The Tragedy of Mingling

“They did not destroy the peoples,
As the Lord commanded them,
But they mingled with the nations
And learned their practices,
And served their idols,
Which became a snare to them.” -Ps. 106.34-36

How could one attempt to give a summary or even an adequate commentary to Psalm 106? It is all at once a sweeping panorama of Israel’s history, and a staggering introduction to the remarkable theology of the psalmists of old. One can only hope to open up the well that this psalm is, and to drink in one ration of living water at a time. This one psalm deserves a thousand pages of commentary and reflection, and even then we would only be touching the fringes of its glory.

One note that is struck loudly and more than once in this psalm is the revelation of Israel’s repeated moral collapses, and the manner in which the Lord responds to them, in both chastening and mercy.

The psalmist recounts a multitude of failures:

“Our fathers in Egypt did not understand Your wonders…. But rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.”

“They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, but craved intensely in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.”

“…. they became envious of Moses in the camp….”

“They made a calf in Horeb and worshiped a molten image.”

“They forgot God their Savior….”

“Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word, but grumbled in their tents; they did not listen to the voice of the Lord.”

“Thus they provoked Him to anger with their deeds….”

“…. they were rebellious against His Spirit….”

All these tragic deficiencies and sins are intermingled with responses from the Lord; namely, judgments, chastisements, and punishments, along with miraculous deliverances, remarkable acts of mercy, and radical deeds of redemption.

The moral and spiritual failures of Israel, and humankind for that matter, can be summed up in the 34th through the 36th verses.

Israel was required, upon entering into the land of promise, to “destroy the peoples” that were bound to idolatry, wickedness, and sin. They were not to assimilate or fit in with the paradigm’s of Gentile nations, whose cultures were predicated upon self-serving values, much like what constitutes the spirit of our own age.

But rather than cutting off any possible ties with the Gentile peoples, “they mingled with the nations and learned their practices, and served their idols, which became a snare to them.”

They mingled with and imbibed the ways of the unbelievers, and this persistent rejection of the command of the Lord was so grievous to Him that the psalmist gives us these devastating words:

Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people, and He abhorred His inheritance. (v. 40)

This was not His disposition after one moral failure on Israel’s part, but was rather the result of their persistent rejection of His ways, and their continual drinking in of the ways of the Gentiles. Yet and still, it is terrifying to think that His own people provoked Him to this place.

Are we destroying the ways of the world in our lives, rejecting the spirit of this age and all its lusts, materialistic yearnings, and loose views of sin? Or are we moving about freely, boasting in our own decisions and opinions, and consuming the “practices” and “idols” that modern entertainment so lavishly offers?

Are we mingling with the spirit of this age?

We’ve got to break free from the thought patterns and practices of the world if we desire the blessing of the Father. There is no place in the life of the saint for persisting in a soulish connection with unbelievers or the agendas and innuendos that flow from them. We may think certain things to be innocent and common, but if they are fueling the pride of life and the exaltation of self, they need not only to be resisted, but destroyed. To deal casually with the spirit of this world is to in turn deal casually with the Lord of glory, and the more we open the gate to the wisdom of this world, the more we incapacitate ourselves from receiving the wisdom that comes from above.

As always with the Lord, the last word is the word of mercy, and He longs to show compassion to His people. If we reject the spirit of the age, and return to the Lord, He will carry us through to the place of abiding holiness. We need only to turn from darkness and unto Him, singing the song that Israel will ultimately declare in the warmth of eschatological Zion:

“Save us, O Lord our God,
And gather us from among the nations,
To give thanks to Your holy name
And glory in Your praise.” (v. 47)

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