PSALMS 106:1 – 108:13 and GALATIANS 5:1–26
David again refers to Israel’s history as he did in the previous Psalm. This time however he reveals the sin of which Israel was guilty and makes confession on their behalf. Though he refers to something historical he makes a priestly prayer on their behalf by identifying and accepting responsibility for their actions. This is one of the primary roles of a priest and it certainly falls in line with what Jesus did on our behalf. David acknowledges the blessing that comes in the keeping his judgements and doing righteousness (vs 3). Notice in verse 6 how he identifies with the sins of his fathers. He then cites where Israel went astray. He begins in verse 7 by recounting their complaint at the brink of the Red Sea (Exo 14:11, 12). This event was more than just a deliverance for Israel from Egypt. It was an event that brought total destruction to the enemy. There is a truth that takes place here we need to note. The iniquity of Egypt had become ripe before God. It was God who hardened the heart of Pharaoh to again bring his armies against Israel at the Red Sea. It was an opportunity to move in total judgement against the enemy. It was because Moses and Israel were at the right place at the right time that God sovereignly opened up the Red Sea. It is here where we also have two different perspectives: You have Moses who saw this as an opportunity to demonstrate the power of God contrasted with Israel who only saw the impossibilities. It is another example where we can say these groups exist today. Are we more like Moses or more like Israel?
Psa 106:11 And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left.
I often refer to the above verse when teaching on the importance of water baptism. When we are placed under water we are identifying with the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. It can also be likened to the old man represented by Egypt being put to death in type. We then are brought back up in newness of life which is symbolic of the Lord’s resurrection power. The old man (Egypt) is left behind and buried. It is an act of faith that can be referenced as we continue on in our Christian journey. In verses 13-15 David cites their lusting after flesh (meat) in the wilderness (Num 11). It was one of the 10 trials where Israel failed; in this case it was in the area of unthankfulness. This attitude brings hardness to the heart which makes it vulnerable to offense. This is what happened to Israel. The other danger is that God ended up giving them what they were asking for but it was not for their good. This is very dangerous because it emboldens the person in thinking they were right in their persistence. This is an important truth that needs to be meditated upon (Eze 14:3, 7, 9, 20:25).
The next sin that David brings up is the envying of Moses and Aaron by Dathan, Korah and Abiram. This oftentimes happens when a standard is being lifted up that others choose not to live up to (Num 16). A person or group of people who have it in their heart to go all out for God will shine an unsavoury light upon those who settle in a comfort zone. This is how churches divide and it will be something that will be seen in the last days. In verse 19-23 David speaks on the issue of the Golden calf. I would recommend going back and reviewing the summary from Exo 32 for a more detailed view of this account. Once again we see two groups of people or congregations. We noted Aaron who established his congregation at the foot of Mt. Sinai based on what people wanted. Where was Moses? He was up on the Mt. of Sinai receiving the Law from God. He established His ministry and congregation based on what God was saying. Which of the two will define us or define our respective churches? Are we more interested in what people say or what God says? In verses 24-27 we see the time where they failed to enter into the land. Once again we see two groups; there are the children of Israel who confessed their inability to possess the land because of the giants contrasted with Caleb who confessed that they were well able to go in (Num 13:30-31). Which of the two best defines us?
In verses 28-31 the sin at Baal Peor is referenced. This was a significant event for many reasons; it took place at the very time God wanted to bring them over Jordan. It was a picture of a true priestly ministry as seen in Phineas (Num 25:11-12). It was also at this time when Balaam sowed the seeds of Baal worship which only grew stronger through the generations. It culminated during the rule of Ahab and Jezebel and nearly resulted in the destruction of the royal seed (2 Kings 11). The sin of Balaam was not limited to his day; in fact we are reminded of Balaam in the Lord’s message to the church of Pergamos in the Book of Revelation (Rev 2:14). In verses 32-33 we have the sin of murmuring at the waters of Meribah recorded. This particular sin resulted in Moses becoming angry and violating a precious “type” of the Lord in his striking the rock twice. This public act prevented him from being among those who would have the privilege of entering into the Promised Land. In verses 34-44 we see instances where Israel disobeyed God after being brought into Canaan. The Lord faithfully exhorted through Moses about the blessings of keeping the Lord’s commandments and statutes nonetheless they disobeyed and paid the consequences. In the final few verses David references some of their examples of disobedience during the reign of the Judges. It was at the end of this period where God would begin to establish a new order of king and priest through Samuel. To summarise Psalm 106 we see David acting in his role as a priest in the confessing of the sins of Israel from their history. We catch a better glimpse of David’s likeness of heart to that of the Lord. One can well understand why the Lord would be so affectionally disposed to this wonderful man.
Here we see a psalm filled with great rejoicing and thanksgiving in how the Lord continually delivered Israel out of distress. The Psalm opens with the redeemed of the Lord proclaiming the mighty victories against their enemies. He speaks of the mercies of the Lord that endure forever. In verses 4-9 there is a record of the wilderness wanderings and how in the end the Lord met every need. The chorus “Oh that men would praise the Lord” (vs 8) is cited on numerous occasions in this Psalm and yes it is a song that used to be sung in the early charismatic days. In verses 10-16 there is the account in how the Lord would deliver the rebellious from their self-inflicted bondage. They were a people who did not hearken to God’s Word or commandments and as a result were brought into cruel bondage. They cried unto the Lord and once again the Lord was there to deliver them. “Oh that men would praise the Lord” (vs 15).
In verses 17-22 we see where the Lord delivered the children of Israel from sickness. He would send forth His Word and heal them. We see an example of this in the New Testament where the Lord was able to send forth healing on behalf of the centurion’s servant (Mat 8:5-13). “Oh that men would praise the Lord” (vs 21). There are an interesting few verses I would like to highlight.
Psa 107:23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
Psa 107:24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
I often refer to these verses when referring to coming out of our “comfort zones.” We oftentimes like to stay close to the shore where it is safe. If the waves become strong or threatening we can quickly retreat to safety. The Bible makes clear that those who are willing to step out into great waters are those who will see the Lord’s wonders in the deep. This does not mean that we presume upon God but rather that we hear and respond to His voice. I also like to use the example of the Shulamite and the King from the Song of Songs to make the same point. The relationship between the two is a close and intimate one through the first 4 chapters. In chapter 5 the king comes calling like at other times but when the Shulamite opens the door she finds that her love is not there. She is now faced with a dilemma. Does she stay within the confines of her home, her comfort zone, hoping that the relationship will continue as before; or does she step out into the deep of the street and city to seek after the one whom she so loves? This example relates well to the above two verses.
In verses 32-42 we see the Lord’s judgements upon the wicked while showing compassion for the poor. He protects the livestock and goods of those who are poor and who are seeking after Him. The Psalmist finalises his words by exhorting those who read to be wise and observe the things that are being said. There will be the blessings of knowing and understanding the loving kindness of the Lord. It is important to note history and learn from it. We have been blessed with such a record of testimony so it behoves us to be responsible and ask the Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance these examples and to appropriate them accordingly.
This is a unique Psalm of David seeing that we have seen these verses before. It is clear that the Lord seeks to emphasize and reinforce truths from this Psalm. One can compare verses 1-5 with Psalm (57:7-11) and verses 6-13 with Psalm (60:5-12) There must be a reason why this Psalm is a combination of these two noted portions above.
In verses 1-5 we see David making a strong statement on the importance of praise. It is a declaration of God’s mercy and glory that is seen over all the earth. We need to take note that David had a focus within his heart which helped to keep away distractions. The fruits were seen in the love that he had for the presence of God. It was one thing to try and discipline our minds to focus upon God but yet another to have a fixed heart. This resulted from his continual prayer of having a pure heart. All one has to do is look at how he prayed to understand how he could have a singular pursuit of God (Psa 26:2, Psa 139:22-23). The Apostle Paul contributes to this thought by speaking on the importance of setting our affections on things above. This helps to keep contrary thoughts and hindrances at bay. This is one of the reasons why David was so powerful in praise and worship.
Paul is now going to bring forth practical applications from what was laid out in chapters 3 and 4. The first two chapters established Paul’s credentials as an apostle. In Chapters 3 and 4 Paul deals with the doctrine of justification by faith. Paul was not one to isolate doctrine from practical application of day to day life. We will see this in the last two chapters of Galatians. This is one of the primary strengths of the Apostle Paul. He could adapt to any environment while presenting the Gospel message in relevant terms to his audience.
Paul had established the freedom that we have in Christ in the previous chapter. In verse one he exhorts us to stand fast in that freedom. This is an act of volition on the part of the believer. God has done His part and our response is to flow in what God has provided. To stand fast means that we are to hold steady, go forth in God and not to turn back into the bondage from where we have come. The Galatians were all too prone to revert back to Judaistic teaching whenever enticing speakers would come their way. This is an act required on our part; to shake ourselves loose from the heavy bands of tradition that so easily keeps a people bound.
Paul again reminds them in verses 2-4 the bondage of seeking to be justified by the law. The emphasis is again on circumcision meaning that unless people were circumcised and keeping the Law of Moses they could not be saved. This teaching undermined the work of Christ’s death on the cross. The Judaizers could not come to terms with the spirit of the Law. They could not see the Old Testament Law as pointing to a greater Covenant and that the Law was fulfilled in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Galatians submitted to the teaching of Circumcision as the sole means of salvation which means that Christ has not profited them. Paul counters this false teaching by stating that it is through the Spirit of God by faith that we are deemed to be righteous. It is faith through the Lord Jesus Christ, not the teaching on circumcision that justifies us. It is not the keeping of exterior rules and regulations that save us. It is through faith that we are saved and it is through faith that we are changed; not by works of the flesh. True righteousness is realized in our interaction with the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Doing good works are laudable and to be encouraged but it is never to be a substitute for faith in Christ. We can never earn our way to salvation. The Galatians had been liberated by the teachings of Paul but soon found themselves swept back into legalism under the work of the Judaizers.
The Galatians started well but soon went back to their old ways as they gave ear to the wrong people. Our faith must be one that is rooted and grounded otherwise we too can be steered off course by clever teachers. This is a problem that must be watched carefully in the church as well. It is more than being enticed out of Christianity. There is the danger within the church to be taken down a contrary or inferior path. We must know our doctrine and be a people who have a love for the Word of God. As we approach the last days we must take close heed to good doctrine. There are many false teachings that have been introduced into the church in recent years which is bringing division in the body of Christ. It looks good, sounds good but where is it ultimately leading? This is a primary question we should humbly bring to the Lord. “What is the end of the matter?” Where does this teaching ultimately lead to? The modern day Galatian problem in today’s church is more than just Judaistic teaching on the need for circumcision. It is more subtle and it has the potential of being even more damaging than what Paul was dealing with in his day. Paul had great confidence that the Galatians would come through in the end.
One of the problems that confronted the Galatian believer’s was the message of the Cross. It was an offense to many and we can say that 2000 years later not much has changed. The message of the Cross challenges the issues of the heart. It rejects human merit and glory which sadly is becoming more of an issue in many of today’s churches. Paul was distraught that these teachers were seeking to undermine the work and ministry that had been sowed into the lives of the people. He even went so far to wish that they were cut off from among them (vs 12). It sounds similar to what Christ taught in the Gospels about those who offend the body (Mark 9:43-48). There are times when an offending person needs to be removed from the body of Christ. If such a person is unrepentant and not willing to change their ways it may be better to pray that they be removed.
Paul gives a very pertinent warning to Galatians about how they use their liberty (vs 13). It is not meant to be a license to do whatever they want. This is seen in some churches today in how the message of grace is taught. The law of liberty is meant more for serving others in love than for indulging ourselves in the flesh (vs 13-14). True love is learning to love our neighbour as our self (Math 7:12). A legalist who seeks to keep the law ends up being its greatest violator because he is unable to love. He is hard, judgemental and vindictive while being filled with self-righteousness.
The only true remedy is to be a people who learn to walk after the spirit and not the flesh. This is how holiness can be developed within the life of a person. In walking after the Spirit there is no fulfilling of the lust of the flesh. God has granted the liberty to do so but there is a choosing on our part as to which members we will serve. Paul address this subject more thoroughly in chapters 6-8. (Please see the commentary on Romans 6-8 for insights on Law, Grace, Sin and the choice to either walk in the spirit or the flesh.)
The works of the flesh are listed in verses 19-21. These attributes are rather easy to identify and will result in great damage if not dealt with. It is not difficult to see many of these fruits being manifested in today’s world. In fact, the fruit seems to be riper than ever. These works of the flesh are contrasted with the fruits of the Spirit seen in verses 22-23. The fruits of the Spirit are attributes of the Holy Spirit. They serve as strengths that will hold a believer steady through any situation. These are the fruits that the Lord desires to become manifested in His people. Remember, the fig tree that the Lord was hungry for in Mark 11:13? It serves as a picture of that which the Lord is looking for in our lives. It is the fruits of the Spirit that helps to prepare the bride for the bridegroom. Each of these fruits, if developed helps us to become more like the Son of God Himself. It puts to death the workings and cravings of the flesh. There is a war between the flesh and the Spirit and the question remains as to which of the two will prevail? This is the question that Paul poses to the Romans regarding to whom they will yield their members to (Rom 8:1, 4). That is a question that can be asked of us as well. Our life will ultimately be determined by our fruits.
Mat 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Paul closes this chapter by making it clear that holiness is a choice. It is not something that can be achieved in our strength but by grace through faith. God does His part but it requires a cooperative spirit on ours. If we learn to yield to His promptings we will be in a position to becoming more like Him. His fruit will grow and develop which in the end puts death to the flesh and its lusts. It involves a choosing to embrace the “crucified” life. A primary key is learning to seek the welfare of others while staying humble under His protective hand.