“Yet he was compassionate; he atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them. He often turned his anger aside and did not unleash all his wrath. He remembered that they were only flesh, a wind that passes and does not return.” – Psalm 78:38-39 (CSB)
Even though Israel’s repentance was not genuine, God displayed incredible patience and compassion with his people. Although they did not keep their part of the covenant, he did. The infinite remembered the finite. Despite our relative insignificance in the grand scheme of eternity, God is gracious and merciful with us. So deep is his love and care for us that even in our sin, he did not destroy us but instead made a way through Jesus for us to be with him.
“But they deceived him with their mouths, they lied to him with their tongues, their hearts were insincere toward him, and they were unfaithful to his covenant.” – Psalm 78:36-37 (CSB)
When their situation turned for the better, Israel again wandered back into sin. Their repentance was not sincere. It was merely an effort to avoid the consequences of their sin. It’s easy to shake our heads at Israel but if we’re honest, we do the same thing. We honor God with our lips in an effort to get him to act on our behalf. But our motives are twisted. We want something from him so we feign contrition. In doing so we rob ourselves of the joy that comes from true repentance. May we honor God with our lips and in our hearts.
“Despite all this, they kept sinning and did not believe his wondrous works. He made their days end in futility, their years in sudden disaster. When he killed some of them, the rest began to seek him; they repented and searched for God. They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God, their Redeemer.” – Psalm 78:32-35 (CSB)
Despite God’s miraculous provision of food in the wilderness, Israel was not satisfied. The nation continued to grumble, complain, and long for Egypt. Only when faced with calamity did some turn back to God. We too have a tendency to leave God out of the picture until we feel that we have exhausted all the other options. When our backs are against the wall, we are suddenly willing to cry out to God. Oh that we would remember God’s work on our behalf when times are good and when times are bad.
How happy are those whose way is blameless, who walk according to the Lord’s instruction! Happy are those who keep his decrees and seek him with all their heart. – Psalm 119:1-2 (CSB)
What brings happiness? Acquiring more stuff? Getting the promotion? Having lots of friends? Having kids that obey? Those bring a type of happiness. But none of them lead to true and lasting happiness. Any one of these could be gone in an instant taking with it our happiness. David understood that real happiness – the kind that is with us regardless of our circumstances – is found elsewhere. It’s found when we surrender ourselves to God and walk in obediene to his commands. When we do that, we discover that holiness is the path to happiness.
“Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power” (Psalm 106:8 ESV).
Israel had a tendency to forget. God would intervene in a remarkable way and in a short while it was as if nothing had happened. We too have a tendency to forget. We forget all the little ways God has been faithful to us. We forget the big ways he has been faithful to us. We forget that it was not because of anything we did that he saved us but for the glory of his name and the display of his saving power through sinners like us. We forget but he remembers because, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8 ESV).