A Call for Us to Remember
“Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea” (v. 7).- Psalm 106:6–48
Forgetting God’s great acts and blessings is such a common and grievous sin that He calls His people repeatedly not to overlook their past but to remember what He has done and how they have responded to Him. Deuteronomy 9, for example, exhorts the ancient Israelites not to forget their sin in the wilderness lest they fall into transgression again and experience the same wrath the Lord showed earlier generations. Paul calls Timothy to “remember Jesus Christ” so that he will persevere in all circumstances (2 Tim. 2:8–13).
The psalmist who wrote Psalm 106 also encourages the people of God to remember the past. He realizes that he cannot rightly ask the Lord to remember His covenant promise to bless His children (Ps. 106:4–5) if he does not recall how these same children have failed to uphold God’s law. After all, it is only in remembering our failures to keep His statutes that we can repent and enjoy all of the benefits of His covenant faithfulness. For “if a man does not repent, God will whet his sword” and execute His judgment (Ps. 7:12).
Psalm 106:6–43 rehearses the history of Israel as a means of recalling the past and implicitly calling those who pray the psalm not to repeat the nation’s history of wickedness. The “low points” that the psalmist recounts include the worship of the golden calf at Horeb, that is, the foot of Mount Sinai (vv. 19–23; see Ex. 32). That episode of idolatry was especially heinous because it occurred not far from the place where the Lord was revealing His covenant stipulations that established Israel as His holy nation. About three thousand people died as a result of God’s judgment on that sin, and many more suered from a plague sent by the Lord (Ex. 32:25–29, 35). Note, however, that the psalmist also recalls how the entire nation was not destroyed but rather rescued through the intercession of Moses the covenant mediator (Ps. 106:23; see Ex. 32:1–14). This reminds us that even when God’s people have sinned greatly, forgiveness is available for those who repent through the work of the covenant mediator, who has now been revealed as Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5).
The psalmist recounts many other sins of ancient Israel, including their failure to drive out the Canaanites, the sacrifice of their children to pagan gods, and more (Ps. 106:24–43). Yet the psalm does not end on a note of doom but on a note of hope. The Lord remembered His promise to bless His covenant people when they cried out to Him for salvation (vv. 44–48). He will likewise remember this promise when we turn to Him in faith and repentance.
We are a forgetful people who tend to view our record of faithfulness to the Lord as being much better than it actually is. Thus, it is helpful for us not to forget when we have transgressed His law. We do this not to plunge ourselves into despair but to remember the great mercy of God and to be encouraged to serve Him in gratitude for His amazing grace. This day, think on some of your recent sins, repent if you have not yet done so, and thank the Lord for His mercy.
Passages for Further Study
1 Timothy 1:12–17
1 John 1:8–9