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I was reading Psalm 106 this morning in my new ESV Study Bible. I am enjoying reading a different version than my beloved New King James. As a side note, I have to say I’m a little disappointed that the ESV editors didn’t capitalize the pronouns referring to God for two reasons. The first is that it shows honor and respect and deference. The second reason is that it clears up confusion sometimes of who the “he,  him” is referring to. But back to the Psalm.

Psalm 106 is a historical Psalm like Psalms 78 and 105. Psalm 106 recaps some of the events of Moses leading the Israelites in the Wilderness. This Psalm illustrates God’s faithfulness and steadfast love to the rebellious and unfaithful Israelites.

It is good for us to know and to praise God for His many attributes. One of His attributes is faithfulness. God is always faithful. He cannot be unfaithful. 2 Timothy 2:12-13 says, “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful— for He cannot deny Himself.”  God always remains faithful.

If you are a reader of our Thinking Girls Bible Study, you may recall our Speak to the Rock study, where we studied Moses when he really messed up and didn’t get to go into the Promised Land. So what caught my eye while reading this Psalm in particular was verse 32: “They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account,” and the footnote for this verse: “At the waters of Meribah the people complained about lack of water and accused Moses of bringing them out of Egypt, apparently forgetting that Moses had acted thoroughly as God’s spokesman. (Numbers 20:2-13) (see note there) Their unbelief led Moses to speak rashly (i.e., to become careless about acting by faith) and thus to lose his right to enter the Promised Land.” (1.) (Emphasis mine.)

This really struck me how applicable this is to our present situation. In our crazy and confusing world around us where so many are falling from the faith, where so many believers are deceived, where so many false teachers are within the church, wolves dressed in sheeps’ clothing, it has become even harder to maintain our witness. Our world is a mess and it would be very easy to become careless about acting by faith. But we must remain faithful. We must persevere…to make it to the finish line as Paul was constantly exhorting us to do. We can’t let the actions of others cause us to let our spirits become bitter, our lips to speak rashly. We can’t let anger take root in our hearts.

In the Numbers 20:2-13 footnote, we read, “Complaints of water characterized the journey from the Red Sea to Sinai (Exodus 15:22-27;17:1-7), and now they occur again. In both situations Moses struck the rock with his staff. This is what he had been told to do in Exodus 17:6, but on this second occasion he had been told to speak to the rock (Numbers 20:8). This deviation from carrying out God’s instruction led to Moses’ being condemned not to bring this assembly into the land (v. 12). Since this seems like a minor error, it has been suggested that it was Moses’ anger (see v. 10) to which God took exception. But verse 12 seems to make it clear that it was carelessness in attending to God’s command that was the real issue. Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people. As the prime mediators of God’s laws to Israel, Moses and Aaron had to be exemplary in their obedience. Their failure to follow the divine instruction exactly led to their forfeiting their right to enter Canaan. Some have suggested that another factor was involved: since God had told Moses in the earlier incident, “I will stand before you there on the rock” (Exodus 17:6), Moses should have known that God was present here on the rock as well, therefore Moses’ speaking to the rock (Numbers 20:8) would be actually speaking to God, and therefore when Moses struck the rock with his staff twice (v. 11), it was a serious manifestation of anger against God, and it is not surprising that God punished Moses severely (cf. note on 1 Corinthians 10:3-4). Others hold that the emphasis here is on the difference between what God commanded and what Moses did; usually Moses did just what God commanded him, but not here. It was similar carelessness by Aaron’s sons that led to their death in Leviticus 10:1-3. The phraseology of Numbers 20:12 also echoes that of the spy story, where God complains, “How long will they not believe in me.” (14:11) The people’s unbelief led to their exclusion from the land; so did Aaron’s and Moses’ unbelief. Meribah means “quarelling” in Exodus 17:7, Rephidim was also nicknamed Meribah (see also Psalm 95:8). (2.)

The first takeaway on this is another attribute of God is holiness. Lord, let me always be mindful of Your holiness and never misrepresent it in my own actions. Another takeaway is I have found myself contending with God when He has not answered my prayers that have been praying for years. Prayers that I know are according to His will. I have had to repent of this. We must be very careful not to contend, not to quarrel with the Lord. The last takeaway for this passage—for today, anyway—is the unbelief. Unbelief, like pride, at least for me is hard to confess. Let’s be like the father who confessed to the Lord, “I believe, help my unbelief."

We’ll end this study with God telling Moses again why he can’t enter the Promised Land before he dies. Deuteronomy 32:51: “because you broke faith with me in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribah-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin, and because you did not treat me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel.” Oh may we not break faith with our Lord. May we never, as His image bearers, portray Him in any other way than what He is. May we be found faithful at the Bema seat and not lose our rewards.

1.  ESV Study Bible, p. 1077

2.  ESV Study Bible, p. 297


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