When We Forget

Posted On August 18, 2017

Whoever wrote Psalm 105, 106, and 107 is an historian. These psalms recall the “mighty deeds of the Lord.” Psalm 105 takes us back to creation, back to the days of Isaac, to Jacob. We watch Israel go into Egypt, and we watch Israel brought out by Moses after a series of plagues. We see Israel enter the land. All the while, God is at work in the lives of His people. The psalmist reminds us that in all of this God kept His promise to Abraham. This is holy history, the fulfillment of holy promises (Psalm 105:42). We watch this catalog of deeds unfold before us as the psalmist exhorts us to “observe His laws” and to, above all, “Praise the Lord.” It’s good to remember.

Psalm 107 has five stanzas, punctuated with a refrain reminding us to “Thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of men” (Psalm 107:8, 15, 21, 31, 43). The varied ways God rescues and preserves His people cascade through these five stanzas. This is not the story of lives; this is the story of God’s faithfulness on display in and through lives. That’s good to remember, too.

In the middle of all of this holy history is Psalm 106. Psalms 105 and 107 are about remembering—and all the good things that come of remembering. Psalm 106 raises the issue of what happens when we forget. Psalm 106:7 declares, “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works.” Then, at the foot of the mountain, while Moses was in the very presence of God, the people “made a calf in Horeb . . . They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass” (Ps 106:19–20). In short, “They forgot God, their Savior, who had done great things in Egypt” (Ps 106:21).

Remembering begets obeying. Remembering begets acts of praise and worship. Forgetting begets disobedience. And disobedience begets judgment. Psalm 106 records not only the forgetting but also those times of judgment, when “the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people” (Ps. 106:40). The God who can do wondrous deeds of redemption and rescue can also do mighty deeds of judgment.

Yet, even in Psalm 106, the Psalmist can reassure us:

Nevertheless, He looked upon their distress, when He heard their cry.

For their sake, He remembered His covenant,

and relented according to His steadfast love.

The words “when He heard their cry,” should be noted. Crying out speaks of repentance, a calling out for mercy. It’s the remembering breaking through all the forgetting. We remember who God is. We remember who we are. We remember the covenant. We remember God’s covenant faithfulness. Then we cry for mercy.

Psalms 105, 106, and 107 are a history lesson. With beauty and clarity, they display for us what happens when we remember and what happens when we forget. The ending of Psalm 107:43 puts a fine point on it:

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things.

Let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Dr. Stephen Nichols is president of Reformation Bible College.