500 Years of Faithfulness to a Bunch of Nobodys – Psalm 105

Today’s reading in Psalm 105 – another of the many Praise Psalms – is 45 verses of Israel’s history covering 500 years.

Here is the main idea: God should be praised by his people because he has been faithful to them to make them a nation out of nothing but a promise to one man. The path to greatness and blessing among the nations of the earth was one that was as circuitous as it was unlikely … actually impossible, apart from God’s goodness.

The call of the Psalmist to praise the Lord is given in the first four verses …

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.

Whenever I talk of the Old Testament history of the Jewish people, I simply remind people to think, in big and round numbers, of Abraham as 2,000 BC, Moses as 1,500 BC, and David as 1,000 BC.  So this Psalm is written about 1,000 BC in David’s era and is looking back at the history of God’s faithfulness from 2,000-1,500 BC – from Abraham through Moses. So it begins with Abraham and God’s covenant promises to him and to his immediate descendents as the family / nation began to grow.

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.”

So God made a promise to Abraham that they would be a great nation inheriting a land of blessing, but it did not happen right away. They were just a growing family – Abraham with one son Isaac, and then his son Jacob (not Esau), who would have the many sons who would become the tribes of Israel. But even a couple of hundred years into the outworking of this promise, they were essentially nothing more than a Bedouin bunch of sheepherders with no land to call their own as a nation.

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.”

But God had a plan – an unlikely one – one that seemed to be evil, though God meant it for good and allowed it to unfold in dramatic fashion through one of the sons named Joseph. The older brothers were so annoyed with their impudent, daddy-pampered little brother that they concocted a story and sold him off as a slave. In God’s providential hand, Joseph was taken to Egypt where he became powerful in leading that nation through a terrible period of famine…

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.

The famine not only affected the Egyptians, but also the family of Jacob in Palestine. God caused these circumstances to bring the family to Egypt where they were saved from starvation. Yet, over a relatively short period of time, as Joseph was forgotten and the Israelites began to multiply, they were enslaved by the Egyptian people to keep them under control …

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.

After years of servitude, God called Moses and his brother Aaron to stand up to Pharaoh and seek an exit to the Promised Land. Through a series of signs and wonders performed by Moses, culminating in the death of the first-born throughout the land, the Israelites were allowed to leave.

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.

By the time Israel was allowed to go from Egypt, the Egyptians were so glad to see them go because of the power of God and the curses that had befallen them, they basically said, “Look, here is gold and silver … just hit the road Jack, and don’t you come no more, no more, no more, no more…”

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.

This was the Independence Day for the Israelites; they were now a nation. But they needed to travel to the Promised Land. And God led them with a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. He miraculously fed 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.

All of this blessing and provision by God was because of his promise to one man – Abraham. And nations would fall before them, all because of God’s provision. God gave Israel the blessings that others had worked for in the inheritance of a good land.

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.

When you put it all together in one chapter or psalm, God’s faithfulness piles up as a lot of miraculous stuff – things that could not have happened without him. Yet at certain points along this path, many might have wondered, “Where is God and his promises right now?”

Surely Joseph wondered that in an Egyptian prison. Surely generations of Israelite slaves wondered that while doing the laundry, mucking the stalls, and building patios and decks for their masters.

God is big; he has a plan; it is being worked out. Sometimes we’re getting the inheritance; sometimes we’re in the slave market. In modern lingo, sometimes we’re the wind shield, and sometimes we’re the bug. But God is faithful.