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Psalm 105

Praise our promise-keeping God

Distorted memories disorient us since we find our place in the present by remembering the past truly. Together with Psalm 106, this post-exilic psalm helped set the record straight on Israel’s history.

Give Yahveh praise—
call out to him
and tell everyone what he’s done!
2 Sing to him
sing his praises.
Tell about all the miracles he’s done.
3 Boast about his holy character—
let every heart that seeks Yahveh rejoice!
4 Search for Yahveh and rest on his power
constantly seek his face.
5-6 You descendants of Abraham his servant
offspring of Jacob, his chosen one
recall his displays of power on our behalf
and the judgments he’s pronounced.

7 Yahveh, he is our God
and his acts of justice govern the whole earth.
8 He’s mindful of his eternal covenant
the promise he made for a thousand generations
9 the covenant he made with Abraham
the promise he swore to Isaac
10 which he then ratified as a decree to Jacob
an eternal covenant to Israel:
11 “To you I give the land of Canaan
as your allotted inheritance.”
12 He said that when they were a paltry few
an insignificant band of nomads
13 wandering from country to country
from one kingdom to the next.
14 But refusing to let anyone oppress them
God rebuked kings for their sake:
15 “Don’t touch my anointed ones
or harm my prophets in any way.”
16 Eventually Yahveh ordered a famine
cutting off their food supply in the land.
17 But first he sent a man ahead of them—
Joseph, sold as a slave.
18 They hurt his feet with shackles
his neck with an iron collar.
19 Until Joseph’s words were finally fulfilled
Yahveh’s words refined him.
20 Then Pharaoh ordered him released
the superpower’s king set him free.
21 He put Joseph in charge of his household
responsible for all his possessions
22 with power to imprison the king’s officials
and teach his advisers true wisdom.
23 Then Israel migrated to Egypt
where Jacob and his family settled
as foreigners in the land of Ham.
24 Yahveh made his people flourish there
till they were more powerful than their foes
25 whose hearts he turned to hate his people
and double-cross his servants.
26 Then he sent his servant Moses
and Aaron, the man of his choosing
27 to perform his miraculous signs among them
his wonders in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness to blanket the land
for hadn’t they rebelled against God’s word?
29 He turned Egypt’s rivers into blood
killing off all their fish.
30 Then the land was overrun with frogs—
even the king’s apartment.
31 Yahveh spoke and swarms of insects came—
gnats everywhere throughout their land.
32 He sent them hail instead of rain
and fiery lightning bolts through the land
33 wasting their grapevines and fig trees
shattering trees everywhere.
34 He spoke and hordes of grasshoppers came—
a myriad of ravenous locusts
35 consuming the land’s vegetation
devouring every last blade of grass.
36 He killed all of Egypt’s firstborn sons
every Egyptian father’s proof of manhood.
37 He brought the Israelites out
weighed down with silver and gold
and no one among their tribes stumbled.
38 The Egyptians were glad to see them go—
they had become so scared of the Israelites.
39 God spread a cloud cover over them
and lit up the night sky with a column of fire.
40 They asked him and he served them quail
and satisfied them with the bread of heaven.
41 He split open solid rock
making water gush out
and run like a river across the desert.
42 He did all this because he remembered
his holy word to Abraham his servant.
43 He brought his people out with rejoicing
his chosen ones with songs of joy.
44 Then he gave them the lands of other peoples
to inherit the results of all their hard work.

45 He did all this
so the Israelites would obey his laws
and conform to his teachings.
Praise Yahveh!

As earth’s owner, God made Abraham a land grant, one Abraham’s descendants would possess in the future. Eventually God took those descendants on a circuitous journey, returning them centuries later, just in time for his decision to evict Canaan’s tenants. The Torah qualifies God’s promise, eternal though it is: Israel would possess the land only if they trusted and obeyed God.[1] However, the psalmist omits that and many other well-known details since her sole focus is on God’s faithfulness to his promise of land to Abraham.

Yahveh protected the patriarchs (and matriarchs) as nomads roaming the land.[2] He gave Joseph a crash course in character, his painful shackles making his youthful dreams seem like a sick joke… till Yahveh fulfilled those dreams. He did this so Joseph could provide for the Israelites. When famine struck, God sent them to Egypt and made them flourish and then suffer oppression there, before sending Moses to liberate them. Sending Egypt plagues, God set his people free. Then he cared for them in the desert until he finally gave them the land.

God gave Israel their own land so they could freely worship him as their king and obey his law. He wanted a beachhead, one kingdom on earth where his will was done among the nations.

Thank you, Lord, that your grace always precedes your call to obey. You’ve chosen your church, like Israel before it, to show the world what life under your loving rule looks like. I celebrate you, dear God! Help me to rely on your faithfulness and to think and live just as you want me to. Amen.

Meditate on these words during your free moments today:

He did all this
so the Israelites would obey his laws and conform to his teachings.
Praise Yahveh!


[1] Gen. 26:4; 28:13-15; Deut. 29:16-28; 30:2-5; 30:17-18. Israel’s right to the land has depended always on their submission to God’s revelation, which now includes the gospels since Jesus is the prophet predicted in Deut. 18:15-19. The psalmist mentions Israel’s need to obey God (v. 45) as the reason he gave them the land, not the condition for their possessing it, since she’s focusing on God’s side of the equation.

[2] Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-16; 26:1-33. The Abraham-through-Joshua stories were so familiar that the psalmist could pick out the details she wanted, knowing her hearers would fill in the rest. V. 26 shows that she expected them to do so.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.