Psalm 106 – Wearing Our Garbage

Psalm 106 Bible With Lily's Original Dark Chocolate

Today’s ChocolateLily’s Original Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagePsalm 106

We’re in Big Psalm Territory now, and today’s forty-eight-verse song concerns God’s goodness to his rebellious children. I’m reminded of one day from my Modernist Literature class in college when we had been discussing religious themes in James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. At the end of the class, the professor tangentially noted that the Old Testament is often uncomplimentary toward its “heroes,” reporting their faults and shortcomings rather than building them up as larger-than-life figures of greatness. You’ll find this phenomenon in the narratives of the Torah, but you’ll also find it in this psalm.

I’m also reminded of a line from the song “Real” by rapper NF: “You wanna know where my heart is? I stand out ’cause I wear my garbage.” In the same song, he says, “Father, forgive me, for I am a sinner, but you gave me music as medicine.” And in Psalm 106, that’s what’s going on at the communal level with Israel. They are wearing their garbage, and through the psalmist, God is giving them music as medicine.

After an introductory call to worship, praising God’s greatness and requesting his favor upon Israel, the psalmist delivers a thesis statement of sorts in verse 6: “We have sinned like our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly.” The bulk of the psalm is a poetic recounting of Israel’s history, highlighting God’s intervention for their benefit, their rebellions (Dathan and Abiram, Numbers 16:12-15, 21-35; the Golden Calf, Exodus 32; idolatry at Shittim, Numbers 25:1-9; and more), God’s anger at their sin and his forgiveness and compassion toward them. And the psalm doesn’t shove Israel’s past under the bed, or say, “That was our ancestors, we’re different now, we’re better than them and we’ve learned not to sin.” It acknowledges Israel’s heritage as redeemed sinners, and it reinforces a theme we’ve seen before: God doesn’t choose his people because they’re good. He chooses his people because he’s good. And he does good for his people to show everyone just how good he is.

Once the psalm concludes its review of Israel’s history, it delivers two prominent lines in the coda: “Save us, O Lord our God…Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel” (106:47-48). In light of their history, this is where the children of Israel find themselves in singing this song. They ask for salvation from afflictions both internal and external, both sin and oppression, and they praise God for his greatness.

I can’t help but think that when the people come before God and wear their garbage, he works to turn their garbage into poetry, into a song, into music as medicine.

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