Praise Yahweh! O give thanks to Yahweh, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever!
Who can utter the mighty deeds of Yahweh, or declare all His praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!
Remember me, O Yahweh, when You show favour to Your people; help me when You save them,
that I may look upon the prosperity of Your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of Your nation, that I may glory with Your inheritance.
Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.
Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider Your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of Your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Yet He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make known His mighty power.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry, and He led them through the deep as through a desert.
So, He saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy.
And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left.
Then they believed His words; they sang His praise.
The premise of this psalm is to praise God (vv. 1-3). The causal clauses indicate the reasoning for praising God is due to His goodness and the perpetuity of His חֶסֶד (chesed; mercy, favour, steadfast love, covenant faithfulness, loving-kindness). Then, interestingly, the psalmist moves to a petition. He asks God to remember Him when He shows His favour (רָצוֹן, ratsōn) to His people in order that he may take part in the prosperity, joy, and inheritance the Lord will give them.
What we should especially take note of is the psalmist does not attempt to justify his request with his own supposed righteousness. Instead, he confesses his sin and the sin of his forefathers and all the people. He recalls the historical sins of his people—forgetting God’s wondrous works and His steadfast love. The psalmist is likely recalling these sins from the Torah:
“Know, therefore, that Yahweh your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. Remember and do not forget how you provoked Yahweh your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against Yahweh. Even at Horeb [Sinai] you provoked Yahweh to wrath, and Yahweh was so angry with you that He was ready to destroy you.”Deuteronomy 9:6-8
Instead of God destroying them, as they justly deserved, Moses interceded on their behalf, just as Jesus did for us on the cross and still does for us today at the right hand of God the Father. During this point in Deuteronomy, Moses is reminding Israel of their history and especially God’s mercy toward them in spite of their sinfulness. He also reminds them of the golden calf situation.
Before Moses had even given them the Word of God in the Ten Commandments on how they should live as God’s chosen people, they had already fallen into apostasy! “And I looked, and behold, you had sinned against Yahweh your God. You had made yourselves a golden calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that Yahweh had commanded you” (Deuteronomy 9:16).
Yet the psalmist recalls God’s graciousness (vv. 8-11). The people’s sin delayed them from entering the land God had promised them and had to wander in the wilderness for 40 years—the entire generation had to die—before God would allow them to enter the Promised Land. In spite of their just punishment, God relented from His anger. As the psalmist says, “Yet He saved them for His name’s sake, that He might make known His mighty power” (v. 8).
The people had forgotten who God is when they were at the Red Sea, then He graciously parted the Red Sea to deliver them from their enemy. And even at Mt. Sinai, God saved them from His wrath by relenting from His disaster. At the Red Sea, and even at Mt. Sinai, this caused the people to rejoice in God.
This brings us back to the premise of the psalm: Praise God! For He is good and His steadfast love endures forever! No amount of praise can ever be enough (v. 2). A silly contemporary song sings, “I could sing of your love forever.” Not only “could” you, but you will, as in the psalmist’s words, “Who can utter the mighty deeds of Yahweh, or declare all His praise” (v. 2)? This is a rhetorical question meaning: no one can sing all God’s praise. We will all be singing His praises for all eternity.
In the psalmist’s petition, confession of sin, and recollection of God’s graciousness, he brings the reader to remember God’s goodness and steadfast love. God is good and His love for us is steadfast because time and time again, He relents from disaster. Like the Israelites, we sin against God with nearly every chance we get. Each time, we absolutely deserve God’s wrath since our sin provokes Him to destroy us. Instead, God relents, and He chooses to sustain us and save us. The only way sin will satisfy God is if He utterly destroys it in His wrath.
This is precisely what He did in Jesus Christ. Upon the cross, Jesus took the sins of the whole world—every single sin you have committed and ever will commit—upon Himself as if He Himself had committed these sins. Jesus literally became sin—He became a sinner—for you, even though He Himself was sinless. In Christ, God’s wrath is totally satisfied. Thus, if you believe this, when God looks upon you He no longer sees a spiritual leper decaying in sin, but one who is fully cleansed and redeemed in the innocent blood of Jesus Christ.
Even though you still sin, the Holy Spirit brings you to repentance and delivers forgiveness to you because of what Christ has done. You no longer need to do anything to be saved, but merely to trust—to know—you are justified by faith in Christ. Therefore, let us sing praises for His goodness and steadfast love now and forevermore!