They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God their redeemer.
But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.
Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.
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.
Psalm 78-35-38 (ESV)
Our focus passage was written by Asaph. It paints a picture of the way God reacted to His people in spite of their behavior toward Him.
They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer.
I can visualize the Israelites flocking to the Temple on the sacred feast days. They are kneeling or lying prostrate as they pray and seek forgiveness for their sin.
In today’s world, we see children try to get on the good side of their parents when they know they have done something wrong. And we hear children tell falsehoods in order to not get into trouble.
But they flattered Him with their mouths; they lied to Him with their tongues.
I can hear them tell God what they believe He wants to hear from them. The Israelites tell God they will always honor Him and keep His commandments. We hear this same flattery going on between generations and from those who want to exploit innocent people.
Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant.
How many times did the kings do “what was right in their sight”? Each time the ruler used this mode of carrying out his role, the nation Israel went through difficult times. My Sunday teacher of many years compared it to a roller coaster ride. When the leaders followed God, the nation flourished (were on top of the hill.) When leaders did “what was right in their sight,” the nation saw times of great hardships.
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.
In spite of how the Israelites behaved, God always forgave them. In the instance of their exile to Babylon, God patiently explained why it was going to happen and told them how to conduct themselves and that he knew what He had in store for them. (Jeremiah 29.)
We live in perilous times. We witness events that appear to be lifted right out of the Bible.
*Wars and rumors of war, earthquakes in many places, (Matthew 24)
*people being lovers of themselves, lovers of money, proud, arrogant,
(2 Timothy 3:2)
* disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy. (2 Timothy 3:20)
* having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:5)
These are just a few of the examples of behavior we can see in our present world. We should be thankful that God has been compassionate with us. And yet, we should be aware that He is coming back soon.