‘Happy are those who act with justice, who do what is right.’ (3)
Psalm 106 drawing to a close the powerful Book IV of the Psalter is related as a companion piece to the previous song. The story of Exodus is again rehearsed at some length but with a stronger flavour of an awareness of human weakness in the Israelites and inability to keep their part of the covenant. As a good leader, Moses “stood in the breach to turn away God’s wrath.” However, provocation made Moses angry and he acted in haste:
By the waters of Meribah they angered God and trouble came to Moses because of them, for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips. (33)
Moses spoke ‘unadvisedly’ and suffered for it. In the frustratingly faltering pursuit of social justice, here are lessons about anger, control, deliberation, leadership, pressure. (See also Psalm 81) A warning against selfishness accompanies a plea for divine guidance and grace. Despite the failings of the people, divine mercy and grace were not withheld.
As to the music, in the early 1600s Thomas Tomkins wrote a swag of psalm settings, including 106 for four male voices. This would be a satisfying sing and edifying contribution, probably as incidental music since it presents verse 4 alone.
In more modern sources:
- The refrain in PFAS 106B invites us to sing: “Cast every idol from its throne”. This might be a good song if you are troubled by unhealthy fixations but the theme does not always appeal as timely.
- The response in TEP is nice and syncopated but maybe a little too long to learn in the short period generally available in weekly gatherings.
- NCH has a simple refrain but no sung verses. Use a tone.
- PFAS 106A is by John Bell, so is prima facie worthy of attention. First, 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 if enough singers are available.