The challenge God faces in seeking to set up His tabernacle among us is not that we make mistakes, nor that we sometimes get “off track,” nor that we all have a “rebellious phase.” Sin is actually so pervasive that we must be born again! Despite the repeated, miraculous and gracious works of a loving God, sin is a plague that continues finding new expressions within us.
Think of it: When God miraculously brought thirst-quenching water out of a rock for His people in the wilderness, Israel responded with unbelief that God could provide food. They became picky, rather than grateful, “asking for the food of their fancy” (Psalm 78:18-20). Even after He had taken them faithfully into the promised land, they “moved Him to jealousy with their carved images” (78:58). Imagine this miraculously ransomed community of God now carving statues with their hands, bowing down, and thanking these idols for the very things God did for them!
But before we point the finger, do you see yourself there, brother or sister? Have you ever failed to respond with a soft heart to God’s work in your life? Have you ever miscredited His provision and protection to some other factor in your life? If today we stand free from this neglect of the Lord, the only barrier keeping us from that place is the grace of God. Israel’s awful cycle in Psalm 78 is a snapshot of our own human nature. We are bent this way before being born again, and at times, we have treated the Lord like this even after embarking on a relationship with Him. At the very height of our own moral strength, we can only produce the sins of Psalm 78!
“The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle” (78:9). Ephraim, being the son of Joseph, represents the most noble of human strength. Just as Joseph’s character was superior to his brothers, Ephraim was considered a superior tribe. Yet, even the noblest human specimen is helpless without the Helper. Whatever natural strength and weaponry a person may possess, he will fail when the spiritual battle comes. Like Ephraim, we will forget God’s works and fail to keep His covenant if left to our own devices.
Praise God that He did not choose human strength. “…He rejected the tent of Joseph and did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved” (78:67-8). Why Judah? Out of Judah His Servant would arise, “to shepherd Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance” (78:71). He passes by the very best of human goodness, because there is only one righteousness in God’s eyes: the perfect beauty of His Son.
Thank the Lord, there is a Remedy to our continual backsliding! The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (John 1:14). He shows us who God is, because He is God. I can walk with Him because He became a man like me. He can intercede for me, for He is able to sympathize with my weakness, as He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Grace and truth have come to us through this perfect One, and He is able to transform our hearts as we walk with Him. He tells us, “Sin no more,” and the proven power of His love follows those words, so that we really can walk in a new life that God alone can give us.
The Rock Church