Do you wonder how the Israelites could see all the wonderful and awesome things God did for them as they left Egypt and wandered through the desert toward the Promised Land and still be so obstinate?
In this long Psalm, Asaph looks at that issue. First he instructs Israel to tell their children all of the great things God has done. Verses 1-4 read,
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.”
Why do we tell our children about The Lord? Why do we teach them about Jesus instead of letting them find out on their own? They need to know why we do what we do. They need to understand why we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, Passover, Resurrection Sunday, and Christmas. They need to see how great the Lord is. It is our job as Christ’s ambassadors to tell the whole world (Matthew 28:19-20). Our children are in that world, they are our legacy. If we want them to experience the goodness of The Lord firsthand, we have to share our experiences and teach them who He is through His Word, both in the scriptures, life, and person. We want them to have an easier walk than we did. We want them to learn from our mistakes. We don’t want them to make the mistakes Israel made. The Lord established His testimony, His witness in us. We cannot keep that testimony to ourselves. Verses 5-8 say,
“He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8 and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God.”
As we tell our children about Jesus, we remember His awesomeness ourselves. Time and time again The Lord did miracles for Israel, His children. And time and again they forgot, they sinned, they whined and complained. They walked on dry land through the Red Sea with the waters roaring beside them and not even a drop of it touched them. They got through and escaped the army of Egypt. They were led by God Himself as pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. But what did they do? They complained that they were going to die of thirst.
Verses 15-19 read,
“He split rocks in the wilderness
and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16 He made streams come out of the rock
and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
17 Yet they sinned still more against him,
rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They tested God in their heart
by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”
Why would they think God had led them to freedom and taken care of them in such amazing ways and still not trust Him to take care of them completely? How could anyone be saved from the clutches of the enemy and not trust God to take care of them, make them complete and keep them until Jesus comes again? 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 says,
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Your life is a testimony. Live that life to tell others about how faithful and loving and awesome God is. Don’t run around whining, stressing, and complaining. Who does that exalt? Who would bother following a god who can’t even meet your most basic needs who leaves you grumbling and grouchy?
Even though Israel moaned nearly incessantly, God stuck with them. He provided, He disciplined, and He kept providing. Verses 21-25 read,
“Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath;
a fire was kindled against Jacob;
his anger rose against Israel,
22 because they did not believe in God
and did not trust his saving power.
23 Yet he commanded the skies above
and opened the doors of heaven,
24 and he rained down on them manna to eat
and gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Man ate of the bread of the angels;
he sent them food in abundance.”
Believer, where are you as you read this? Are you in your home, a coffee shop, or your place of work? What are you wearing? Are you reading on a book, a computer, or a tablet? When as your last meal? When is your next? Are you breathing? Wow! God is great!!!! Be thankful. Live thankfully.
Somehow like Israel we forget the Manna, the bread of the angels, and we cry out and say, “Seriously, is this it? I want something better!” And when the slightest trouble comes we sob, “Are you just gonna let me lose my car? How will I pray the rent? Are you going to let me die of this cold?”
How can we be so unfaithful? How can we so easily forget all the great things God has done? He led an entire nation out of slavery and worked it so the Pharaoh actually begged them to leave, He divided the Red Sea, He led Israel, He visited Moses and gave him His law. And what did Israel do? They grumbled that it wasn’t good enough, they worried they would die, and like spoiled Veruca Salt, they actually said they wanted to go back to the slavery of Egypt. (Numbers 14:1-5).
Even so, The Lord didn’t abandon Israel and He will not abandon us. He disciplined them, He repeatedly showed them His power. Verses 29-35 read,
“And they ate and were well filled,
for he gave them what they craved.
30 But before they had satisfied their craving,
while the food was still in their mouths,
31 the anger of God rose against them,
and he killed the strongest of them
and laid low the young men of Israel.
32 In spite of all this, they still sinned;
despite his wonders, they did not believe.
33 So he made their days vanish like a breath,
and their years in terror.
34 When he killed them, they sought him;
they repented and sought God earnestly.
35 They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God their redeemer.”
Sometimes we are so stubborn that it takes terrible discipline to turn our necks back to The Lord. Verse 35 says that Israel remember God as their rock. So we too will usually come around and remember Jesus is our rock and redeemer. But how fast Israel forgot and how fast we forget. The very next verses says,
“But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.
37 Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.”
Did they think God was fooled? Do we think God hears our words and ignores our hearts? No, He is God! but the beautiful thing is that even in our infidelity, even in our shaky faith, and crooked walk, The Lord remains faithful, steadfast, and great. Verses 38-39 read,
“Yet he, being compassionate,
atoned for their iniquity
and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
and did not stir up all his wrath.
39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
a wind that passes and comes not again.”
We do not have to be like Israel. We do not have to grumble and complain in the face of all He has done for us. But we do not have to let God’s discipline be ineffective. We have the Holy Spirit of God in us. We can allow Him to work in us and complete us and make us more like Jesus. God’s discipline doesn’t need to leave us in the same old place and condition.
God brought Israel to the Promised Land, He brought us to the Kingdom of God. If He saved us from the clutches of Satan, don’t we trust Him to keep us, mature us, and complete us? Don’t we know He will always provide for us and protect us?
Even through Israel’s rebellious pig-headed history, God chose to redeem the world through them. He didn’t choose Joseph’s decedents, He chose Judah’s. He didn’t choose a rich strong man, He chose David, a child and a shepherd. He gave us Jesus, True and Eternal Salvation. Verses 67-72 say,
“He rejected the tent of Joseph;
he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah,
Mount Zion, which he loves.
69 He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
like the earth, which he has founded forever.
70 He chose David his servant
and took him from the sheepfolds;
71 from following the nursing ewes he brought him
to shepherd Jacob his people,
Israel his inheritance.
72 With upright heart he shepherded them
and guided them with his skillful hand.”