, Paul explains this mystery to us this way: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
And that is the ultimate liberation. And we can also look back over our lives, and find other ways in which the Lord has liberated us, freed us from captivities which chained us. Shelley and I had the privilege of helping conduct stop smoking classes in our previous church, and once in a great while we saw people delivered from smoking by the power of God. (Normally, this happened when human willpower was helpless.)
And this morning, if we invited people up here to the platform to tell about how they were liberated by God’s power, the Thanksgiving dinner would grow icy cold by the time we heard from everyone! God has been good to us—and the more perceptive we are, the more we recognize His liberating power at work within us.
So as Thanksgiving Day approaches, be thinking about ways God has liberated you, and tell about these, especially to your kids.
Now let’s look at the very next Psalm to find another deeper, 400-level way of thanking God.
Psalm 106:1 – 5: Praise the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Who can utter the mighty acts of the LORD? Who can declare all His praise? Blessed are those who keep justice, And he who does righteousness at all times! Remember me, O LORD, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation, That I may see the benefit of Your chosen ones, That I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, That I may glory with Your inheritance.
Okay, so far this new Psalm sounds pretty much like Psalm 105 – lots of positive gratitude to God. But the next verse is where this Psalm takes an entirely different turn.
Verses 6 – 7: We have sinned with our fathers, We have committed iniquity, We have done wickedly. Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea.
And that is going to be the pattern of this entire psalm. The people sin, and they get desperate because of the consequences of that sin, and God takes pity, and God rescues them. This will happen over and over.
But still, this Psalm is a thankful one. Glance all the way down near the end, to verse 47:
Verses 47 – 48: Save us, O LORD our God, And gather us from among the Gentiles, To give thanks to Your holy name, To triumph in Your praise. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel From everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD!
You see what’s happening there? The “thankful” theme is still there – we are encouraged to give thanks to the Lord’s holy name.
So let me lay down what I think could be Sermon Point Two, before we look at some more of the details of this song.
This Thanksgiving, as I try to thank the Lord in more of a 400-level way, I’m going to thank Him not only for liberating me but for disciplining me.
Because that’s what’s happening in this psalm – the people sin, God disciplines, and God rescues. Let’s pick up the story with verse seven.
Verses 7 – 12: Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders; They did not remember the multitude of Your mercies, But rebelled by the sea—the Red Sea. Nevertheless He saved them for His name’s sake, That He might make His mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea also, and it dried up; So He led them through the depths, As through the wilderness. He saved them from the hand of him who hated them, And redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. The waters covered their enemies; There was not one of them left. Then they believed His words; They sang His praise.
Wouldn’t it be nice, at this point, to write, “The End – they lived happily ever after.” Sadly, that didn’t happen. Instead, another cycle starts.
Verses 13 – 23: They soon forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, And tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, But sent leanness into their soul. When they envied Moses in the camp, And Aaron the saint of the LORD, The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan, And covered the faction of Abiram. A fire was kindled in their company; The flame burned up the wicked. They made a calf in Horeb, And worshiped the molded image. Thus they changed their glory Into the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt, Wondrous works in the land of Ham, Awesome things by the Red Sea. Therefore He said that He would destroy them, Had not Moses His chosen one stood before Him in the breach, To turn away His wrath, lest He destroy them.
You know what I think is one of the most terrible tragedies of these stories? It’s how viciously the people’s sinful, rebellious behavior tore at the heart of God, and made Him so emotional. As you can see, this is not the heart of an eternally benign, merely-vaguely-interested God. This is the heart of a God who deeply and unutterably cares.
And on and on, all through the chapter, the story goes. Can you imagine singing this Psalm in church? What if this were our closing song?
In fact, back in 1650, someone wrote all of the Psalms into rhymed English poetry, in a songbook called the Scottish Psalter. Here’s what part of Psalm 106 could have sounded like. It fits perfectly with the tune for “Amazing Grace,” or “The Lord’s My Shepherd.” Let’s start with verse 40, and you can follow along in your Bible.
40 Against his people kindled was
the wrath of God therefore,
Insomuch that he did his own
41 He gave them to the heathen’s hand;
their foes did them command.
42 Their en’mies them oppressed, they were
made subject to their hand.
43 He many times delivered them;
but with their counsel so
They him provoked, that for their sin
they were brought very low.
44 Yet their affliction he beheld,
when he did hear their cry:
45 And he for them his covenant
did call to memory;
And then down to verse 47:
47 O Lord our God, us save, and gather
the heathen from among,
That we thy holy name may praise
in a triumphant song.
48 Blessed be Jehovah, Isr’el’s God,
to all eternity:
Let all the people say, Amen.
Praise to the Lord give ye.
Have you had times when the Lord disciplined you, allowed you to feel the consequences of things you had said or done? According to this Psalm, we need to thank the Lord for the discipline He gives to us.
After all, Hebrews 12:5 and 6 says: My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens . . . .
Now let’s take a look at the next Psalm, Psalm 107, to find out what it tells us about 400-level Thanksgiving. Again, this is a Psalm which starts by urging us to give thanks to the Lord.
If you get a chance to read through this whole Psalm, you will find that it pretty much follows the same pattern as Psalm 106. There is that same cycle of the people ignoring God’s will, going astray, getting into crisis, and calling out to God, and God responding to them.
But this psalm has a different feature – a repeating chorus. And it’s in that repeating chorus that we find one more 400-level reason to praise the Lord. Let’s start at the top, and I’ll point out the chorus when we come to it.
Psalm 107:1 – 7: Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, And gathered out of the lands, From the east and from the west, From the north and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; They found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, Their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way, That they might go to a city for a dwelling place.
Now, here comes the repeating chorus:
Verse 8: Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
If this were 1650 and you were singing this from the Scottish Psalter, you’d sing this:
8 O that men to the Lord would give
praise for his goodness then,
And for his works of wonder done
unto the sons of men!
And you hear that exact same chorus again in verse 15, and then again in verse 21, and again in verse 31.
As I mentioned, it’s in this chorus that we find another important reason to thank the Lord. Look at verse eight. It says “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness.”
Do you see that word “goodness”? If you have the New International Version, you see that they’ve translated “goodness” as “unfailing love.” If you’re using the English Standard Version, it’s “steadfast love,” and that’s also the way it’s translated in the New Revised Standard Version.
This is a very important Hebrew word. It’s the word chesed, and in English Bibles it’s translated several ways – with the words “kindness,” “loving-kindness,” and especially “mercy.” In fact, in one of my Bible reference books – Youngs’s Analytical Concordance – it counts up all the ways this word has been translated into various English words, but when it gets to “mercy,” it just simply says “frequently.” In other words, chesed was translated “mercy” so many times that they didn’t bother to count them up. It’s an overwhelming number.
And that’s good news. So when verse eight, and verse 15, and verse 21, and finally verse 31, say “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for his chesed,” that Hebrew word is one large, happy plate of delicious Thanksgiving food, or one huge, delightful Christmas present. There’s so much good, so much love, so much mercy, in that word.
Because God is kind, God is full of loving-kindness, and God especially is overflowing with mercy.
So let’s put that into Sermon Point Three.
This Thanksgiving, as I try to thank the Lord in more of a 400-level way, I’m going to thank God not only for liberating me, and for disciplining me. I’m also going to thank Him for His steadfast, loving-kindness mercy.
A few weeks ago Shelley and I were driving back home from some errand, maybe from prayer meeting, and we discovered that we were following a car with a license plate that had that same exact Hebrew word on it, the word chesed. As it turns out, I had seen that car and its license plate before, parked at a house in our neighborhood. I’d mentioned this to Shelley before.
So I said to Shelley, “Let’s follow that car and see if I am right about where it goes.” So we followed it, and sure enough, it turned in at the major street leading into our development, and sure enough, it turned where I thought was going to turn, and we followed it around, and it turned again, exactly where I knew it would.
We didn’t follow the chesed license plate all the way to its house, because we worried that the driver might think we were stalking him because we’d followed him for so long.
But God doesn’t care if we follow Him, follow His chesed loving-kindness and mercy, all the way up to where He lives. In fact, that’s His fondest hope, that we will follow Him all the way home!
What about you? Would you like to follow God’s long-lasting mercy all the way to His heart? Would you like to thank Him for all He’s done? Raise your hand if that’s your desire.