Read Psalm 78:32–66
When God heard them, he was furious; he rejected Israel completely.Psalm 78:59
Seven framed yellow jerseys hang in Lance Armstrong’s home. But since the incriminating report issued last October from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, Armstrong has been stripped of his Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life because of his alleged doping. Some wonder if the punishment has been sufficiently severe, claiming that criminal charges against Armstrong would be more appropriate.
The punishment should fit the crime—that’s what our intuitive sense of justice demands. Today’s reading details some of the punishment that Israel suffered for her sins of disobedience, idolatry, and ultimately unbelief. Though it would seem that God’s punishment should be reserved for His enemies—as in the case with the Egyptians and the ten terrifying plagues that God visited upon them—here we see God’s own people falling under His sentence. They had enjoyed His protective blessing. They had been witness to His miracles, but these good gifts did not compel their faith.
The punishment they endured had not brought them back to loyalty and obedience. God allowed Israel to suffer defeat by her enemies, and although this produced (in the time of the Judges) seasons of repentance, the change was only skin-deep. There were moments of superficial return to the Lord, but there was never a committed repentance, which would have been evident by enduring obedience.
God is portrayed as having a range of emotions when confronted by human sin: grief (v. 40); wrath, indignation, hostility (v. 49); anger (v. 50); jealous (v. 58); furious (v. 59). These are what we should expect from a holy God whose people have proven themselves to be ungrateful, disloyal, and openly rebellious. This holy God, however, is also merciful, and it’s this mercy that surprises us.
Apply the Word
Understanding God’s mercy can compel our obedience during times of temptation. We do not serve a God who is waiting to hurl down punishment on His people. Instead, He wishes to draw us closer to His love and tenderness. When we grow in our obedience to Him, we will find that it is more like lavish praise than fearful duty.
Pray with Us
Pray for ministries in the Chicagoland area to promote the kingdom of Christ.