There are always two sides to a story. We hear that all the time. We forget it all the time, too.
By simply, I mean that the writer provides brief statements, short and memorable like fourth graders might learn. By selectively, the writer doesn’t include every story from Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, and the other historical books. Instead, we read an intentional ordering of short references to specific stories, written in a way to make them memorable.
The two psalms differ in perspective, however. Psalm 105 is a simple and selective journey through the faithfulness of God in the story of his people. Psalm 106 is a simple and selective journey through the faithlessness of his people in that same story. If you’ve read my thoughts on Nehemiah, this is like an expanded version of the confessional prayer one day in Jerusalem.
I could compare these two psalms, drawing a line down a page and listing God’s works and the people’s actions on either side of the line.
You can do that, too.
But there is also this:
In difficult moments in our lives, when we talk about God having a plan, these two stories remind us that, when telling stories of God, we have to think in decades and centuries and forever. And when, in a moment we talk about God letting us down, these two stories remind us that God works in times and spaces and civilizations in addition to caring about individuals.
This, of course, doesn’t feel comfortable to people acutely aware of our own lives, formed to consider our own independence. And it doesn’t feel comfortable to be reminded that behaviors have consequences down the line.
But sometimes the psalms teach us ways to think that are both true and uncomfortable.