The Beauty of Hindsight

From the moment Moses’ original appearance before Pharaoh led to that ruler’s hard hearted crackdown on the family of Jacob, the children of Israel established their spiritual credentials as unappreciative complainers in response to the goodness of the LORD. Even as they came to recognize His power through the ten plagues, their instincts focused on complaining before the Red Sea, complaining in the wilderness, and complaining at the foot of Mount Sinai. After receiving the Law, they complained about the prospect of fighting giants, and even after coming within the confines of Canaan, they complained when events did not turn out as they wished. They had some high points in their history, such as the reign of David, but their history as a nation trudged ever downward—with only a few exceptions—until finally they ended up in Babylonian captivity. Then, after their national humiliation at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, the destruction of Solomon’s temple, and years of poverty and exile, they received the hope that God had promised all along: they could go home and rebuild. Only then did they begin to appreciate the care and character of the God on High they had ignored. Thus, the reflection of Psalm 107, which begins the Fifth Book of the Psalms, reviews the history of Israel with attention to hindsight, highlighting the lessons Israel should have learned along the way but had not. However, rather than offering a heavy condemnation of their forefathers, the psalmist focused on the goodness and mercy of God throughout. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever: (Psa. 107:1).

In hindsight Israel realized their identity as a needy people redeemed by God, cared for by God, and established by God (Psa. 107:2-7). In hindsight Israel recognized the consequences of their own rebellious behavior and how essential their humiliation proved in awakening them to their spiritual need for the salvation only God provides (Psa. 107:8-14). In hindsight Israel recognized the foolishness of sin and the justice of God’s judgment. In turning to the LORD they finally accepted the saving power of His Word when coupled with faith (Psa. 107:16-20). In hindsight God’s children developed an appreciation for sacrifice, for the joys of serving God, for the benefits of His presence in their lives, and for the hope deliverance offers (Psa. 107:21-30). God had done plenty for them throughout their history, and they finally took the time to see it and thus offer the repeated cry, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psa. 107:31). In hindsight they offered the praise due for centuries, acknowledging God’s providential care and activity throughout all of life and history, especially to their spiritual benefit (Psa. 107:32-42). Therefore, after a millennium of rebellion, of ignorance, and of self-inflicted pain, the children of Israel finally had concluded what God had made available to them all along. Everything God had done for them, everything God required of them, and everything God had said to them was for their benefit and came from the deepest heart of love.

How sad that the most important insight into the character of the LORD would come only after years of obstinacy! And yet how often does that situation repeat itself today? God has showered so much love (Rom. 5:8), so much attention (Heb. 2:5-18), and so much wisdom (Prov. 1:7) on mankind, and yet so many ignore Him, reject Him, and rebel against Him, just like Israel of old. The lessons of truth remain available, for God has made them known (Jn. 8:32; 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Unfortunately, the stubbornness of men often holds out, waiting for a worldly option instead of embracing the only saving option we have. Hindsight is 20/20. But do you really want to wait until Judgment Day to learn how much you needed God all along (2 Cor. 5:10)? “Whoever is wise will observe these things, And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psa. 107:43).

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The Confession of Sin is Good for the Soul

Please forgive us of all of our sins. It is such a simple phrase—uttered time and time again. Those who do so likely mean it sincerely; however, it unquestionably lacks the expression of contrition and appreciation that God deserves. In the closing psalm of Book Four, a section highlighting man’s relationship with God, the psalmist details the rebellious history of Israel as part of a confession on behalf of the nation, a confession that the people would then themselves sing as they reminded one another of the joint spiritual failures of their fathers—a powerful spiritual exercise, to be sure, and one God’s people today would do well to consider. Our confession of sins should take place within the context of God’s own character, a reflection on the goodness and mercy that gives any meaning to confession (Psa. 106:1). Confession ought to focus on what God has done to make salvation possible (Psa. 106:2) and on the righteousness He expects of His people—and on how we have failed Him (Psa. 106:3). Confession remains incomplete without meditation on the grace that offers the opportunity (Psa. 106:4) and that makes hope still possible (Psa. 106:5). Indeed, any request for forgiveness removed from the context of God’s character and personal introspection lacks the spiritual heart God Himself intended. “We have sinned with our fathers, We have committed iniquity, We have done wickedly” (Psa. 106:6). Moreover, the psalmist’s subsequent listing of the sins of the nation demonstrates how important it is for man to reflect on the whole of his existence and failures rather than on just the most recent occurrence, because this helps us see the patterns of rebellion that plague us and the longsuffering of God that makes it possible for Him to forgive us again. 

Israel rebelled even before they left Egypt because they failed to appreciate the deliverance God was making possible (Psa. 106:7), but God demonstrated His own character in responding to their sin with an opportunity they did not deserve, which they, in the moment, embraced (Psa. 106:8-12; Rom. 5:8-9). In the wilderness they thought only of themselves and not God and thus tested Him (Psa. 106:13-14), and yet He proved Himself and His care once again (Psa. 106:15). They rebelled against the leadership He established (Psa. 106:16) and were judged as a result (Psa. 106:17-18). At the foot of Sinai they turned away from the God who delivered them and turned back to the idolatry of Egypt (Psa. 106:19-22); only Moses’ pleading kept them from destruction (Psa. 106:23). Faith failed them when they spied out the land (Psa. 106:24-25), so the first generation died in the wilderness (Psa. 106:26-27). They fell into paganism and immorality with the Midianites (Psa. 106:28) and suffered a plague as a result (Psa. 106:29) until Phinehas rose to oppose the sin (Psa. 106:30-31). Their grumbling at the lack of water grew so virulent that a frustrated Moses responded rashly and was thus kept out of Canaan (Psa. 106:32-33). They failed to destroy the Canaanites but instead compromised their identity with them (Psa. 106:34-38), and God responded by letting them feel the consequences of their own decision (Psa. 106:39-40)—time and time again until ultimately sending them into captivity (Psa. 106:41-46). Their history of rebellion was all too real, and they needed to acknowledge it—just like we do.

However, in the closing verses, the true beauty of the psalm shines forth. As we turn to God for salvation, He still will listen (Psa. 106:47a). As we offer our thanks and our praise once more, He hears our cries (Psa. 106:47b). All of this—the character of God, our history of sinfulness, and divine longsuffering—should teach us to grow in appreciation for our God more and more everyday. For He alone deserves our allegiance, because He alone is truly faithful. Therefore, He deserves for us to recognize all that He has done and praise Him with all our heart (Psa. 106:48). It is hard to capture all of this in one easy throwaway phrase. And we should not try.

A Personal God

When I peruse the religious landscape of America, it sometimes baffles me how people can claim to read the Bible, love the Bible, and follow the Bible while remaining completely oblivious to the true nature of the God of the Bible. Some see only a harsh, judging God who destroyed the peoples of Canaan, punished people for their rebellion, and allowed Israel to endure the destruction of their homeland and years in captivity. Others only see the loving God whose grace sent Jesus to the cross for the sins of mankind (John 3:16). The apostle Paul emphasized that both of these descriptions apply to God but should be viewed together in a balanced way (Rom. 11:22). However, more than this, some have allowed their view of Christianity to rely on ritual and habit rather than heart and commitment. Theologians then offer a doctrinal interpretation of God as if Yahweh can be parsed and defined like goodness or atonement. And while all these fall under the purview of God, appreciating how they unite together to provide guidance and hope both in this life and beyond this life is where we find the true meaning of all that God has done for us. 

Indeed, when we turn to Psalm 105 and consider both its placement within this inspired collection and its content, we should be humbled in both our understanding of the LORD and our appreciation for what He has done. Our God is not some impersonal deity who formed this world and then abandoned His creation. To the contrary, the LORD has supreme interest in every aspect of our lives, and He has acted accordingly to make a relationship with Him possible. Therefore, He not only established the laws of nature by His providence but then brought man into a covenant relationship with Him. Moreover, we can see this not only in the love displayed in Jesus in the New Testament but even in His care demonstrated in the Old. For this reason the psalmist could encourage the people to worship God, talk about all that He has done, give Him glory, rejoice, and seek Him diligently (Psa. 105:1-6). Everything that God has done is designed to draw us back to Him so that we can say, “He is the LORD our God; His judgments are in all the earth” (Psa. 105:7).

The LORD established His covenant of both the promised seed and the land of Canaan, renewed it in successive generations, and ultimately fulfilled it (Psa. 105:8-11). When Israel was but an insignificant family, wandering with other nomads throughout the land, He protected them from harm in keeping with His covenant (Psa. 105:12-15; Gen. 20). In His providence, He used the anger and sin of Joseph’s brothers ultimately to bring about their own provision, raising Joseph up from a slave and a prisoner to the viceroy of the Pharaoh (Psa. 105:16-22). The LORD then turned Jacob’s family into such a multitude that their Egyptian hosts grew to fear them (Psa. 105:23-25) and then enslave them, but God had greater plans for them. He sent Moses, and Aaron with him, to bring them out of bondage so He could fulfill His covenant, sending plagues upon the Egyptians as both proof and punishment for them and proof of His fidelity to His covenant(Psa. 105:26-36). He took a nation of slaves and gave them wealth, challenged a mighty nation and brought them to their knees, guided His people day and night, and gave them food and water as they had need (Psa. 105:37-41). He did all these things to keep the covenant He made with Abraham and with the design that the people would then keep the covenant with Him (Psa. 105:42-45).

God keeps promises to His people. God protects His people. God provides for His people. God prepares His people. God proves His faithfulness time and time again. God prevails over all worldly obstacles. God makes all good things possible. He provides personal care with personal attention out of very personal love for all of His creation (Rom. 5:8-9). Why? Because He wants us to respond to Him personally with loving obedience (John 14:15). The LORD is a personal God, and that is why we should take what He has done for us personally.

Providence at Work

Psalm 104 opens with the same phrase that began the previous psalm, “Bless the LORD, O my soul!” In fact, the same phrase appears in the final verse of both psalms as well. Thus, they are linked not only by their proximity but also by their form. However, the connection grows even stronger when we examine their contents. A quick comparison of the wording found in Psalm 103:20-21 and Psalm 104:4 is sufficient to demonstrate that the latter psalm picks up the same theme introduced in Psalm 103:19-22 as if it were too grand a thought to treat so sparsely. And I must agree. In a world that worships at the altar of scientific arrogance coupled with philosophical nonsense, Psalm 104 offers a gentle reminder that a majestic Creator not only made the heavens and the earth but also provided a means to sustain it for as long as needed to fulfill its purpose as the home of those made in the image of God.

The psalmist presents creation as the royal robe of the King of kings (Psa. 104:1-2), a fitting metaphor signifying the grandeur of the One one who reigns, and then proceeds to describe creation in all its glory. Nature did not work itself out through millennia, but the LORD established the interaction of heat from the sun, air in the atmosphere, and water throughout to create the phenomena we see displayed in the weather, all carried on through God’s providence, as the role of angels makes clear (Psa. 104:2-4). While the LORD created the earth as the ideal environment for man, the subsequent flood of Noah changed its landscape and atmosphere tremendously. Nevertheless, the LORD’s care continued, causing the floodwaters to abate, the storms to retreat, and the rainbow to come as a reminder of the finality of that form of judgment as well as His promised future care (Psa. 104:5-9)—providence. The LORD ensured that water now would nourish the ground and quench the thirst of all His creation (Psa. 104:10-13). Through the LORD’s providence, He provided food for all creation, both for animals and men, as well the means for shelter (Psa. 104:14-18). His providence gave night, with the moon for light and opportunity for nocturnal animals to find their food (Psa. 104:19-21), and then gave day so man can see to do his work (Psa. 104:22-23). The oceans and seas are home to countless other creatures, but the LORD cares for them as well (Psa. 104:24-29). Indeed, His providence ensures their ongoing life (Psa. 104:30). Then, in earnest, the psalmist, building to a crescendo, moves His focus to man, just as God did the week of creation when He declared finally with the creation of both man and woman that it was very good (Psa. 104:31). But man needs guidance, prompting the psalmist’s allusion to the giving of the Law on Sinai (Psa. 104:32), and for this attention and care—a care that extends beyond the realm of nature to embrace the soul and eternity—we should respond with reverent worship in praise to the God (Psa. 104:33) and fill our minds with His will so that our lives might please Him, bring us joy, and avoid the judgment of those who ignore the One to Whom they owe so much (Psa. 104:34-35).

“Bless the LORD, O my soul!” This simple phrase declares the adoration due to the One who made us—a love born out of dependence, nurtured through life, and matured into an eternal relationship, a relationship that extends to the depths of the soul. The realization that only God could be responsible for the existence of man and the entire universe demands the conclusion and exclamation, “O LORD my God, You are very great.” But He deserves so much more, because He has done so much more. The LORD is not simply our Creator, but also our Provider. He not only provides for our bodies but also for our spirits. Our God sees in us the possibilities of eternity, and for this we should respond with adoration, “Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!“ (Psa. 104:35b).

What Do You Really Need?

I do not know when the idea of “finding yourself” came into vogue, but it surely has had a negative impact on how people see themselves. It usually causes people to focus on what they selfishly want while ignoring how much they actually need, as well as what they ought to be. As a result, people have begun to define themselves solely by the extent of their worldly ambitions rather than by the reality of the human condition. However, Psalm 103 offers a powerful corrective to this by redirecting attention away from self and toward the LORD to establish a spiritual perspective about life that should guide our ambitions while also comforting our spirit.

Life offers such great opportunity for personal growth, achievement, and freedom, but sadly many use the opportunities God has provided to rebel against Him and try to push Him out of their lives. Regardless, we need the LORD—more than we often realize. We need the LORD’s life-giving provision (Psa. 103:1-5). The blessings He provides mankind point to the core of mankind’s own limitations. We need the LORD’s forgiveness because we have sinned against the LORD’s will. We need His care because the human body is fragile. We need hope because life leads to destruction. We need God’s love because without it we could have none of the good things we tend to take for granted in life. More than that, we need the LORD’s righteous guidance (Psa. 103:6-8). He alone understands true justice and acts without any partiality. He has revealed His will because we need moral direction. He has shown us the greatest of character in all His interaction with His creation. And we needed Him to do so. We need the LORD’s bountiful mercy (Psa. 103:9-13). We need Him to be patient and longsuffering with us or else we could not repent and grow. We need forgiveness so desperately, especially in light of His justice, and His grace and mercy He has extended to make that possible. O how we need God! We need the LORD’s hopeful promises (Psa. 103:14-19). As our Creator, God knows our limitations, our frailty, and our futility, and we need to learn the same. We need to remember that life is short but eternity is long. We need to learn not to allow the pleasure of the moment to dictate the destiny of the soul. We need to recognize just how much we need God in our lives now so that we will be with God in eternity. We need to see into eternity and appreciate mercy, to view the majesty of the LORD and reverence Him, and to appreciate the revelation of His will so that we can obey it. The LORD is greater than life and greater than death. He reigns in heaven and beyond. But we need to let Him reign in our lives. The more we see happening in the world around us, the more we should see our need for the LORD’s providential care (Psa. 103:20-22). He does not work miracles through men any longer upon this earth, but through His providence He still exercises lordship over all His creation, using angels to carry out His will in the realm of nature, and this gives great confidence and meaning to prayer.

You need God. You need God to live. You need God to thrive. You need God to know right and wrong. You need God to know love. You need God to forgive. You need to know God. So many people are trying to find themselves in this mixed up world. Instead, what they really need is to look into the scriptures and find God.

Identifying with Adversity

The Jews who returned from Babylonian captivity faced numerous challenges in their attempts to rebuild the temple and the walls of Jerusalem. The rubble that was Jerusalem must have seemed an insurmountable and depressing challenge, and the rising opposition of non-Jews in the land created additional struggles. The stress created by such a situation took its toll on these Jews, but amidst this crisis of confidence, they turned to the LORD to see them through as Psalm 102 describes. Feeling overwhelmed by circumstances, the psalmist cried out to God (Psa. 102:1-2). The adversity, the sense of loneliness, and the persecution served as ready reminders of how much mankind needs God (Psa. 102:3-9), especially since we will all eventually face death (Psa. 102:10-11). And that is why it is so comforting to remember that the LORD is eternal (Psa. 102:12) and determined to see His purpose through to the end (Psa. 102:13-16). His will ensured the restoration of His people even if the Psalm’s author did not live to see it (Psa. 102:17-23). Whatever might happen upon the earth, the LORD Himself guarantees victory in eternity (Psa. 102:24-28). This message surely resonated with post-exilic Israel and gave them hope for their future. And yet, the message of this psalm looked forward to greater adversity and an even greater victory.

The meaning of Psalm 102:23-24 has two possible interpretations, both allowed by the consonants of the text and dependent upon the vowel pointing supplied. While the Hebrew of the Masoretic text provided the translation followed by English translations, the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, saw the vowel pointing differently, and the Holy Spirit followed this latter interpretation when inspiring Hebrews 1:10-12 in making verses twenty-four through twenty-eight the answer of God the Father to God the Son, thus making the psalm Messianic. And when we return to the beginning and consider the life of Jesus, the psalm has a flow that brings a powerful message.

Consider Jesus as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, imploring His Father for deliverance (Psa. 102:1-2). There He pled, feeling overwhelmed and alone (Psa. 102:3-7) while His enemies plotted against Him (Psa. 102:8), in agony because He knew full well the cost of sin and His own mission from God to accept its penalty on man’s behalf (Psa. 102:9-10). Therefore, fully aware of the torture that awaited Him, He realized the time for His death drew near (Psa. 102:11). However, even in this He had hope because of what His death would accomplish because God, the Father, lives on (Psa. 102:12). He knew that, by His death, God would show His grace to Israel (Psa. 102:13-14) and that even the Gentiles, those of other nations, would also benefit (Psa. 102:15-16). Indeed, this would be the answer to many prayers throughout the centuries (Psa. 102:17). Therefore, from both Jew and Gentile God would create a new people (Psa. 102:18), having defeated death on their behalf (Psa. 102:19-20) and bringing reason for great praise (Psa. 102:21-22). But at that moment, as the Septuagint reading indicates, the Father replied to the pleading and praise of the Son (Psa. 102:23) with a message that anticipated the gospel. Indeed, despite His death, the Messiah is indeed God and will live for all generations (Psa. 102:24). Through Him the heavens and the earth came into existence (Psa. 102:25; Gen. 1:1; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:3), and while they will be destroyed in the end (Psa. 102:26), the Messiah will endure (Psa. 102:27), as will the people He established and for which He died (Psa. 102:28).

Surely we can identify with the adversity of the Jews coming back from captivity. But how much greater is the thought that the Messiah, Jesus, chose to identify fully and completely with us? This indeed proved to be a foundational point in the opening of the book of Hebrews, but centuries beforehand, the Holy Spirit declared it through the inspired hand of the post-exilic psalmist.

The Promise of Thankfulness

David’s rise to the throne of Israel and subsequent reign dominate the landscape of Jewish history. From the young shepherd boy who fought wild animals to budding warrior who killed Goliath to the faithful soldier running from a jealous commander, the early life of David established a powerful backstory for the mightiest king in Israel’s history. Despite his youthful anointing by Samuel, he patiently and faithfully served Saul, consistently respecting him as “the LORD’s anointed.” Here we find no power-hungry leader but a man of faith and principle. He did not view his anointing as a political opportunity but as a spiritual responsibility. And while the psalms surrounding his coming to the throne located in Book One are more familiar, Psalm 101 offers great insight. It essentially records David’s promises to the LORD upon coming to the throne of the kingdom. However, this emphasis provides another practical consideration and perspective. David saw these characteristics as essential when he came to the throne of an earthly kingdom, but they have even greater application for all who become Christians and enter Christ’s heavenly kingdom (Matt. 16:18-19; Col. 1:13-14).

Throughout this psalm David makes a series of promises to the LORD. The two words “I will” dominate the psalm. But for the Christian, submitting to the reign of Christ as King by being immersed to enjoy the forgiveness promised (Acts 2:38) and the joy assured (1 John 1:4) is an even greater promise—the promise to live faithfully as a subject in the kingdom, whatever that may require (Rev. 2:10). David saw his responsibilities as God’s anointed leader of the nation of Israel, but truly Christians have an even greater obligation as subjects of a far greater kingdom. Therefore, upon entering the kingdom, Christians are promising to worship God faithfully (Psa. 101:1). This implies far more than regular attendance (Heb. 10:24-25) but rather a heart and soul dedicated to honoring the LORD as much as possible exactly how the LORD desires, as true worshippers do (John 4:24). More than this, upon entering the kingdom, Christians are promising to live and grow in accordance with God’s design and for God’s purposes rather than their own (Psa. 101:2). No disciple begins in exactly the same place, the same knowledge or the same problems, but every disciple should seek maturity in living for God by developing a spiritual maturity in a heart for God (1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18). Upon entering the kingdom, Christians are promising to distance themselves from wickedness of every kind (Psa. 101:3-5). It is therefore essential to eschew evil (1 Pet. 3:9-12), reprove the works of darkness (Eph. 5:11), maintain a holy heart (Matt. 5:8), and avoid the wrong companions (1 Cor. 15:33). More than this, upon entering the kingdom, Christians promise to keep close to the faithful (Psa. 101:6), following their example (1 Cor. 11:1), building relationships with them (John 13:34-35), and preferring their company (Rom. 12:10). Finally, upon entering the kingdom, Christians are promising to stand against evil however it presents itself (Psa. 101:7-8). Rather than compromising conviction, God’s people stand with the Savior (2 John 9-11). Instead of accepting iniquity, the LORD’s people take action against trespasses (2 Thess. 3:6).

David fell far short of these promises at times, as the rest of inspired history makes clear. But his heart brought him back to these promises and his desire to be faithful to God each and every time. When we become Christians, we are promising our loyalty, our fidelity, and our all to the One who saved us. We may fall short in practice here and there, but may we ever keep the heart of David with a determination to keep our promises.

The Origin of Thankfulness

Few traits demonstrate a combination of humility and joy better than thankfulness. Its very nature depends on recognizing others’ contributions to our well-being and happiness. Because of this, from a young age, most parents teach their children the importance of saying, “Thank you.” And yet, as we grow older, and perhaps because we lack the necessary humility or are missing out on the joys of life, we do not seem as ready to say it—even when the situation calls for it. However, Psalm 100 exudes thankfulness. Every phrase builds on the previous to express a crescendo of thanksgiving offered to the LORD Himself. This on its own bears imitation. But this psalm’s placement follows a poetic series that begins with man’s needs, shows God’s provision, points to the Messiah, and then marvels at the possibility of forgiveness the LORD makes available in the context of His judgment. As sinners needing all of these and yet incapable of creating any circumstance comparable to such a plan, thanksgiving ought to spring forth from within our hearts like a budding flower welcoming the sun. Indeed, the psalmist captures this very sentiment with this brief psalm’s joyful cry of thanks.

While the history of the United Kingdom records various times when David rightfully might express such appreciation, and while the Jews who returned from captivity most certainly would feel it, these should serve only as mere shadows to those who realize the forgiveness available through the blood of Jesus Christ. Indeed, the broad wording of the psalm allows the reader to consider all of these perspectives while encouraging him to internalize the psalm. Thus, all that God has done should motivate us to respond with thanksgiving—yet not simply a casual “Thank you” but rather a heartfelt gratitude that builds a relationship (2 Cor. 5:14). The reality of sin and its consequences should flood our soul with guilt and shame. Indeed, this makes the possibility of forgiveness all the more real and meaningful, which in turn causes joy to well up within us until it bursts forth for all to hear (Psa. 100:1; Phil. 4:4). More than that, it changes our behavior so significantly that we take joy in serving the LORD who made it possible (Psa. 100:2a; Rom. 12:1-2), worshiping (Psa. 100:2b; Jas. 5:13) and praising Him (Psa. 100:4; 1 Pet. 1:3-5) from a heart overwhelmed with gratitude. And yet, as the psalmist declares, this newfound passion has a specific focus: the LORD. Sadly, many people separate the opportunity of forgiveness from the will and character of the One who made it possible. But Psalm 100 so integrates thanksgiving with the One worthy of it that the personal character of real thanksgiving shines brightly. Indeed, couched within this song of thanks the psalmist points to the reasons why the LORD is so deserving. Yahweh, the Hebrew name translated LORD, means “the One who is there.” It is the covenant name of God signifying that He is by the very nature of His being but also that He is there for us (Psa. 100:1) as the offer of forgiveness so demonstrates. As our Creator, we owe our very existence to Him (Psa. 100:3a; Gen. 1:26-27; Col. 1:16-18). But He is also our Shepherd, caring for our every need (Psa. 100:3b; 23:1-6; John 10:1-10). He provides only what is good for us as part of His intrinsic nature (Psa. 100:5a; Jas. 1:17) and shows us mercy daily (Psa. 100:5b), disregarding our own character to offer aid because of His character. More than that, He does not allow us to wallow in our ignorance but reveals truth to us so that we might know Him and His will and be more like Him by doing His will (Psa. 100:5c; John 8:32; 12:48; 17:17). And because He is eternal so also can His forgiveness and blessings be bestowed on those who embrace that relationship with Him (Psa. 100:5; 1 Pet. 3:8). O how we should give thanks to the LORD—not only for what He has done for us, but also because of who HE is for us!

God Who Forgives

The LORD’s reign dominates the landscape of the brief section of psalms of which Psalm 99 is a part, and its offering includes just as much depth, opening once more with the powerful but elegant declaration, “The LORD reigns.” Building upon the previous psalms’ promise and Messianic hope, this song presents the exalted character of the LORD, thus expressing confidence not only in His right to judge but also in the righteousness of His judgment. As such, the knowledge of our human weakness—in every way—should wake us to the reality of just how unprepared we are to stand before His throne. We should tremble at the prospect, for this is the God of Israel who “dwells between the cherubim.” Indeed, the whole earth should quake at the thought (Psa. 99:1). He is exalted above mankind—not simply by His placement on Mount Zion in Jerusalem but because He reigns from heaven itself (Psa. 99:2). This is no idol contrived by man and reflective of man’s foibles. Yahweh stands above such flaws in perfect holiness (Psa. 99:3). Therefore, He remains the rightful King, having the strength of rule and the character to judge (Psa. 99:4). His decisions and His will reflect His holiness, and He thus deserves not only allegiance, but also adoration and worship (Psa. 99:5). He has every right to reign, every right to rule, every right to judge.

Then, in an interesting turn, the psalm turns to three prominent men from Israel’s past: Moses, Aaron, and Samuel (Psa. 99:6a). Each interacted with the LORD in a rather personal way: Moses as lawgiver, Aaron as high priest, and Samuel as a prophet. However, the psalmist emphasizes one unifying characteristic among them: “They called upon the LORD, and He answered them” (Psa. 99:6). The LORD spoke by right of His reign, and these great leaders of the past fulfilled their role as divine subjects: they obeyed (Psa. 99:7). But what type of occasion did these share in common? They each interceded for people who needed God’s forgiveness, for the psalm declares, “You answered them, O LORD our God; You were to them God-Who-Forgives, Though You took vengeance on their deeds” (Psa. 99:8). He did not take away the consequences of their actions, but He did send away their sin. The holy God who established His perfect standard, the divine King who reigns over all, the just Judge who holds our fate in His hand is also “God-Who-Forgives.” What a powerful, moving thought!

The LORD reigns. How truly glorious that is! And when we recall the preceding crescendo of the previous similar psalms, we gain an even greater insight. The LORD came to a world of dying men (Psa. 90), trusted God as a man (Psa. 91), lived as a man among unworthy men (Psa. 92), lived as God among men (Psa. 93), was rejected by senseless men (Psa. 94),  was needed by men (Psa. 95), overcame all odds to establish His kingdom (Psa. 96), proved Himself worthy of worship (Psa. 97), and achieved the greatest of victories on behalf of God for the benefit of mankind (Psa. 98). And all of this was essential to make forgiveness available to man. Oh, indeed, the LORD is worthy of exaltation. He is worthy of worship. And He is holy in every way (Psa. 99:9).

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