What we have here is a glorious retelling of God’s deliverance of Israel in and through the Exodus. In addition, we find that it is a retelling that is theologically sophisticated, and that on several levels.
“O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: Make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him: Talk ye of all his wondrous works. Glory ye in his holy name: Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord, and his strength: Seek his face evermore. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done; His wonders, and the judgments of his mouth . . .” (Psalm 105:1-45).
Summary of the Text:
The listener is invited to give thanks to the Lord, and to make His deeds known the people (v. 1). We are to sing to Him, and talk of His mighty works (v. 2). We should glory in His name, and those who seek Him should rejoice (v. 3). Seek the Lord, and His strength, and His face (v. 4). Recall the history of all His deeds (v. 5). The descendants of Abraham are summoned to this glorious duty (v. 6). He is God, and He judges all the earth (v. 7). God is a God who remembers His covenants to a thousand generations (v. 8), including, for instance, His covenant with Abraham (v. 9), Isaac (v. 9), and Jacob (v. 10). This is for all Israel, for an everlasting covenant (v. 10). He promised to grant them Canaan (v. 11), and the promise was made when they were just few in number (v. 12). And while they were on their pilgrimage, He protected them as His own anointed (vv. 13-15).
God was the one who called up the famine that brought Israel down into Egypt in the first place (v. 16), and He had sent a man before them to prepare for them (v. 17). He was a slave, and his feet were afflicted by the fetters (v. 18). Until it was time for Joseph’s word to rule, the word of the Lord tested him (v. 19). The Pharaoh released him (v. 20), and put him in charge of everything (vv. 21-22). Jacob himself came down to the land of Ham (v. 23), and the Jews multiplied (v. 24). God arranged for the Egyptians to turn on them (v. 25), and then He sent Moses and Aaron with the power to work wonders (vv. 26-27).
Though darkness was not the first plague historically, the psalmist begins with it (v. 28). It was an emblematic plague. The Egyptians worshiped the sun under the name Osiris, and the word Pharaoh includes sun as one of its meanings. God also turned the Nile to blood and killed their fish (v. 29). Another plague was that of frogs everywhere (v. 30). God spoke, and there were all kinds of flying insects, and lice everywhere (v. 31). He gave them hail and fire (v. 32), and He struck their vines, fig trees, and other trees (v. 33). Then there were the locusts and countless caterpillars (v. 34), and they ate everything (v. 35). The ultimate stroke was that of taking the life of all the first born sons in the land (v. 36). The Israelites took the Egyptian silver and gold at their departure, with Egypt wrecked behind them, and not one Israelite limping (v. 37). The Egyptians were glad to see them go, in effect paying them to do so, and God placed a fear of the Jews on them (v. 38). The kindness of God gave the Israelites shade by day, and fire at night (v. 39). He gave the people quail and manna both (v. 40), and here it does not mention the discreditable way in which the children of Israel grumbled for the quail. He opened a rock for them so that they might have water (v. 41). And why? Because He had remembered His word to Abraham (v. 42). He brought the people out with joy and gladness (v. 43). He gave them the land of the heathen (goyim), and so they inherited Canaan (v. 44). This was so that they might keep God’s laws, and praise the Lord (v. 45).
The Sovereignty of God:
While this matter of sovereignty is not the main point of this psalm, it is an assumption that undergirds the entire psalm, and so we should take just a few moments to consider it. You should recall that Joseph attributed the treachery of his brothers to the good counsels of God. “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Gen. 50:20). We see the same reality acknowledged here, which teaches us that God can handle dirty instruments without soiling His hands. How did Joseph get down into Egypt? The psalm says that God sent him there (v. 17)—and this meant that the sale of Joseph into slavery by his brothers was God’s instrument for saving the lives of those brothers, and their families. So trust God; always trust God.
The sin of Joseph’s brothers was one of the instruments God used to save Joseph’s brothers. The sin of Judas, and Herod, and Pilate, and the Romans, and the Jews, the most monstrous of all sins ever committed on this planet, was the sin that God was using to save the world. For what does it say? “The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4:26–28). The wickedness of the entire world built a high gallows in order to hang the righteousness of God, and, Haman-like, was hanged there instead. Oh, the depth of the wisdom!
We see the same principle at work later on in the psalm. Why did the Egyptians turn hostile toward Israel? “He turned their heart to hate his people, to deal subtilly with his servants” (Ps. 105:25). You have heard it often, and you will hear it many times again. God draws straight with crooked lines.
The Tabernacle of David:
The apostle Paul tells us, flat out, that the inclusion of the Gentiles together with the Jews, was a “great mystery” (Eph. 3:6). It is now plainly revealed in the new covenant, but after the fact, as we search the Old Testament Scriptures, we can see it everywhere—and particularly in this psalm. The establishment and founding of Israel was in fact the hope of the entire world. Now the covenantal establishment occurred at Mount Sinai, when Israel solemnly covenanted with God. But the dramatic establishment of the nation of Israel occurred in the Exodus. So walk with me through this.
As a moment’s reflection shows, this psalm is all about that Exodus—the birth of Israel.
Now the first fifteen verses of this psalm are also found at the dedication of the Tabernacle of David (1 Chron. 16:7-22). At the Council of Jerusalem, the Lord’s brother James explicitly takes the prophecy of Amos (Amos 9:11-12) that the Tabernacle of David will be rebuilt as referring to the inclusion of the Gentiles that was happening through the gospel. The building of the first Tabernacle by David was also geared to the Gentiles—consider, for example, the role of Obed-edom. And consider also the fact that while the Tabernacle was dedicated with blood sacrifices, it was not for blood sacrifices. The Tabernacle (on Mount Zion) was reserved for music. The Tabernacle of David was a precursor the international catholicity of the church.
And just as God humbled the brothers of Joseph as His means of saving them, so also He humbled the goyim of Canaan (v. 44) as His means of saving the goyim of the entire earth. Praise the Lord, you people (v. 1), for His judgments are marvelous throughout the entire earth (v. 7).
Good News for the Nations:
And so here you are, in northern Idaho, two thousand years after the Lord Jesus accomplished your salvation, and three thousand years after King David prophetically enacted it through the sacrifice of his praise.
“For the kingdom is the Lord’s: And he is the governor among the nations” (Ps. 22:28).
“O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: For thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth” (Ps. 67:4).
“Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: All nations shall serve him” (Ps. 72:11).
“All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name” (Ps. 86:9).
All authority, whether in heaven or on earth, has been given to the Lord Jesus Christ. All the nations belong to Him, because He bought them with His blood. And this is the sure foundation of God’s good news for this sorry planet.