“How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited (vexed or pained) the Holy One of Israel. They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.” (Psalm 78:40-42)
When asked if they consider themselves to be a good person, most people will respond in the affirmative. To be a good person, not doing things such as smoking, drinking, or cursing meets the minimum criteria. Even for Christians, those who believe that they are an exemplary model for others don’t do things like fornicate, lie, cheat, or steal….you know…the BIG sins.
In the Bible, sin is not always equal to what we have not done. Sometimes sin is what we have the power to do but we choose otherwise. It is easy to want to please God and not go contrary to his will when things are good. In our wilderness times, in the dry seasons of our relationship with God, when things are not so good, walking in obedience presents a significant challenge. A picture of obedience (and its accompanying seasons), and how God responds to our obedience ( or lack thereof) is contained in Psalm 78.
This Psalm paints a landscape of the life of Israel as they exited Egypt; the mighty acts that God did to free them from slavery, his miraculous provision for them in the wilderness, and the giving of the law to govern their lives. This poetic historian surmises that the point of everything that God did was so that his fame and glory could be perpetuated to future generations. Recounting Yahweh’s covenant blessings was for the sole purpose of remembering who God was, and in remembering, that obedience would naturally ensue. The power of God and his might are put on literary display, the motives and actions of the people in their disobedience are also shown.
When God Feels
It is not until verse 38, however, that the writing takes a turn from the actions of the Almighty God, to how the Almighty God actually felt during this time. To paraphrase…”he was heated and wanted to kill them but he fell back.” (Hood Version 7.0) He had compassion on his people and forgave them for their disobedient ways. Then just in case you didn’t get it, in verse 40, the author tells us that God was pained at the Israelites deliberate action of not remembering everything he did for them. Did you get that? The temptation that the Israelites faced was not always breaking commandments, but the simple fact that they didn’t remember what God did….and it pained him. The action of not remembering and what it produced in the Almighty’s emotions is a temptation that we face everyday.
A Tricky Temptation
Whether it’s a bad day or a dry season, often we are tempted to be subject to our feelings in that time period, rather than remember the miraculous, powerful, life-changing, and marvelous things that God has already done for us….when we did not deserve it, and were sometimes disobedient. The deadliest temptation for the people of God is not the temptation that will lead us to death necessarily, but it is the enticement of being forgiven and then forgetting. We not only forget that God has done so much for us, but then we get so fearful in various circumstances that we don’t tell future generations of his goodness. More than this, although the price of forgiveness was an act etched in eternity at Calvary, we add tax each time we forget the person behind that act, and fail to take into account the fact that he can be pained. A wily temptation indeed is the one that keeps us in the service of our Savior, but does not acknowledge his feelings. Each day, I pray that we would take time to remember when…