Even so, he pitied them in their distress and listened to their cries. He remembered his covenant with them and relented because of his unfailing love. – Psalms 106:44-45 NLT
In the book of Chronicles, we have been reading a recap of the history of Israel aimed at an audience that had just come back from 70 years in captivity. In the book of 2 Samuel we have been reading about David's long-awaited ascent to the throne of Israel, after years of isolation in the wilderness running from Saul. In both cases, these are individuals who might have reason to question the goodness of God and His faithfulness to them. Why had He allowed them to go through all that they had gone through? How could a good and loving God allow His children to suffer for so long?
If you consider the context, this Psalm takes on a whole new light. In it, the Psalmist is calling on the people of God to praise God. He wants them to give God thanks for His goodness and lovingkindness. He wants them to remember all that God has done for them. And just in case their memory is spotty and they have a hard time recalling just what it is that God has done on their behalf – he tells them. In not-so-subtle fashion, he outlines the not-so-pretty history of the people of Israel and their interactions with God. He reminds them of their sin and rebellion, how all the way back to Egypt they had been questioning God and rebelling against His plan for them. Even after He had miraculously released them from captivity in Egypt, they rebelled against His leadership when they found themselves at the Red Sea with no way across and the enemy bearing down on them. They questioned His lovingkindness and doubted His power. Yet He still provided a way of escape. While they were in the wilderness, they repeatedly complained against His leadership, His ability to provide, and the integrity of His plan for their lives. At one point, the Psalmist reminds his readers that "In the wilderness, their desires ran wild, testing God’s patience in that dry land" (Psalms 106:14 NLT). Driven by their physical desires, and not just for food, the people continually rebelled against God. The list goes on and on. Their track record was not a good one. They worshiped idols, forgot God, and complained continually. They even rejected the idea of the Promised Land, demanding to be allowed to go back to where they had been in captivity for over 400 years. They had rather be slaves in Egypt than servants of the one true God in the land of promise.
God punished them repeatedly over the years for their rebellion. He sent nations against them, using these foreign lands to subjugate the people of God to slavery and oppression. Then He would miraculously deliver them. Only to see them fall back into the same sin and rebellion. Then the cycle would repeat itself. This is the story of the period of the Judges. "Again and again he delivered them, but they continued to rebel against him, and they were finally destroyed by their sin" (Psalms 106:43 NLT).
Nevertheless. Even so, Yet. Still. Depending on the translation you use, we are reminded in a few words the key to this whole passage. In spite of all that they had done to alienate and rebel against God, He responded in love, kindness, mercy and grace. He looked down. He heard their cry. He remembered His covenant with them. He relented. Even when they found themselves in captivity in Babylon, God caused their captors to show them mercy – to the point that they allowed the people of God to return to their own land. God cared for them even though they had rejected Him. That is why He is worthy of our praise. He had saved them. He had gathered them from among the nations. So their response should be to glorify His name, to bless Him for who He is and all that He has done, and to thank Him for His undeserved grace and mercy. This message would have resonated with the people of God and with David. God had been good to them. They were now back home and David was now on the throne.
But what about us? Do we fully understand all that God has done for us through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son on our behalf? Do we comprehend the magnitude of our own sin and rebellion, our alienation of God just due to our inherited and inherent sin nature? We were at one time separated from God by a gulf that was too wide for us to cross. We were condemned by sin and worthy of God's righteous and just punishment. We were dead in our sinfulness. And yet, nevertheless, even so, still – God sent His Son. "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8 NASB). We couldn't save ourselves, so God did it for us. He sent His Son to die in our place. He showed us mercy when we deserved wrath. He extended grace that was unwarranted and undeserved. And now we stand before Him as forgiven, righteous, redeemed, restored, with full access to His throne as His own children. So why wouldn't we praise Him? Why wouldn't we constantly thank Him for all that He has done? Why would we waste a single second complaining about the petty little things we feel like He has dropped the ball on? Why would we even think about whining about our lot in life, when we He has saved us from captivity to sin and the penalty of eternal death? "And let all the people say, "Amen." Praise the LORD!" (Psalms 106:48 NASB).
Father, I have so much to praise You for, but I need nothing more than the fact that You have saved me in spite of me. You took me when I was at my worst and provided a way of salvation I couldn't have come up with on my own. I was dead and You made me alive. I was captive to a life of sin and You set me free. I was condemned to death and You pardoned me. You paid the price for my sin that I could never have afforded to pay. I stand before You restored, redeemed, and fully forgiven by You. So You are more than worthy of my praise! Amen