May 21, 2020 by Steven Lulich
Save us, O Lord our God!
One of my favorite movies of all time is the 1956 epic The Ten Commandments, directed by Cecil B. DeMille. It’s huge, it’s vibrant and colorful, it boasts an enormous cast, and it depicts one of the most foundational events God ever enacted: the exodus. God has brought His people out of Egypt with a mighty outstretched arm, and has brought them to His holy mountain, Sinai, where He delivered to them the Law, and instructed them to build the Ark of the Covenant. Depending on how one reckons the timeline presented in the book of Judges, some 200-400 years later King David brings the Ark of the Covenant to God’s holy city, Jerusalem. This marks the culmination of the Ark’s long and tumultuous journey. As the footstool of God, the Ark’s arrival in Jerusalem symbolizes the arrival of God Himself. The excitement was through the roof! There were sacrifices, there was dancing, there was singing and shouting, there were trumpets and other musical instruments, and there were blessings on the people (2 Sam. 6, 1 Chr. 15-16). I think DeMille would have loved portraying this scene in film.
At the height of the celebrations, “Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the Lord” (1 Chr. 16:7). What follows (1 Chr. 16:8-36) is a pair of songs, attributed to David and edited for brevity, but preserved in full as Psalms 105 and 106. These two Psalms together retell the story of Israel, starting with Abraham and coming right up to the present moment when the Ark took its place among them. Both Psalms focus extensively on the exodus, but with different emphases. Psalm 105 emphasizes God’s covenant faithfulness – “He remembers His covenant forever” (Ps. 105:8) – while Psalm 106 emphasizes God’s steadfast love – “His steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 106:1). Psalm 105 is all about what God has done to fulfill His promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Psalm 106 is all about what Israel has done to break its promises to God, and God’s steadfast love toward them in spite of their unfaithfulness.
The climax of these two Psalms comes in Ps. 106:47-48, a passage so important that it was also preserved in 1 Chr. 16:35-36. The key phrase is: “Save us, O Lord our God!” In this phrase the tone abruptly changes. Rather than recounting God’s past dealings with the people, and rather than commanding the people to praise God, this phrase implores God Himself to act once more – to save us!
As it turns out, the epic celebrations in Jerusalem – in which these Psalms play a central role – are immediately followed by a new, saving act of God. In both 2 Sam. 7 and 1 Chr. 17, God delivers what is now known as “the Davidic covenant,” in which God promises that “I will raise up your offspring after you … and I will establish his kingdom … forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” (2 Sam. 7:12-17). This promise was temporarily and partially fulfilled in Solomon, the son of David, but its complete and final fulfillment came in Jesus Christ, the Son of David. Take a few minutes to soak in the drama of this moment. After all this time, after all of God’s mighty deeds and covenant faithfulness, after all of our rebellions and sins, after all of God’s loving mercy, finally God has arrived! We proclaim “Immanuel” – God with us! – and we confess our sins and cry out for salvation. And God immediately answers – “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” (Matt. 17:5; cf. Matt. 3:17, Mark 1:11, 9:7, Luke 3:22, 10:35). No movie can adequately capture drama and excitement like this! Let us seize this moment – even while it is still called “Today” (Heb. 3:13) – to join the celebration wholeheartedly in anticipation of the capstone experience of all our celebrations, when “the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven [will cry] out, Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God!” (Rev. 19:1), and “a loud voice from the throne [will say] Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God!” (Rev. 21:3). It will be epic.