Psalm 106 is a retelling of the story of the Israelites, God’s people, the chosen nation. And for 43 verses, it’s a mess. It’s probably the worst indictment of any people in Scripture (don’t hold me to that). If I were an Israelite and I read that being written about me, I’d probably feel pretty bad.
The author basically goes in on them. One passage (v. 16-23):
When men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord, the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and covered the company of Abiram. Fire also broke out in their company; the flame burned up the wicked. They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a metal image. They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt, wondrous works in the land of Ham, and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. Therefore he said he would destroy them—had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him, to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
This is a pretty serious indictment. We get to see part of the punishment and part of the reason for their disciplining. They worshipped a metal image. They “exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass.” They put their heart and their intentions in the wrong place. Only because Moses stood in the breach did they escape annihilation.
It’s a pretty sad and somber Psalm. Until v. 43-46:
Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity. Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive.
“For their sake,” the Psalmist says, God “remembered his covenant, and relented.”
This is the Gospel of the Old Testament. The Gospel of the Old Testament is that God sticks with His people, even when they are rebellious and disobedient. There’s still a law-keeping requirement, there’s still an insistence on making sacrifices and such, but at the end of the day, even when His people are rebellious, God does not abandon them completely. “When he heard their cry,” the Psalmist writes, “he looked upon their distress.” God could have abandoned them in their distress and taught them a lesson. But instead of abandoning them completely, He stuck with them.
And because He stuck with them, we get Jesus down the road and we get complete and utter salvation.
God’s grace takes a number of different forms to us now, those of us in the new covenant. One of them is the fact that He sticks with us, that He never leaves nor forsakes us. And we get to see a sweet picture of that throughout the Old Testament.