I'm still reading through the Psalms. A few days ago, I reached Psalms 78, written by Asaph, about the wonderful things God has done throughout the history of Israel, talking especially about the Exodus and the Israelites journeying in the desert.
It starts off in verse 12, "He did miracles in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan."
Then Asaph goes on to list the miracles:
He guided them with a cloud by day, and a fire by night (v. 14)
He gave them water in the desert (v. 15-16)
He rained down manna from heaven (v. 24)
He sent them quail (v. 27)
"In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of His wonders, they did not believe. So He ended their days in futility and their years in terror.
Whenever God slew them, they would seek Him; they eagerly turned to Him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.
But then they would flatter Him with their mouths, lying to Him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to Him, they were not faithful to His covenant.
Yet He was mercifiul; He forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time He restrained His anger and did not stir up His full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return." (v. 32-38)
It is easy to blame the Israelites, but when I sit down and think about it, this section reads like the story of my own life. Perhaps it sounds very familiar to you as well. It struck me as I read that I am guilty of the very same sins as the Israelites.
How many times, in spite of all that God has done, do I continue sinning? How many times do I worship Him with my tongue, when my heart is far from Him? The verse calls this "flattery" and "lying" to God. How many times are my heart and focus drawn to other things, distracted, when my whole life should be totally devoted to God?
Yet... God is merciful.
How wonderful! God is merciful to me!
The book of Nehemiah chapter 9 also chronicles this pattern of sin-repentance-forgiveness-sin-repentance etc. among the Israelites.
v. 16-17 "But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey Your commands. They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles You performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But You are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love."
It struck me that the wanderings of the Israelites from God are exactly the same as our individual wanderings from God. They forgot what God had done and wanted to return to their slavery. What? Why in the world would they want to go back? But if you think about it, how many times do we seek to go back to the chains of our former life? Back into sin, back into darkness.
But God is forgiving, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love.
We rest in His mercy and grace. Without them, we would be totally and completely lost. I am in need of God's grace every single day.
If you think about it, we have evidence of far greater wonders than the Israelites had back then. Yes, God rescued them from Egypt, but since then He has done a far greater thing through the blood of His Son. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and then rose again three days later, He rescued us from the power of sin and death.
We have evidence of God's power and mercy, of His justice and love before us every day in the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses us from sin. And yet, like the Israelites, in the face of all that God has done for us, we keep on sinning, we do not believe, our hearts are not faithful to Him.
Yet He is merciful.
1 John 1:9 is a very well known verse, but I'll put it up here again: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
Also, we know that we do not face temptation and sin on our own. God does not abandon us. I Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
I want to post a couple of verses from the song Amazing Grace:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.
Without the Lord's mercy and grace, we are lost!
Thank You Lord for Your amazing grace, for Your mercy, Your forgiveness for a sinful people! We stand in need of Your mercy and grace, in need of forgiveness! Thank You Lord, for the blood of Your Son, shed so that we might have life.
~ A Servant of the King
Nehemiah 9:5b-6 "Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you."