Psalm 106, 12 Oct 14

Psalm 106 is related to the previous one, 105, about which we heard and sang much in recent weeks. The story of Exodus is again rehearsed in this psalm at some length but with a stronger flavour of an awareness of human weakness. The shorter lectionary reading is here — and you might have to read it yourself this time, since I admit this post is more about what’s not included that what is.

Moses strikes the rock, Arthur Boyd
Moses and the rock, Arthur Boyd

One of the many stories we heard in Psalm 105 was Moses striking the rock, where we heard this and other exploits in which the people were heading for a downfall

— had not Moses, the chosen one, stood in the breach to turn away God’s wrath from destroying them.

The backstory is a little more complex (see also Blind faith). Had we read on we’d find that the provocation of the people made Moses angry and he acted in haste:

By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD and trouble came to Moses because of them, for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips. (V. 33)

Moses spoke ‘unadvisedly’ and suffered for it. There’s a study here about anger, control, deliberation, leadership, pressure — interesting but we are not going there now since it’s not in our reading. That great rock story doesn’t feature either but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to pop in Arthur Boyd‘s vibrant painting, currently on show along with his Nebuchadnezzar series and lots more at the National Gallery of Australia in the excellent Boyd retrospective — highly recommended.

So what is included in this reading? A warning against selfishness and a plea for divine guidance and grace.

Music options

(i) The people’s refrain in Psalms for all seasons 106B invites us to sing:

Cast every idol from its throne

Good idea if you are troubled by unhealthy fixations but the theme does not appeal to me as timely.

(ii) The response in The emergent psalter is nice and syncopated but maybe a little too long to learn in the short period available.

(iii) Thomas Tomkins wrote a swag of psalm settings in the early 1600s, including 106, for four male voices. Would be fun if we could do it but it presents verse 4 alone. Nice as an incidental.

(iv) New century hymnal has a simple refrain but no sung verses.

(v) PFAS 106A is by John Bell, so is prima facie worthy of attention. I’d go that way because for a start it emphasises the enduring patient nature of divine love and forgiveness. Secondly, it offers a sung verse. And finally, the refrain is in nice four-part harmony which will be great if we have enough singers. Roll up, roll up.

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