In Psalm 106, the psalmist extols gratitude for the Lord’s goodness and graciousness. As the writer does so, he gives a short recount of Israel’s history, reminding the people of how God has rescued them in the past, and imploring for that same favor to be shown to them now. Recognizing that the good that has come to Israel is the work of God’s hands – and has nothing to do with the people’s merits – the psalmist honors and praises the Lord’s name.
In reviewing how God has saved Israel time and time again, this Psalm looks at one of the more head-scratching aspects of Israel’s history as told in Exodus 32. As Moses goes up to the mountain to hear from God, the Isarelites get restless and ask Aaron to build them an idol to worship. Astoundingly, Aaron agrees to do so. The psalmist describes this as such:
They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass. (Ps. 106:20)
The contrast is obvious.
The Source and Object of all glory is exchanged for a mere creation of man’s hands.
That which is eternal and eminent is exchanged for that which is base and blasphemy.
The sacred is abandoned for that which is profane.
And it’s hard not to marvel at why anyone would make this exchange, until we realize we are often tempted to do the same.
We want to pursue our own agendas rather than God’s.
We want to give in to sin rather than living according to His standards.
We assign the most importance to our career, our family, or our possession instead of to our Creator and Lord.
The Israelites aren’t the only ones who are far too willing to exchange the glory of the King for lesser things, so do we. Because just like them, we forget the magnificence and faithfulness of the One who rightly deserves our worship, and so we make a costly exchange. When in reality, we should be giving up everything for the sake of Him who deserves all praise.