A few beginning comments about how this psalm fits into the Bible: If you look just past the last verse of this psalm, you will probably see a heading before the beginning of Psalm 107 that reads, “Book Five, Psalms 107-150.” Long ago, after God had inspired David and others to write the individual Psalms, they were collected and arranged into the form we have today. From the beginning, Psalms has been divided into five “books” or sections. Ancient rabbis taught that they corresponded to the five books of the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy). Each “book” in Psalms ends with a “doxology,” a distinct expression of praise to God (see Psalm 41:13, 72:18-19, 89:52, 106:48, 150:6). Psalm 106, today’s key chapter, is one of these special “doxology” psalms.
This psalm, which begins and ends with a shout of praise, emphasizes two great truths between the hallelujahs: sin is extremely serious, and God is shockingly gracious.
Verses 6-7 recalls the sin of the Israelites when they had seen God perform the astounding miracles that led to their deliverance from Egypt, but then rebelled against His love and questioned His motives (see Exodus 14:10-14). That kind of sin is extremely serious. But in verse 8 of this psalm we read that wonderful word, “yet” (or “nevertheless”); it means “in spite of that.” In spite of all that sin, after all God had done for His people, and after they so quickly forgot His love — “He saved them”! God is shockingly gracious.
Verses 13-18 recounts the rebellion of the Israelites in the wilderness, and how God punished their sin swiftly and severely (see Numbers 16:1-35). Sin is extremely serious. Verses 19-23 tells about how Israel “forgot God, their Savior” and committed the sin of idolatry, causing Him to want to wipe them out entirely (v.23). Sin is extremely serious.
In verses 24-27 we read of the sin of unbelief. At the threshold of the Promised Land, God told the Israelites to go in and possess it, but they “murmured in their tents and did not obey” (v.25). God’s reaction to that rebellion was harsh. Sin is extremely serious. Verses 28-42 record even more idolatry, immorality, unbelief, whining, disobedience, and the unthinkably detestable sin of child sacrifice (v.37-38). Sin is extremely serious.
In verses 44-45 we find the turning point of the psalm — and the hope of every sinner: “Nevertheless (in spite of all their sin), He looked upon their distress, when He heard their cry (for forgiveness)…and relented according to the abundance of His steadfast love.” God had mercy on them in spite of all the ways they sinned against His love and turned a cold shoulder to His kindness. God is shockingly gracious! Can you relate?