I really like those State Farm commercials where a client is in trouble – he’s had an accident – and he begins to awkwardly sing “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there…” And poof! Up pops his agent to save the day and solve the crisis.
That is how many people relate with God. He is like a divine State Farm agent / insurance policy … who is expected to show up at the moment of crisis with a powerful and pleasant deliverance. And if God does not come through, for many people he is therefore a weak and ineffectual source of trust, obedience, and love.
The attitude is essentially one of pondering “What have you done for me lately? Because, yes, it is great to have a life insurance policy that is simply out of this world, but where have you been while I have had all of these recent pains and problems?”
Today’s somewhat length Psalm 106 follows the history of yesterday’s previous Psalm, as it picks up with thoughts from Israel’s history in leaving Egypt and traveling to the threshold of the Promised Land.
The Psalm writer seems to have a very good macro view of the situation. Over and over, Israel had been unfaithful and failed to obey God, even in the wake of recent miracles that were amazing. And the writer knows he is identified with the nation, yet seeks also to be remembered in grace for his own attitude of seeing this history from God’s perspective as a faithful, covenant keeping God. He begins …
1 Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
2 Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare his praise?
3 Blessed are those who act justly, who always do what is right.
4 Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise.
6 We have sinned, even as our ancestors did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly.
Next, the writer begins rehearsing some history by reflecting upon the exodus of the nation from Egypt.
I once heard an old story about a little boy who was reading his Bible on a streetcar while seated across from a skeptic. The little boy read about the how God opened up the Red Sea for the Israelites to cross on dry land, and he said, “Hallelujah, Amen!”
And the skeptic said, “What are you reading there young man? Oh, I see it’s a Bible, and that is just a story book at best.”
But the boy said, “No, I just read where God opened up the waters of the Red Sea for Israel to escape from Egypt.”
The man said, “Be impressed if you want to. But that area is not really the Red Sea with deep waters, it is an area known as the Sea of Reeds – and the water is nothing more than a shallow swamp! Don’t be so easily impressed.”
The little boy went back to his Bible, and a minute later he shouted, “Hallelujah, Amen!” to which the skeptic said, “Now what are you reading?”
And the little boy shouted, “God just swallowed up the whole Egyptian army in several inches of water!”
7 When our ancestors were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
8 Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known.
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert.
10 He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them.
11 The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived.
12 Then they believed his promises and sang his praise.
So, God saved the Israelites with an incredible miracle, but they quickly forgot it.
13 But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
14 In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test.
15 So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease among them.
16 In the camp they grew envious of Moses and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the Lord.
17 The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan; it buried the company of Abiram.
18 Fire blazed among their followers; a flame consumed the wicked.
On multiple occasions in the desert, they rebelled against God’s leadership, and judgment fell upon some of the worst of the complainers. And then, while Moses was on the mountain getting the law from God, the people made a golden calf to worship …
19 At Horeb they made a calf and worshiped an idol cast from metal.
20 They exchanged their glorious God for an image of a bull, which eats grass.
21 They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt,
22 miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea.
23 So he said he would destroy them—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.
After all that God had just done for them to deliver them from Egypt, they rebelled so significantly that Moses himself had to save the day for the people and the nation. Next, God led them right up to the very doorway of going into the Promised Land; but rather than trust the God of miracles, they believed the report of 10 of the 12 spies and rejected entering the land God was going to give to them…
24 Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise.
25 They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the Lord.
26 So he swore to them with uplifted hand that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 make their descendants fall among the nations and scatter them throughout the lands.
28 They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;
29 they aroused the Lord’s anger by their wicked deeds, and a plague broke out among them.
30 But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked.
31 This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come.
32 By the waters of Meribah they angered the Lord, and trouble came to Moses because of them;
33 for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips.
34 They did not destroy the peoples as the Lord had commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs.
36 They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to false gods.
38 They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood.
39 They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves.
40 Therefore the Lord was angry with his people and abhorred his inheritance.
41 He gave them into the hands of the nations, and their foes ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them and subjected them to their power.
43 Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin.
These verses rehearse a whole list of “infamous moments” in Israel’s history of monumental lack of trust and obedience.
But over and over, the people would sing “the good neighbor song” and God would show up in power and grace and deliver them again…
44 Yet he took note of their distress when he heard their cry;
45 for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented.
46 He caused all who held them captive to show them mercy.
47 Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
48 Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!”
Praise the Lord.
The Psalm writer wants to be bigger than the nation around him. He desired to see all of these circumstances from God’s perspective and acknowledge his great goodness and grace. He wanted to be different than the bulk of people around him.
And if you really trust God, if you really walk with him, if you trust him in the bad times as well as the good times … you too will stand out amongst even your peers in the church of Christ. So worship God at all times. Don’t be a “What have you done for me lately?” sort of Christian.