“But He made His own people go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock; and He led them on safely, so that they did not fear; but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. And He brought them to His holy border, this mountain which His right hand had acquired. He also drove out the nations before them, allotted them an inheritance by survey, and made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents. Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God, and did not keep His testimonies…” Psalm 78:52–56
Psalm seventy eight is a lengthy psalm in which Asaph contemplates God’s mighty acts and Israel’s frequent faithlessness from the exodus to the reign of David.
Our focus text serves as an example of the all too often demonstrated pattern enacted by the people of Israel and Judah. God had blessed them and delivered them from their enemies, leading them into safety and providing for all their needs only to have them accuse him of neglecting them and rebelling against him. The only thing that consistently turned Israel’s heart back to following after God was when he sent some sort of hardship upon them as a punishment. Then their eyes would be opened to their waywardness and their ears would be opened to his entreaties to return to him. And for a time they would be humble and obedient and follow after him but hardly a generation would pass before they forgot God once again and turned their backs on him.
As a people we’re no better. It’s seems that each successive generation requires that God once again prove himself to them. What hard lessons these are to learn. What a high price it is to pay to ignore the lessons learned by past generations and discover for oneself that God is real, and active, and present. Isn’t their enough suffering in the world? Why do we add to our burden by shunning the blessing of his presence in our lives? Why do we force God to discipline us once again when we could more easily learn of his nearness by remaining loyal to him and receiving of his goodness?
In Romans chapter two verse four the apostle Paul reminds us that it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Jesus himself tells us in Revelation chapter three verse nineteen that he chastens and rebukes those he loves.
History has demonstrated that only rarely are people awakened from their intoxication with sin by gentleness from God. Far more often his blessings are squandered and his children lapse deeper into their rebellion and wickedness. It’s hardship and trials that more often shake us awake and remind us of how deeply we’re dependent upon our creator.
O friends, just this once, let us not force God to remind us of his love by his chastening. Let us do what Solomon advised in the book of Ecclesiastes and remember while we’re still young, before the years of trial and difficulty come upon us. Let us be the generation that so welcomes Jesus into our hearts and lives that his final work is completed and his people are prepared to see him face to face.