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August 30, 2020
Unit 2: Look to the Lord (Psalms)
Celebrating Where We Came From
Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past helps us to trust Him in the present and the future.
Psalm 105:1-11, 23-27, 42-45
To discover that just as God was faithful to work in the lives of His people in the past, He is faithful to work in our lives today.
Illustrated Bible Life describes God’s mighty acts in history as remembered in the psalms and Nehemiah, and provides verse-by-verse commentary on the Scripture passage.
We explored the value of trusting God when experiencing times of fear.
We will explore the importance of remembering God’s unfailing dependability throughout all human history.
How Scripture helps us to remember God’s marvelous intervention in the lives of His people is the focus of this week’s Illustrated Bible Life podcast on FoundryLeader.com.
The Bible repeatedly exhorts us to proclaim God’s wonderful, saving, mighty acts. Israel did precisely that. Rehearsing God’s mighty acts in history constituted one form of worship. This week’s Illustrated Bible Life article, “Rehearsing Our Salvation History,” looks at how three biblical passages in particular urge us to remember God’s intervention in the lives of His people.
Engage the Word
Summons to Praise
The psalmist began with an injunction for God’s people to give God praise. The congregation to whom he was speaking was post-exilic, delivered from captivity in Babylon. Although they were a minority people surrounded by others who did not worship God, they could be thankful for the opportunity to rebuild their lives and community in their homeland.
To stir up this praise, the psalmist reminds them of their history, rooted in God’s great original deliverance at the exodus. “All [God’s] wonderful acts” (v. 2b) ranged from back then and up to and including their recent history. Because of this faithful track record, one could “look to the Lord and his strength” and “seek his face always” (v. 4) In the light of history, “always” did not seem like an overreach.
“Remember” (v. 5a) was an instruction to take history seriously, specifically covenant history. Their heritage stretched back to Abraham (v. 6a) and was marked by God’s gracious choice of them. Because they were (and are) God’s “chosen ones” (v. 6b) and He was their “Lord” (v. 7a), God performed on their behalf “wonders,” “miracles,” and “judgments” (v. 5).
Grounds for Praise
Verses 8-11 begin to spell out the specifics of this covenant history. It began with a promise to Abraham (v. 9a), continued with an “oath” to his son, Isaac (v. 9b), and was confirmed as a “decree” to Jacob (v. 10a), that God would give them the land of Canaan (v. 11a). The covenant, then, was a triangular relationship or bond between God, God’s people, and the land. Although this was in the past, God “remembers his covenant forever” (v. 8a); the promises, therefore apply to this generation and all generations to come (“a thousand” was a metaphor for “all”).
Israel in Egypt
Our section begins with Jacob (also named “Israel” and representing the nation) entering Egypt (v. 23a), that place in biblical geography that represented both the worst and the best that happened to God’s people. The worst came from Israel’s position of weakness. As a marginal “foreigner” (v. 23b) group with few worldly resources, they quickly became vulnerable victims of the hatred and conspiring of the Egyptians (v. 25). Soon they were oppressed slaves. Coming fresh off of captivity and exile in Babylon, this generation of Hebrews could easily relate to the awful feelings of loss and lack of control that their ancestors experienced.
The best that happened to God’s people came from their position of strength as belonging to God—“his people” (v. 25a). Through Moses and Aaron, as with Joseph in a previous era, God reminded Israel of their status as “chosen” of God (v. 26b). Even as they were God’s “servants” (v. 25b), so would God serve their well-being by performing “signs among them” and “wonders.”
Deliverance from Egypt
After recounting the history of the Egyptian plagues (vv. 28-36) and reminding Israel of God’s continuing signs and wonders in their Passover deliverance, the coverings of cloud and fire for day and night, manna from heaven, and water from a rock (vv. 37-41), the psalmist brings this psalm to a resounding conclusion in our current and final section.
The complete turnaround in Israel’s fortunes, from abject slavery to joyful deliverance was matched by a complete turnaround in Egypt’s fortunes, from arrogant oppressor to fearful releaser. By remembering these events and their connection to God’s “holy promise” (v. 42a) to Abraham, God’s people were also reminded of the appropriate response: “rejoicing . . . with shouts of joy” (v. 43). As their ancestors exulted in God’s faithful deliverance and provision, so they too could exult in deliverance from exile and the hope of God’s provision as they sought to return to the land and rebuild their lives and community.
Following the exodus, God “gave them the lands of the nations” (v. 44a) as an inheritance; so, too, following the Babylonian captivity, God would give them their land again. God was faithful in keeping His part of the covenant. However, the psalmist was careful to remind them of their part in the covenant promise: to “keep [God’s] precepts and observe his laws” (v. 45). The two-way relationship mattered back then; it would matter again for the future of the returned exiles.
The psalm concluded with a simple yet unambiguous “Praise the Lord” (v. 45c). Israel had plenty to be grateful for, even in the face of new challenges. Giving God praise day to day is a way of living into the ongoing, unfolding faithfulness of God.
Did You Know?
In Canaanite religion, religious seekers would go to their sanctuaries to literally look on the faces of statues of their gods and goddesses. The psalmist’s injunction to “seek [Yahweh’s] face always” (v. 4b), by contrast, meant looking for God in recounting God’s mighty acts in their history.
Think About It
People today need to study Psalm 105 so that they can be reminded of God’s unfailing dependability throughout all human history. Since God has always been true to His promise, we can safely trust Him with our present moment and every tomorrow.
Recounting sacred history together as a community of faith was important to Israel. Where and how do we recount our history, our story of faith?
Remembering through telling stories together is a very effective way to bring past events into the present, especially if the stories are being told by those who were there. Stories carry significant power to communicate in such a way that the events don’t seem like distant memories. They can become present, living, breathing episodes. When we worship together, we are living out God’s story in such a way that it can become our story as well. The sacrament of Communion, or Eucharist, is a particular place where the story of God redeeming the world in Christ is retold in a profound way. In receiving the elements representing the broken body and shed blood of Christ, we participate in a new event of God’s redemption in the present day.
Connect to My Experience
Psalm 105 is a call for God’s people to remember the story of God and God’s people, from the beginning promise God made with Abraham to the present day.
Ask a few volunteers to briefly finish this sentence: “I remember when…” Give them a chance to explore a memory from long ago and bring it back into the present.
Then add a word to the question and have the group share some answers: “I remember when God…” Give them a chance to explore memories of God’s faithfulness and bring them into the present. Notice the change in the mood of the conversation when memories of God are brought into the storytelling.
Today’s scripture from Psalm 105 calls God’s people to remember God’s faithfulness in the past. In so remembering, God’s people are offered the hope of God’s faithfulness into their future. As God was with them, so He will be with us.
Connect to the Word
Invite a volunteer to read Psalm 105:1-7 and consider the following,
The first part of the psalm is a call to worship through remembering all God has done. God’s people are to shout it from the rooftops: The Lord has been faithful.
Remembering God’s faithfulness prompts praise, rejoicing, and further trusting and seeking the Lord. What motivates our praise and rejoicing in worship?
Why is it important to praise God? How can we learn to praise God during unpleasant circumstances in our lives?
What does it mean to “look to the Lord” and to “seek his face always” (v. 4)?
What would it mean for us to remember what God has done in our own history and immediately turn to praise?
The context of this remembering is worship. (Remember the psalms are Israel’s hymnal.) In what specific ways do we retell the story of God when we worship together?
What hymn or other song best represents your experience of God’s faithfulness?
Invite a volunteer to read Psalm 105:8-11 and consider the following,
Verses 8-11 tell of the first covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Remember, when the Lord speaks in the Old Testament, He tends to introduce himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Retelling this original part of the story takes the readers back to square one of God’s relationship with God’s people.
What are the promises God made to Abraham? (Abraham’s descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and sand on the seashore, and they would inherit the land of Canaan.)
Are God’s wonders and judgements for the Patriarchs only? (Verse 6: God’s promises are for the descendents of Abraham. Remember in Christ, we are all children of Abraham. Verse 7: Indeed, God’s Words go to all the earth.)
Invite a volunteer to read Psalm 105:23-27 and consider the following,
God’s story with Abraham’s children did not end while they were in captivity in Egypt. Even in their suffering, God remembered His covenant and interceded for them in amazing ways. By this time, all of the original witnesses to the plagues of Egypt, the Passover, and the crossing of the Red Sea had been dead for generations. Retelling the story made those events alive again.
Who will tell your stories of God’s faithfulness when you’re gone? Have you written them down for the generations to come? Why or why not?
How important are testimonies in retelling the story of God’s faithfulness in the past?
Invite a volunteer to read Psalm 105:42-45 and consider the following,
Verses 42-45 are summary statements—after all was said and done, God was faithful to the covenant He made and remade with His people.
The theme of remembering continues at the end. Notice God is presented here (as in verse 8) as one who remembers forever.
What does it mean for God to be faithful in remembering? (God will not forget His people or His covenant. No matter how much people forget, God’s memory never fails.)
The best indicator of future behavior is past behavior. How does God’s faithfulness in the past inspire us not only to praise and worship Him, but also to trust Him for our future?
One important benefit of Bible study is to understand how God moved in the past and worked in the lives of people.
In what ways has reading in God’s Word of how God worked in the past helped you in the present?
Although written thousands of years ago, why is God’s Word just as relevant now as it was when it was written?
What is one way you have seen God work today as He did in the past?
Connect to My Life and the World
Does your church have a written history telling the story of God’s faithfulnes? If so, are your stories a part of it? It would be a good idea to take the time and write the stories from this group down, lest they be lost when we are gone.
You could invite younger people (children, teens, or younger adults) into your session time or for a meal (maybe lunch or dinner after church) for a “story time” wherein the younger generations in the church can hear the stories that are so important to the church. Then, ask them to share their stories of God’s faithfulness in their lives so far.
Close by asking,
In what ways can we look back to what God has done in the past, see what God is doing in the present, and look forward to what God will do in the future?
What is one thing we can do this week to share with someone what God has done in the past?
What is one thing we can do this week to share with someone what God is doing in the present?
Pray together, thanking God for His faithfulness to all generations, and committing your lives—past, present, and future—to His Lordship.
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