The Awesome Character of God - Psalm 78


The Bible is entirely sufficient to reveal to every person just the right amount of information about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who He is, what He is like, what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do. Scripture reveals everything we need to know in this life to negotiate this world as we should. But how much do we know God? This examination is not a study on Christology (the study of Jesus Christ) but an examination (through Psalm 78) of some of the character qualities of what makes God who He is. The Bible reveals to us the mind of Christ, His thinking, His plan, His revelation, and His character. But the question is, “how much do we think about God?”

Getting to know our advocate better will help us to strengthen our walk with the one we esteem more than anything else in life. It is my desire that the reader get a better understanding of the God they serve. We want to grow closer to Him every day, and we do this by assimilating His Word into our hearts. Our goal is to examine some of the many incredible character qualities of our Lord and Savior based on Psalm 78. Seeing how God deals with His own is something that “even the angels want to look into” (1 Peter 1:10-13). But why? Because they, too, just like us believers here on earth, get to learn more and more about their Creator in His just and righteous handling of His creatures created with free will. By examining God’s perfect dealings with man, the angels increase their knowledge and reverence for the One who made them. So if angels are taking note of God’s actions, it is imperative for believers to do the same with what we can glean from Scripture, for “these things were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). Learning more about God brings us closer to Him, for this increased knowledge gives life to our spirits if we believe and act on these same truths. God has demonstrated Himself to us in His Word and through creation, which should cause us to fear and love Him all the more.

As God’s children, we are also His best friends. The more you know a particular friend, the closer you will generally be to them. For this reason, we are to increase our knowledge of God because it gives us the spiritual sustenance we need every day. Of course, God is perfect, and there is nothing dark about Him (1 John 1:5). Indeed, He is also a God of mysteries, so we will never know everything about Him. But the Bible does give us everything we need to know.

Just having mere knowledge of who God is and what He is like is not sufficient to get us anywhere, for that is merely gnosis, knowledge only. But believing and acting on the truth God gives us is wisdom, epignosis, perfect knowledge known and lived out. One of the greatest goals after choosing Christ as our Savior is to know Him as much as we can. Christians must remember that this is their Savior they will praise for all eternity in the heavenly kingdom, so we should be preparing for that time. We are to live on this earth as actual citizens of the kingdom of heaven (Luke 21:36).

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV)

23 Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

What if an unbeliever inquires of a believer’s knowledge of God? They may ask them why they are a Christian. Or they may want to know more about who He is, other than that Jesus was the Son of God. The Old Testament is often a stumbling block for many unbelievers because they look at God’s handling of different peoples and nations, seeing it as unfair and unjust. “Why would a loving God do this or allow that?” This study aims not to explain every or even most instances of how God dealt with or punished various peoples throughout the Bible. But we do know that whatever God does, it is just, right, and fair. Everything He does, He does for a purpose. How can we, as human beings with limited knowledge and abilities, even question the actions of the One whose power and knowledge are limitless? God knows what He is doing, and He never does anything without reason. So why would He, as the creator, abuse His creation?

2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

All those who disobeyed Christ, thinking specifically of peoples during the Old Testament, had a choice to believe. They could have repented, for they knew about God all along. But they chose to fight against The Almighty. Why would God deal unfairly with those whom He longed to save? Every person that experiences God’s wrath brought it on themselves. They chose/choose to be dealt with in this way because they do not want to live with God in eternity. This fact should sink into our minds. They asked for this treatment, and God granted them their wish. But all who do what is right will be accepted and embraced into the loving arms of their heavenly Father (Genesis 4:1-7).

Isaiah 53:6-8 (ESV)

6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,  yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,  and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?

Romans 3:10-18 (NIV)

10 As it is written:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; 11  there is no one who understands;   there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away,  they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”14  “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16  ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18  “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

My desire for believers reading this paper is to help them not be intimidated when reading the Old Testament. When reading through a story, there are times when God may appear impatient, unkind, hot-tempered, bitter, spiteful, and unfair. But nothing could be further from the truth. The exodus generation is a prime example of this. Throughout the narrative of the Old Testament books dealing with the nation of Israel and their time in the wilderness, we often see the Lord dealing with the sinful disobedience of the Israelites in ways that may surprise us today. But we must remember that we were not there to witness and experience these things for ourselves, so we can hardly appreciate the extent of the wicked deeds by those who rebelled. Perhaps if we could go back in time and experience these things for ourselves, we may shake our heads and say, “Oh, ok, now I understand!”

Failing to grow in our understanding of the Lord will lead to all kinds of problems down the road. Doubting just one character aspect of God may very well cause us to doubt Him entirely, leading to a hardening of the heart. That is why we take in the Word of God as much as we can. If we starve ourselves of truth, then we malnourish our spirits.

But by studying the Bible, we learn more about Christ, and we begin to block out and keep at bay any opportunities for the devil to throw doubt and fear into our minds. One of the many plots of the evil one is to keep us out of the Word to starve us of truth. That, in turn, weakens our faith. When we fail to desire a closer and more intimate walk with God, our chances of getting to know Him become slim because we have very little desire to know our “would-be best friend” even more.

2 Peter 3:17-18 (NKJV)

17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV)

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

When I first read Psalm 78, I was amazed at how clearly the writer explained God’s just behavior through His dealings with the disobedient. I hope that as we examine some of the more revealing verses of this chapter, our eyes will open more and more to who God is. Like the angels, we, too, have the time, opportunities, and abilities to see the same things they desire to see. I hope that the reader finds their faith and love for God strengthened as they read through this examination. Let us allow God’s perfect character to inspire and spur us on to even more spiritual growth. Scripture wants us to see God for who He is. We are supposed to embrace the Lord, not stumble over Him by failing to recognize His true being. Knowing Him better will help us walk with Him closer each day. It is up to the reader to choose to believe and apply these same truths in their own life. Be inspired, be enlightened. Let us now examine the remarkable character of the God we serve.

1 Corinthians 10:1-13 (NIV)

10 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. 6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. 12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! 13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.

1. Words to Think About

We will discuss Psalm 78 section by section as an overview of the chapter itself. This part of the book presents us with a clear description of some of God’s character, specifically His dealings with the disobedient. The Lord is no different today than He was yesterday (Hebrews 13:7-8). The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New. His character never changes, for He has always been who He is in all His perfection. If He somehow shifted in nature, be it even in just one area, then He would not be God. The Lord is who He says He is.

So this is my challenge to those who doubt God—Taste and see for yourself! There is only one way for a person to come to know the Lord Jesus—through faith. When we trust God, we become “enlightened” to who He is as we grow spiritually. We get to know Him by having a very close relationship with Him. We can’t comprehend somebody if we don’t try to understand them better. Unbelievers cannot see things God’s way because their eyes are darkened to the truth through their failure to accept it in faith. If they slander God’s goodness and character, then they should know that they are not giving the Lord a fair chance. What seems unclear to the casual reader of the Old Testament will be made more apparent when they accept those same truths in faith. But faith is what is required to better “know the Lord.” Unbelief renders a person ignorant and hardened toward the truths of Scripture.

Ephesians 4:17-19 (NIV)

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

The more a person grows spiritually, the more of God’s real character will begin to unfold right before them in their own life’s experiences. The believer’s own experiences in God’s dealing with them in growing, disciplining, and strengthening their walk will prove to be “proof” in and of itself of just how perfect He is. Salvation and spiritual growth bring with them increased knowledge through experience.

Malachi 3:6 (ESV)

6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

Numbers 23:19 (NIV)

19 God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

Psalm 34:8 (KJV)

8 O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him.

Proverbs 9:10-11 (NIV)

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. 11 For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.

Psalm 119:130 (ESV)

130 The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.

We are fallible human beings prone to much significant error, but God is not, for He is complete in every way. He is the Creator who created all there is, and He died on the cross to save all men from the eternal punishment of the lake of fire. So why would the Lord not give everyone the same fair chance to come to Him in faith and inherit eternal life? God is not the problem. It’s man’s hardness of heart. Every person has a chance to repent and follow the Lord in faith to receive an eternal abode in the new heaven and the new earth. But it will always be up to every person to receive Christ while still alive and breathing. Those who squander this opportunity never wanted to get saved.

Deuteronomy 4:32-34 (ESV)

32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?

Deuteronomy 4:35-40 (ESV)

35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. 36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, 39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”

So my message to the unbeliever who questions God’s judgment and character is to consider the matter carefully. Count the cost (Luke 14:25-33), and (if you so desire) accept the Lord’s gracious offer of salvation in faith. Salvation opens us up to all kinds of spiritual gifts and benefits that accompany grace. It gives us the chance to learn more about the Lord Jesus Christ, coming to appreciate who He is, His plan and purpose, and what He has done to give us eternal life. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” (Acts 16:31), and this will open a person’s eyes. This truth is what it means to “taste and see.” (Psalm 34:8) “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed!” (Romans 10:11) There is a great reward waiting for you in the heavenly kingdom, even beyond your wildest dreams! Do you want peace, happiness, purpose, and meaning in your life? Run to Jesus, and He will give it to you. This world contains no true happiness, and trying to find it apart from God is trying to grasp the wind. It just won’t happen. Do you want to know the Lord more? Go to Him and let Him show you. Be ready for opposition, for the evil one opposes all those who have escaped the defilements of this world. His very goal is to get them to turn back to it and become entangled all over again (2 Peter 2:20-22). Better to have never gone on a journey than to have gone on one and never completed it. For in the case of those who turn back, it would have been better if they never came to the Lord Jesus at all.

So unless a person wants to pursue the Lord, caution is advised for any individual contemplating the decision to follow Jesus, for it is by no means easy (Luke 14:25-33). This life we live in is a great test. For unbelievers, it is to see whether they will choose God or not. For believers, it is whether they will continue to hold to their choice to follow the Lord and produce a bountiful crop for Him. Every person on this earth who is mentally capable of free will can cry out to God in faith, any place, any time. The Lord is not far off from anyone, and He is accessible to all.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NIV)

23 This is what the Lord says:“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches,24 but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.

Acts 14:21-22 (ESV)

21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.

Acts 17:24-27 (NIV)

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us

I cannot prove God’s existence by magically making Him appear before all those who ask for proof. Yes, we have natural revelation in creation and other wonderful testimonies of God’s reality, which means that, technically, everyone on earth knows about God (Romans 1:19-21). On top of that, we have His Word. But no person can simply make God appear out of the blue. And that is a good thing because faith is the evidence of things not seen. That is the whole point of faith, to believe without seeing! So this decision is a test!

John 20:24-29 (NIV)

24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” 26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Hebrews 11:1-3 (KJV)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

To the believer—May this study further strengthen your faith in the One you now profess. The best way to know the Lord is through His Holy Word, the Bible, for it is the Scriptures we rely on for the truth on which we stand. We must always use the Bible as our touchstone in revealing the truth to others. God’s Word is sufficient, and His grace just as much. There is always something to learn for those who want to learn more. It will never be the case that we are “lacking” a sufficient amount of truth to live our lives as we should.

Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)

12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Matthew 4:4 (NKJV)

4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”

Psalm 119:105 (NKJV)

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.

2. Psalm 78:1-4

Psalm 78:1-4 (ESV)

78 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! 2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, 3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

This psalm by Asaph has a prophetic sense to it in that Jesus quoted it in Matthew 13:35. Compare verse two in our passage to that verse. The Psalmist stresses the need for his listeners to pay close attention to what he is about to say, and that is because there is a very great need for them to do so. Israel had a great history of apostasy (before and after King David’s time) because they failed to truly appreciate all the marvelous things the Lord did for them. Many of them had, in a sense, forgotten the Lord’s mighty deeds. Through these same incredible works, the Lord displayed His tremendously excellent character. There is a great challenge here for all believers of every generation. To us believers alive today, we need to take these words to heart with all our strength. By doing so, we will avoid making the same mistakes Israel made. We would do well to listen to these great words of the Psalmist to understand the Lord’s way and viewpoint of things. Let us not test our Savior and rob Him of the credit He is due. He is entirely fair, righteous, and faithful in everything He does.

The dark sayings being spoken of here refer to the events from Moses to David. Despite Israel’s poor behavior, we see very clearly from the events spoken of God’s just dealings with the disobedient in this chapter. These things we will elaborate more on below.

This chapter of Psalms is for all people of every generation. “These things were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11), and we believers should take careful notice of the events described in these crucial verses. For the Lord to reveal these things to us is an act of mercy on His part, for they help prepare us on how to react when faced with our own set of trials and tribulations. Naturally, we do not want to fail the tests that come our way as the Israelites did. However, every believer fails throughout their life “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

3. Psalm 78:5-8

Psalm 78:5-8 (ESV)

5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Our God is indeed a God of mysteries, but he never makes His commandments hard to understand and obey. The Law was given to Israel for the nation to see just how imperfect and sinful they were, leading them to walk closer to God in faith. Never has the Lord been a God of confusion that people wouldn’t know what to do to please Him, and this shows how fair He is. As believers, the Lord has made His desire for us very clear in His Word. God has graciously given us the revelation of the Scriptures so that we might grow in and for Him. For unbelievers, it is so that they can come to the truth of the gospel. Natural revelation should easily suffice to draw the unregenerate individual to Christ who can’t help but marvel and question where all creation had its beginning. And if this same person takes these things to heart, wishing to know more about the Creator who made all there is, then the Lord will bring even more truth about Himself to that same person (divine revelation). This form of revelation may come from a missionary who is prepared to share the gospel and teach the Word of God to some extent.

The Creator never fails to provide for any human being who wishes to accept and know more about Him. Creation is the base evidence and witness of His existence, and acknowledging that will lead to even more revealed truth in some form or another. The Lord does not hide from people to keep them from coming to Him. Most decide to pursue unrighteousness, and a perfect and Holy God can have nothing to do with anything sinful and impure, so He does not associate with any evil whatsoever. Nor can our Lord help anyone who refuses His grace, and for these reasons, He hides from the wicked. God is disgusted by all unrighteousness, and He will never be near any of it.

1 Corinthians 14:33 (KJV)

33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

Romans1:18-23 (NASB)

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Isaiah 59:2-3 (NASB)

2 But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken falsehood, Your tongue mutters wickedness.

But God accepts all who obey the gospel. In the verse below, the Lord addresses Cain, who tried to come to Him through His good works instead of coming to Him in faith as Able did. If Cain wanted to be accepted by God, he had to put his faith and trust in the future person and work of Jesus Christ (represented by the sacrificial offering). The gospel has always been the same in that all believers of all time have been saved by putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, believers looked ahead to Christ’s death through animal sacrifices which demonstrated their belief in Jesus Christ. Today, we also believe but look back at the cross in faith with more clarity since we have the complete canon of Scripture. Christians are saved today exactly as they were since Adam and Eve (who accepted the coats of skin given to them by our Lord which represented the future death of the coming Savior who would atone for all the sins of humanity).

Genesis 4:3-7 (NIV)

3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. 6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Every human being with free will has the opportunity to be saved. There is not one person alive who doesn’t know about God, for He has made Himself evident to all of humanity in an undeniable way. Why would He not make Himself known? Why would a loving God make Himself challenging to find? He is not far off from anyone, and no person who truly comes to Him has to do anything in the power of their flesh to earn His favor. All they have to do is commit their lives to Him in faith. God will then do the rest because only He can sanctify us through His Spirit. Our job is to trust and obey. We don’t do the work, but we do participate in God’s sanctifying of us through faith.

Deuteronomy 30:11-16 (NIV)

11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. 15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

3.1 Israel’s Purpose

So what does this have to do with our context in Psalms? Well, the Israelites couldn’t have had it any easier. They were God’s chosen people to demonstrate His power and glory to the rest of the world so that other nations would follow their example in faith and obedience, turning away from the world and all its wickedness and turning to Christ in faith instead. So here we see God going a step further by choosing to give even more of a witness to the world through a chosen people to demonstrate His glory. Additionally, this would accompany many unique and extraordinary signs and wonders from the Lord Himself, further demonstrating to the Israelites and all the other nations of the world God’s power and presence.

The Israelites had it all! They had the Law, the prophets, signs and wonders, and many other great things. God not only blessed His people by choosing them to be His witness (Isaiah 43:10), but He also acted graciously to many of the world’s unbelieving nations by giving them even more proof and evidence of Himself. Through the nation of Israel, God would show His just behavior toward those who obeyed Him. And even if anyone did disobey, the Lord would display His graciousness through punishment and discipline.

Isaiah 43:10-15 (ESV)

10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.11 I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior.12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.13 Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” 14 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “For your sake I send to Babylon and bring them all down as fugitives, even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice. 15 I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.”

Deuteronomy 7:6-11 (ESV)

6 “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. 9 Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10 and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face. 11 You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statutes and the rules that I command you today.

No person should stumble over the Old Testament because they feel God was somehow unkind or “different” in His behavior than He was in the New Testament. God’s character does not change or go on and off like a lightbulb with different people based on their culture, ethnicity, land, or behavior. No matter the individual the Lord is dealing with, He is fair and righteous, for He shows no partiality (Deuteronomy 10:17). The Lord punishes people for a reason, and this always has to do with their negative response and opposition toward Him and His followers, something very clearly seen in our psalms passage. The Lord disciplines believers out of love to protect them from causing any further spiritual harm to themselves or others. For unbelievers who refuse to come to the Lord, He punishes them by sending them to the place they chose to be, a place separated from God forever and ever. God allows individuals to choose (for themselves) where they want to go in this life and where they want to spend eternity. But let it be known, the Lord’s loving arms are always opened wide for all to embrace, even for those who choose not to run to them. And, as mentioned earlier, the proof of God’s existence is always present, so every person will always know about Him. All unbelievers still have access to God, and all it takes to enter the realm of grace is a decision to say yes by putting one’s faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Hebrews 13:8 (KJV)

8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

Malachi 3:6 (ESV)

6 “For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

Numbers 23:19 (ESV)

19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

God’s dealing with any people, regardless of where they are from, all has to do with how they respond to Him. No nation is better than another, just as Israel was no better or superior to anyone else. Yahwe chose them for a unique task, but that does not mean being better or having more worth and value. To the nation that calls out to the Lord and obeys Him, the Lord will never fail to deal kindly with them. It is only because of wickedness and a refusal to repent that God destroys. And we must also keep in mind that the Lord knows who will come to Him and who will not. He would never harm any person that would have come to Him in faith, for that would be unjust on His part.

Since Israel was God’s witness to the other peoples of the world, why would the Lord destroy other tribes who would heed the nation’s example and come to believe in and obey Yahwe just as they did? Ability is not the issue, for all people have free will to go to God and serve Him. In the case of the other nations Israel often encountered and destroyed, it was a matter of refusing to heed the call of repentance. And that was not the only issue. The peoples and nations that the Israelites destroyed would have had a corrupt and terrible influence on God’s chosen people. Though they often did because the Israelites decided to partner up with them, however. The great danger these other nations presented was that they would often lead God’s people astray, influencing and corrupting them with their bad behavior like a swarming and spreading disease.

One needs only look back to the case of Noah’s flood to grasp better why God handled other nations the way He did. God flooded the earth in Noah’s time because wickedness had become so great, much of which had to do with the Nephilim corrupting the human race when angels cohabited with human women to wipe out any chance of a promised seed for the Messiah to exist. But we know how the story goes. God had a remnant of believers, Noah, and his family, who still feared His name, and it was they who were to continue the human race and make possible the line of the Messiah through Noah’s son Shem. If the Lord had not flooded the earth, all people would have become corrupted, turning away from God altogether. The corrupted line of the demonic Nephilim would have ruled the world so that no person would have (even if they could) ever come to God for salvation. So it was for humanity’s sake and the salvation and existence of millions/billions with genuine free will that God caused the flood to destroy the earth to the extent that it did.

For more information on the Nephilim, please see Part 5 of the Satanic Rebellion series on Ichthys.

Regarding the other people the Israelites encountered, if Israel were to “put up” with their influence, this would only guarantee much corruption of the people that God had chosen to witness to and help bring to salvation the other peoples of the world. Even after destroying many different nations living in the Trans and Cis Jordanian regions, many Israelites still fell under the influence of pagan peoples, having been led astray to disobedience in serving “other gods.” God’s destruction of them was for the salvation of others. So how can anyway say that He was unfair by handling them the way He did? They chose not to repent of their old ways, and many of them often waged war with Israel, so action from God was inevitable.

In a way, Israel was God’s mouthpiece to the world to HELP, NOT HINDER the rest of humanity! Destruction was only for those who refused God and hindered others by their wicked and rebellious influence. God has always wanted every person to come to Him in faith, so if the Lord destroyed for no good reason any other tribe, people, or nation, then that would only be Him working against His purpose, plan, or will. We know from Scripture that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:24). The Israelites would be destroying their work in that case. But we know that all those Israel went up against and wiped out had no intention of turning to God. They would have destroyed God’s witness Israel by corrupting them with all sorts of terrible and disgusting practices, so much so that if allowed to continue, no, or very few, God-fearing people would remain. To enable many of these reprobates to live would allow them to interfere with God’s plan to save others, not to mention His people Israel, for many did fall under the influence of these ungodly nations’, which only led to apostasy.

On the other side of this, anyone outside of Israel could join the nation if desired. Foreigners identified with God’s people through faith and were to receive fair treatment.

Ezekiel 44:9-14 (NIV)

9 This is what the Sovereign Lord says: No foreigner uncircumcised in heart and flesh is to enter my sanctuary, not even the foreigners who live among the Israelites. 10 “‘The Levites who went far from me when Israel went astray and who wandered from me after their idols must bear the consequences of their sin. 11 They may serve in my sanctuary, having charge of the gates of the temple and serving in it; they may slaughter the burnt offerings and sacrifices for the people and stand before the people and serve them. 12 But because they served them in the presence of their idols and made the people of Israel fall into sin, therefore I have sworn with uplifted hand that they must bear the consequences of their sin, declares the Sovereign Lord. 13 They are not to come near to serve me as priests or come near any of my holy things or my most holy offerings; they must bear the shame of their detestable practices. 14 And I will appoint them to guard the temple for all the work that is to be done in it.

Regardless of where they came from, any foreigner could join Israel as long as they submitted to God.

Romans 15:10 (ESV)

10 And again it is said,

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

Isaiah 56:6-7 (ESV)

6 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

Ezekiel 47:21-23 (ESV)

21 “So you shall divide this land among you according to the tribes of Israel. 22 You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. 23 In whatever tribe the sojourner resides, there you shall assign him his inheritance, declares the Lord God.

2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)

9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

1 John 2:2 (NKJV)

2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

In our passage, Israel had so many advantages and blessings that they were especially without excuse for their misconduct. Yet we see the Lord’s great character in action in dealing with their failures to obey Him. Additionally, the Lord manifested Himself to His people through divine revelation. In turn, the Israelites could then witness all they had seen and heard to their children, providing future generations with another witness of God’s existence and character. This witnessing of God’s power would spark a chain reaction of sorts. The more Israelites came to the Lord, the more people to witness the truth about God to the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, God’s people would also pass off a poor testimony through their disobedience. Instead of being faithful witnesses as they should have been, the Israelites only encouraged other nations to disobedience by often yoking themselves to the detestable deeds of outsiders. Believers are supposed to be different from the world in that we separate our conduct from theirs. But because of their disobedience, Israel often had the opposite effect on the people around them.

Philippians 1:27 (ESV)

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

Very relevant to how the nation of Israel should have been is the verse below. Godly behavior can cause a positive response.

Matthew 5:16 (KJV)

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

By remembering the wonders God performed for them, future generations of Israelites could have more of a reference to go by to keep them from acting foolishly and incurring the Lord’s wrath. This discipline would be giving future generations a further and additional “heads up,” so to speak. The Lord clearly warned His people of the consequences of disobedience in the whole narrative of the “blessings and cursings” mentioned in Deuteronomy 27-28. So they had no excuse whatsoever, for the Lord had clarified what would happen if they obeyed and what would happen if they disobeyed. That is why the Lord told them to “write these things down on the tablet of your hearts” so that they would not forget about all He had done for them.

God never fails to provide a witness of Himself, and the Lord often uses people to do it. Either we will make it easier for others to come to the truth through obedience, or we will make it harder through disobedience by floundering around in this world. So if God’s chosen witnesses didn’t communicate the message, it was because THEY failed to carry out their task, which means there was no shortcoming on God’s part.

On the other hand, if we cooperate with God, all good spiritual things will come our way. As an example, think about a child going to the doctor’s office for a checkup. If the child cooperates with the doctor, they can perform their job by helping the patient. But if the child refuses to collaborate and continues to squirm and fight, how can they expect to be treated if all they do is resist?

Psalm 32:8-11 (NASB)

8 I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will advise you with My eye upon you. 9 Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you. 10 The sorrows of the wicked are many, But the one who trusts in the Lord, goodness will surround him. 11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.

There are many lessons the modern church can learn from Israel’s past. People of all generations should benefit. It is true, we are no longer under the Law but under grace in the new covenant that was ushered in by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. But the same theme of staying faithful to God (obeying Him and continuing in the faith) still applies today and always will. If we obey the Lord, then He will bless us spiritually. The Bible tells us that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8; Jeremiah 29:12-14).

If, on the other hand, we disobey Him, then we can only expect there to be consequences in some form or another. No sin goes unnoticed, for the Lord sees all that we think, say, and do. Christ will judge every person according to their works. And this He will do without flaw. In these last and final days of the church, obedience couldn’t be any more crucial. However, its importance never changes based upon the time and era a person lives in, for God desires the obedience and salvation of all people at all times. But since our current church era of Laodicea will be enduring discipline by going through the tribulation (Revelation 3:14-22), we need to evaluate our conduct here and now. We are not to wait until the test comes to decide to get our act together, but we are to be diligent in everything we do for God at all times. We do not want to make the same mistakes Israel made by falling into apostasy during significant testing because we lacked sufficient faith in our hearts to bear up under the great tests the Lord allowed us to go through.

Sadly, many believers will fail the test of commitment during the tribulation when a whole third of Christians alive during that time fall away from the faith and take the mark of the beast to follow the counterfeit “christ” himself, the antichrist.

Matthew 24:12-13 (NIV)

12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (NASB)

2 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

4. Psalm 78:9-16

Psalm 78:9-16 (ESV)

9 The Ephraimites, armed with the bow, turned back on the day of battle. 10 They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to his law. 11 They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them. 12 In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap. 14 In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light. 15 He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. 16 He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

The Ephraimites represent all the tribes of Israel or the nation as a whole. As Merrill F. Unger writes in his commentary on the old testament for verse nine—

Quote from Merrill Unger

“The Ephraimites, representing all the tribes, were archers equipped with bows (1 Chron. 12:2), figuratively describing their noble call and destination. Yet they turned back in the day of battle, failing, when put to the test, to realize their high calling. Their unfaithfulness resulted in their defeat, the capture of the ark by the enemy (vv. 41-42, 56-60), followed by the rejection of Shiloh and the choice of Judah as the place of the sanctuary (vv. 67-69). (Page 859)

The last verses we described told us that the Israelites were unfaithful, while these verses begin to speak of the many ways in which they were disobedient. Despite witnessing the power and wonders of the Lord, they still refused to trust in Him for deliverance. They had something that we, as believers, do not have today. They had visible miracles and signs performed by the Lord Jesus to show them the way, protect them, and deliver them from their enemies. How sad is it then that even with all this convincing proof the Lord displayed, many still chose not to walk by faith?

Faith and obedience go hand in hand, for you cannot separate the two. Faith is demonstrated, or put into action, by doing the works the Lord the Lord wants us to do, not that salvation is by works, but that works are manifestations that a person has Christ living within them (James 2:14-26). That doesn’t mean believers will not disobey at all, of course. But what we are going to see throughout this chapter will show us the deeper side of this.

A person obeying the Lord as they should doesn’t forget what the Lord has commanded them. No believer fails to remember what it means to live righteously, just as how unbelievers are not ignorant of God’s existence. So when verse 11 says, “They forgot his works and the wonders that He had shown them,” this simply means they “chose” to push the truth and importance of God’s miraculous workings out of their minds, as verse 10 before states, “they did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to His law.”

Counting our blessings and remembering all the great and marvelous things the Lord has done for us in the past should have the effect of strengthening our faith. The result is that it grows to an even higher level to correspond to a test of even greater difficulty. What good was it for Israel to have witnessed all that they did only to disregard it? Instead of leaving a permanent impression on them, many of God’s people acted as if they were oblivious to what the Lord had done, but they were not. They knew what Yahwe did for them and that all of it did happen. But they chose to allow their present and future circumstances to override godly reverence. To fear the Lord is to be wise, and to be wise is to obey Him. Knowledge alone is not enough if we don’t apply what we know to be true.

As we have just seen, “memory” was not the issue as was “obedience.” God will not allow those who fear Him to forget what He commanded them to do, for He told Israel that blessing would come with obedience. It is all about the disposition of a person’s heart, which will determine how well they respond to the Lord. If an individual’s heart is hard, they have chosen not to allow any truth to penetrate. If a person means well but lacks faith, they cannot please God in any way (Hebrews 11:6). If people are open-minded but not genuinely interested in believing and following through on the truth they have heard, they will not get anywhere.

James 1:21-25 (NKJV)

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

On the other hand, if an individual is not only open-minded to the truth they hear but believes it through applying it in their lives, this will bring about the Lord’s spiritual blessing for them.

Proverbs 16:20 (NLT)

20 Those who listen to instruction will prosper; those who trust the Lord will be joyful.

Think back to our example of Cain when the Lord told Him that doing right would mean God’s acceptance. If a person obeys the gospel, will they not be saved and receive the gifts and benefits of salvation? If a believer pursues sanctification, will they not prosper in this life in the real biblical sense? If Israel obeyed, would they not have been blessed just as God told them?

The point is that the Lord never wants to have to punish or discipline anyone. And yet, people force Him to do so. The Lord punishes unbelievers because He has no choice. His handling of them is designed to bring them to Christ. Punishment also fulfills God’s justice! Justice must be served! Anytime any person experiences God’s displeasure, it is because of something wrong they did, for God does not level out discipline or punishment for no reason. Just as a parent never wants to spank their child (regarding God’s dealings with His children and not unbelievers), the Lord doesn’t want to have to do so with us. But if He does, it is for our good because He loves us.

Genesis 4:7 (NIV)

7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

In verses 12-16 of our passage, the Psalmist reminds us of the mighty things God did for His own. There is a moral to this entire story that applies to every Christian. If God has brought us through difficult times before, will He not pull us through all other challenges we will have to face in the future? It makes no sense that the Lord would rescue His people one moment but then fail to do so in any other instance. If that were the case, then remembering all the mighty deeds He performed in the past would be pointless. There is no challenge too great for the Lord, and He will deliver every believer through every difficulty.

Psalm 66:8-12 (ESV)

8 Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, 9 who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. 10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

1 John 5:2-4 (ESV)

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Much of Israel believed that liberation from Egypt would never occur. And yet, what happened? God brought them out of slavery. Many thought they were goners when encountered by the Egyptians at the sea, yet what happened? The Lord parted the waters so that the people could walk through on dry ground. No matter how difficult our circumstances may be, we must remember that deliverance will come if we wait long enough for it (Isaiah 40:31). Or do we wish to insult the Lord and put Him to the test by doubting His goodness? The people of Israel did because they believed God had brought them out into the desert to die, but they misjudged His thoughts, intents, and motivations. Who are we to judge God?

Numbers 14:1-4 (ESV)

Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

No person can perfectly know the mind of the Lord. But as believers, we know we are to trust in Him with all our hearts (Proverbs 3:5-6). Following our heart and intellect when they are not attuned to the Holy Spirit’s power will always lead to failure. But if we submit to the Lord and approach the situation in faith, bearing up under the trial we face, then the Lord will not fail to bring us through safely. In our hearts, we know that there is always a way of escape through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

So when the Israelites questioned God’s character and goodness, assuming He meant to do them harm, they could not have been any more wrong than that. God is always looking out for our best interest, not for our destruction! If He wants to bless us and grow us spiritually, why would He defeat His purpose by working against His plan for our lives? God is not divided against Himself (Mark 3:24). He knows what He is doing at all times, just as He knew what was best for His people whom He brought out of slavery. God put Israel through all that He did to test them, to strengthen and refine their faith so that they could see just how powerless they were to do anything for themselves. The people seemed to think that taking matters into their own hands would somehow make things better for them, but their actions had the opposite effect of their intentions. The Lord had perfect knowledge of their situation, so He knew the best course of action. It was ridiculous for the nation to think they knew better than God as if they had more of the facts around them than the Creator Himself.

Isaiah 45:9-10 (NLT)

9 “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?’ 10 How terrible it would be if a newborn baby said to its father, ‘Why was I born?’ or if it said to its mother, ‘Why did you make me this way?’”

These things were only the beginning of the many grievous mistakes Israel would commit. Mistakes will happen, many of which the nation made that are not mentioned in the Bible, for we must remember that every person sins every day (1 John 1:8). But pride leading to hardness of heart will only cause a chain reaction of further disobedience down the road. In Israel’s case, many would fall away into apostasy. Although every individual is responsible for their own choice at any time and moment, Israel’s history could have turned out differently had they done what was right from the beginning. Though there was much obedience in the beginning stage of the departure, it wasn’t long before issues regarding God’s purpose and authority began to arise. We see this in the example where the Israelites put God to the test by complaining to Him for water.

Exodus 17:1-7 (NKJV)

Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. 2 Therefore the people contended with Moses, and said, “Give us water, that we may drink.” So Moses said to them, “Why do you contend with me? Why do you tempt the Lord?” 3 And the people thirsted there for water, and the people complained against Moses, and said, “Why is it you have brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?” 4 So Moses cried out to the Lord, saying, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me!” 5 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go on before the people, and take with you some of the elders of Israel. Also take in your hand your rod with which you struck the river, and go. 6 Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb; and you shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7 So he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the contention of the children of Israel, and because they tempted the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

5. Psalm 78:17-20

Psalm 78:17-20 (ESV)

17 Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. 18 They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. 19 They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? 20 He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?”

Here we see another amazing thing the Lord did for His people. Unfortunately, the sad reality was that the more works the Lord did for the nation in performing signs, wonders, miracles, and deliverances, the more the people complained and failed to trust in Him. Israel’s difficulties were a test for them, but they decided instead to throw it back in the Lord’s face by testing Him in return!

Deuteronomy 6:16 (NASB)

16 “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah.

Matthew 4:5-7 (ESV)

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

The moral of this is simple. We trust God at all times, waiting for His deliverance, as opposed to taking matters into our own hands, as if we could save ourselves. We do not complain or gripe about our situations, for this will multiply our suffering by bringing on severe hardship down the road. Between the choice of more or less suffering, which do we prefer? We must understand that the Christian life entails trials and difficulties, so prospective believers should count the cost. Israel had to face multiple challenges to receive their inheritance in the land of promise, and faith and obedience would bring about these blessings. Obedience to Christ brings about satanic opposition on the one hand and genuine testing from our Lord on the other. Either we will choose to suffer doing the right thing or increase our suffering through wrongdoing. By doing wrong, we make doing the right thing all the harder while subjecting ourselves to divine discipline.

1 Peter 3:17 (NASB)

17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.

The more one sins, the more one suffers because the deeper a pit a person digs for themselves. The deeper the hole, the more one has to climb to get out. Israel’s tests were demanding, but they were all doable. Had they obeyed, all would have gone well, and many would have lived. Difficulties would not have multiplied if they had cooperated. For instead of the prior generations entering the promised land and living in better conditions and circumstances, they ended up wandering in the wilderness for forty years until all of the older generations of Israel had died.

Joshua 5:2-6 (NLT)

2 At that time the Lord told Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise this second generation of Israelites.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the entire male population of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. 4 Joshua had to circumcise them because all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died in the wilderness. 5 Those who left Egypt had all been circumcised, but none of those born after the Exodus, during the years in the wilderness, had been circumcised. 6 The Israelites had traveled in the wilderness for forty years until all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died. For they had disobeyed the Lord, and the Lord vowed he would not let them enter the land he had sworn to give us—a land flowing with milk and honey.

Reaping God’s benefits requires faithful obedience in all circumstances, and this will always entail tests of some type or another. Entering the kingdom of heaven will require every believer’s faith to be tested through some crucible of life. Israel is a prime example of the condition needed to do so. If we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and demonstrate that growing and saving faith through obedience, then we shall inherit the kingdom because we stayed faithful to the One who bought us with His precious blood on the cross. But if we fail the test of life by turning our backs on God through unbelief, then no entrance into the presence of God’s kingdom will ever occur. That is what the nation of Israel represents because of their apostasy. They would not enter or inherit the promised land because of their unbelief. The older generations who disbelieved passed away, and the younger generations who did believe were the only ones who were allowed to possess the land.

Acts 14:21-22 (NASB)

21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

Hebrews 3:12 (NIV)

12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.

The Lord is not asking us to do anything out of the ordinary. All He requires is faith. We cannot save ourselves, and as we shall see later, challenging God’s authority by becoming gods in our hearts is the most terrible and grievous mistake. Trying to approach God any other way other than in faith, which is the true gospel made possible by God’s grace, will only lead one to eternal destruction. So why would anyone want to come to God apart from faith? The Lord has not only made salvation possible, but He has made it easier by doing all the work for us required for our deliverance. Our part is to receive this gracious offer through faith. And yet man, in his pride, has often gone the opposite direction, believing he can save himself. That is the way of destruction, and it will only increase a person’s suffering in this life and the next because they labored in their strength to achieve that which they will not even end up receiving at all. And at the end, there will only be eternal regret and remorse that will never cease to torment the mind of the individual who has chosen to spurn the grace of God.

1 John 5:2-4 (ESV)

2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)

8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

How much more gracious could the Lord be? He sent His one and only Son to suffer more than any human being will have ever suffered at history’s end to save us human beings who did not even deserve salvation. And not only that, but all He requires of us is to believe in the person and work of His precious Son Jesus Christ. Yes, we will have to suffer in the strenuous process known as spiritual growth, for choosing the narrow path is to choose the hard way in life (Matthew 7:13-14). And yet, choosing the right way of salvation is to make one’s life better and eternally wonderful and perfect in the end. For in God’s kingdom, there will exist no death, sin, suffering, or difficulties, and that is for all eternity! Why exchange the Christian life’s hardships for eternal torment that will never end? The true believer’s sufferings are only temporary, but the grief the unbeliever will endure away from God will never end!

Galatians 1:4 (NIV)

4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NIV)

16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

6. Psalm 78:21-31

Psalm 78:21-31 (ESV)

21 Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; his anger rose against Israel, 22 because they did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power. 23 Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, 24 and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. 25 Man ate of the bread of the angels; he sent them food in abundance. 26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by his power he led out the south wind; 27 he rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; 28 he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. 29 And they ate and were well filled, for he gave them what they craved. 30 But before they had satisfied their craving, while the food was still in their mouths, 31 the anger of God rose against them, and he killed the strongest of them and laid low the young men of Israel.

The Lord had every reason to be angry (the word “anger” for God is always being used an an anthropomorphism) with His people because they continued to disbelieve. Despite this, the Lord still gave them what they wanted. The people needed food, but had they waited for it in faith as they should have, they would have received it. They also could have humbly asked instead of complaining. There was no possible way the Lord would allow the people that He had just delivered out of slavery to die of hunger and thirst in the middle of the desert (Matthew 6:25-34). All Israel needed for further success and deliverance was faith. As Isaiah 40:31 states, “they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not become faint.”

Exercising faith strengthens our spirit within us so that we can continue acting in righteous obedience. If we want something out of necessity, then we need to ask for it, for if we “ask, we shall receive” (Matthew 7:7) a big difference from murmuring and complaining. “Is God with us or not?” That was the common complaint. Faith is always needed. And yet the Lord still dealt kindly with His people by giving them food despite their complaints, and they were many! That just goes to demonstrate the love and longsuffering of our God. The Lord is patient and slow to anger, not quick to destroy, nor does He ever desire to do so.

Psalm 103:8 (ESV)

8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

6.1 God’s Just Dealings With Non-Apostates

As a side discussion to our passage above (Psalm 103:8), let us examine some other examples to see God’s just character.

First, a lapse in faith is not the same thing as apostasy, which is a complete abandonment from God altogether. Many of the greatest believers in the Bible doubted God by failing to believe Him at different times throughout their lives. That doesn’t mean they no longer believed in and followed Him, for that they most certainly did. On the contrary, an apostate is one who no longer believes and holds to that choice for the rest of their life with no remorse.

All believers have their time of fear, doubt, and unbelief, for sin is living proof of this (Psalm 103). It is often the case that we disobey the Lord because we fail to trust Him, believing that He could not deliver us through whatever trial or temptation we may have had to face. All believers sin, but as long as faith remains, so does salvation.

John 3:18 (ESV)

18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Romans 3:23 (ESV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

1 John 1:8-9 (ESV)

8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

It was not always the case that someone whom the Lord killed had become an unbeliever. We have quite a few examples from the exodus generation under the mosaic law of people who committed a single sin and had to die for it. The Lord would either take their life Himself or do it indirectly through the other people by having them kill the wrongdoer. However, not everyone who walked among the Israelite’s and followed the Lord in the desert were true believers, like how many unbelievers going to church today mix with genuine Christians. There will always be trouble makers among the assembly who must go if they continue to cause others to stumble, especially if they refuse to repent. In some of the examples below, we will mention that not every person who did wrong was an unbeliever per-say, though the Bible does not give us a lot of information on this. What if a genuine believer committed a single sin that was punishable by death? For it was often the case that such persons often admitted their sin before the congregation. They knew the consequences of their actions, yet they did wrong anyway, so whether they were a believer or not is a moot point. The Law clearly stated that if such a person did this or that, they would die for it.

So if every man sins, believers included, why take the life of a believer who stumbled in one area of sin but did not rebel against the Lord entirely? Why in some cases did the Law demand death for a single act of disobedience ?

Again, we don’t know if all of the people mentioned in these passages below were true believers or not. Still, the sins committed were not the same as a total rejection of Christ. The most likely reason the Lord allowed one-time wrong-doers to die was so that the people would see the consequences of disobedience (and also so that they would not make the same mistakes). Israel was still in its infant stage of becoming a nation, so it was no time for anyone, believer or unbeliever, to stunt the nation’s growth by any misconduct. Just as how a single lighted match thrown into a field could set the entire area on fire, so too was the case of expelling all wrongdoers so that others would not follow suit. Disobedience would set a poor example because the more a person continued to disobey the Lord’s commands, the more complacent others would become, resulting in an “endemic” of disobedience. Israel was in the process of becoming a nation, and they already had enough tests and challenges to undergo. The last thing they needed was problems from within their rank.

Now, as to the person who committed the act—if they were an unbeliever, and there were many of them among Israel during the exodus, their death would mean that they would meet eternal doom on the other side if they did not repent. But if they were a believer, then they would be saved, but still had to suffer the righteous requirement of the Law stated by the Lord. Israel was in a critical stage of its formation, so cautious handling of every crucial situation in its growth was necessary for its safety. We see a similar case with Ananias and Sapphira (who were believers) when they lied about the money they had given (Acts 5:1-11). They had their lives taken when the church was in its infant stage of just getting going, a critical period for the body of Christ where no one could afford to fool around.

Think of a newborn baby. You have to treat an infant with more care and caution than you would a more grown-up child or adult if you will. The chances of a baby’s survival, if handled without care, are less likely. The consequences of mistreatment during such a crucial period in a child’s growth, or nation’s, in this case, will be much more severe than if a more mature person prepared to handle the mistreatment is abused.

Examples of what we have discussed above are Acts 5:1-11, Leviticus 10:1-3, Numbers 15:32-36, 2 Samuel 6:1-7, and Leviticus 24:10-14. But, of course, these are only a few mentioned in Scripture, so this list is far from comprehensive. And to repeat, it is not always clear in every instance if said wrongdoer was a true believer or not. The case dealing with Leviticus 24:10-14 may have involved an unbeliever, but the Bible doesn’t tell us. We must never forget that anyone who is a true believer is saved and that if we do sin, we have an advocate with the Father Jesus Christ, the righteous (1 John 2:1). Christ died for all our sins past, present, and future. Only reverting to complete unbelief (in whatever way or manner since there are various causes for apostasy) results in loss of salvation for the believer who chooses to become an unbeliever.

To conclude the discussion of our passage in Psalms, the people did not believe the Lord. They doubted whether He was God, challenging His authority by attacking Moses, which demonstrated unbelief from a hardened heart to submit to God as an authority. So by taking the lives of many of the Israelites, the Lord punished the nation by sending a warning message of the consequences of severe disobedience so those witnessing it would fear God and not repeat the same mistake the wrongdoers committed. Some of those killed may have been believers whom God disciplined (they were still saved, however), while others were (or became through apostasy) unbelievers whom God punished with the same fate. The difference, however, is that the unbelievers (apostates with no intention of repenting) were not saved and suffered eternal condemnation. God knew the difference, but both sides who had sinned had to be dealt with so that the rest of the nation would learn the consequences of disobedience and not follow suit. We must remember that God disciplines believers but punishes unbelievers. And our Lord can and does use pre-mature death to discipline believers for their benefit, as the passage below shows clearly.

1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (NIV)

27 So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. 29 For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. 30 That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. 31 But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. 32 Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.

The rebellious Israelites knew God could and would help them, for they had seen Him work so many wonders and miracles before them. Physically following the Lord in the wilderness was not the same thing as spiritually following Him. The whole point of God allowing the nation to face many of the tests they did was to see whether their faith was genuine. Many failed the test, and as a consequence, lost everything for it. That is how the Lord determined who would be truly worthy to enter the promised land, analogous to salvation in which only believers with a truly committed, lasting faith will enter the kingdom of God. The only way to prove whether that faith is genuine is to have it tested. That is why the passage below says what it says.

Acts 14:21-22 (NASB)

21 After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”

James 2:19 (NKJV)

19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!

1 Peter 1:6-7 (NASB)

6 In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

7. Psalm 78:32-37

Psalm 78:32-37 (ESV)

32 In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe. 33 So he made their days vanish like a breath, and their years in terror. 34 When he killed them, they sought him; they repented and sought God earnestly. 35 They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer. 36 But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues. 37 Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant.

The passage above just goes to show how stubborn and ungrateful man can be toward God. Despite everything He had done, much of Israel showed that they had learned nothing from these past experiences. They had the free will to choose to do whatever they wanted, but rest assured, their disobedience would always have terrible consequences. They were so bent on doing their own thing and wanted to return to Egypt because they did not believe the Lord would fulfill His promises. When the Lord makes a promise, He means it, for He cannot lie and break anything He guarantees to anyone. That is especially true with salvation. Whoever believes in Him has eternal life.

Hebrews 6:13-20 (NIV)

13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.16 People swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

There can be no turning back in this life because salvation only comes to those who persevere in their faith until the very end (Hebrews 3:14). And this demonstrates in and of itself the graciousness of God. He does not force us to continue on the journey toward Zion if we do not want to, and He even warned us ahead of time before embarking on said “trip” by telling us in His Word to count the cost (Luke 14:25-34). That is why being realistic and honest when sharing the gospel is so critical. For by watering it down to some easy and pleasant experience which requires very little responsibility on our part, we only contribute to dulling a person’s attitude. Justification is simple, but sanctification is different, whereby we participate in the Lord’s work through faith. As should be known by any believer who is truly fighting the good fight of faith, living the Christian life is by no means easy. There are difficulties, hardships, trials, setbacks, false starts, etc. But what we get out of all that far surpasses the pain we have to go through to take hold of the spiritual treasures the Lord will give us. That is why the Bible tells us to set our hopes above (Colossians 3:2), something the Israelites failed in very badly.

Romans 8:15-18 (NLT)

15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering. 18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later.

By exchanging a life of ease in Egypt for a life of hardships with his people Israel, Moses demonstrated that he wanted the lasting rewards of God’s kingdom over the temporary and ephemeral things of this life (Hebrews 11:24-28). He was an ultimate role model of what being content in the Lord looked like, and the Israelites would have fared much better to have followed his example. Despite all the hardships around them, the people should have looked to what lay ahead. Hope means having a positive attitude because of the complete knowledge of the good results that are to come. That is the meaning of biblical hope, not “I think I will receive this,” but “I know I will receive this.”

Had Israel thought this way, they would not have fretted so much of the dangers and obstacles around them. But they chose to do just that because food was more important to them than their inheritance. Moreover, God’s authority was not one they wanted to fully submit to because they did not want to continue following God’s mediator Moses. So time after time, they continued to challenge God, putting Him to the test by disbelieving Him.

Even in this dark world we live in, we can have peace and joy, even in the most challenging trials and tribulations. Our God loves us, and never does He want us to be saddened or afraid. We are not as the unbelievers who have no hope if they continue in unbelief (1 Thessalonians 4:13), though they always have a choice to choose for God as long as they still live and breathe. On the contrary, believers have every reason to be happy and content, for by doing things God’s way, they are increasing the treasures they will have in the eternal kingdom forever. With God, there is far more to gain. But apart from Him, we lose everything, including ourselves.

Our gracious heavenly Father wants to give us everything, and it will never be the case that He wants to take anything from us unless He knows it’s for our good. Anything He does take away, He does so for a reason, as a test, and for our spiritual safety. It is true that if we ask, we shall receive, but not everything we ask for is something the Lord wants us to have, and so He withholds it from us for our good. Even if a situation appears very ugly (as it did in the circumstances the Israelites had to face), we should remember that all of that is just a big test the Lord allows us to go through to strengthen our faith. The Lord could have easily given His people everything they wanted right then and there before they grumbled. Hence, it was not a matter of whether He could help the Israelites, but a question of whether or not the people would bear up under the trial and trust in the Lord with a hope firmly fixed on Him knowing He would provide for them. That is why hope plays such an essential role in our spiritual growth. It gets our minds off the world and focuses them on the things of Christ. If we fix our eyes on a target, then to that target, we will go. As we drive a car down the road, failing to keep our eyes straight ahead could very well result in an accident.

Mark 6:36 (KJV)

36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

John 16:33 (NKJV)

33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

To continue our narrative, the people did “come back” to the Lord after they had sinned. But what mainly prompted them was the realization of death and destruction if they continued in disobedience. So the people again chose to disobey the Lord as soon as the threats went away. Mere rote confession with no genuine desire to change indicates a real lack of repentance in a person’s life, which was the case with much of Israel. Not being genuine in one’s attitude toward God but behaving like it through a false and ritualistic form of piety is the same as lying to Him. Acting like one will change when there is no genuine desire is pure dishonesty, and such individuals behave as if the Lord can’t see through the deception.

Now you may be thinking, “but verse 34 tells us the people repented and sought the Lord their God!” Yes, but this repentance was only temporary because of the Lord’s punishment inflicted on them by destroying many of their numbers. But as time went on, their hearts began to change again. Genuine repentance working together with true saving faith will result in following the Lord faithfully until the very end (James 2:14-26). Had the nation of Israel done this, the generation alive at that time would have lived to see the promised land. Instead, they chose not to be faithful, which resulted in their wandering in the wilderness for 40 years. Only the next generation, not part of that rebellious group, were allowed to enter the land. We will see a very similar situation of this during the time of Israel’s purging after the Lord’s second advent return. All the young children who did not take the mark of the beast and who were too young to make an official decision for the Lord will enter the Millennial kingdom.

Matthew 24:13 (ESV)

13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

2 Timothy 2:11-13 (ESV)

11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; 12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

8. Psalm 78: 38-55

Psalm 78:38-55 (ESV)

38 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. 39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. 40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! 41 They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel. 42 They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them from the foe, 43 when he performed his signs in Egypt and his marvels in the fields of Zoan. 44 He turned their rivers to blood, so that they could not drink of their streams. 45 He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them, and frogs, which destroyed them. 46 He gave their crops to the destroying locust and the fruit of their labor to the locust. 47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamores with frost. 48 He gave over their cattle to the hail and their flocks to thunderbolts. 49 He let loose on them his burning anger, wrath, indignation, and distress, a company of destroying angels. 50 He made a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death, but gave their lives over to the plague. 51 He struck down every firstborn in Egypt, the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham. 52 Then he led out his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. 53 He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid, but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. 54 And he brought them to his holy land, to the mountain which his right hand had won. 55 He drove out nations before them; he apportioned them for a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.

It was never the case that any Israelite who sinned against the Lord could not come back for forgiveness. But they had to confess their sins and not continue in unbelief in the form of idolatry! Yes, idolatry is the same thing as unbelief.

Now the Lord did mention to Moses at one point that He would destroy all the people and make of him (Moses) a great nation. But Moses interceded (Exodus 32:7-10), and the Lord had mercy on His people. The Lord allowed many to live on despite their disobedience, but they would not enter His rest, the promised land. The Lord went about the task differently than He had initially spoken to Moses. Instead of wiping out the people altogether, He would allow that wicked generation to live so that they could bear children as a future generation to enter the land for all willing to follow the Lord in obedience. Only the faithful younger generation would enter God’s rest.

Exodus 32:30-35 (NIV)

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” 31 So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold. 32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.” 33 The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. 34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.” 35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

Numbers 14:27-32 (ESV)

27 “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 But your little ones, who you said would become a prey, I will bring in, and they shall know the land that you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness.

As mere readers of the Old Testament narrative, we can only appreciate the Lord’s righteous character to a limited degree, for we were not there to witness these great acts for ourselves. But the Bible mentions everything we need to know from the example of the Israelites during Moses’s time. Therefore, all the information in Scripture is sufficient for us to understand what we need to know to conduct our own lives as we should. Thus, the warnings should be taken and understood, and God’s righteous character evident for all to grasp.

Israel couldn’t have had more chances. They proved unfaithful, showing no desire to stay committed whatsoever, and the Lord could not allow poor witnesses to enter the promised land as a testimony to all the other unbelieving nations of Canaan. The Lord called Israel to be the ultimate example/role model for all humanity. Other people would see God’s greatness displayed through them, causing many to join this group of God-fearers. But disobedience sparked by unbelief meant that the unfaithful would not receive the inheritance, which was for the good of the other people living there.

Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

To be clear, even when Israel set a good example, many, if not most groups of peoples living within Canaan still refused to come to Christ. In many (most) cases, they even opposed the Israelites by going to war with them. Nevertheless, everyone in the entire vicinity knew about God, for they had seen and heard about the many great signs, wonders, and deliverances He had performed for the nation against the Egyptians (Joshua 2:1-11). Additionally, the pagan nations of the promised land had natural revelation.

But it was far too often the case that instead of remembering the Lord’s power as they should have, the people put it out of their minds. In the case of genuine believers, we learn more about God and who He is through His working power in our lives. When confronted with strenuous tests that require total reliance on Him, we see our Savior the most because the Lord’s character and personality shine ever brighter during these periods, causing us to trust Him even more. But it had the opposite effect for Israel, who chose to harden their hearts toward the truth about who God was despite Him manifesting Himself to them. In turn, they were supposed to then “advertise” the glory of God through their conduct as a way of pointing others to Christ.

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)

9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

We see it mentioned in our passage of Psalms just how many amazing things the Lord performed in the sight of His people. We also see the Lord’s loving care for His own in going to the extreme to free the nation of Israel from the hand of their oppressors. The Lord allowed Pharaoh to harden his own heart to such a degree that not even most of the plagues were sufficient to sway his mind to let the people go. The fact that God did not relent in frustrating the Egyptians to cause them to release the Hebrews demonstrates just how much He loved the people He had chosen for Himself. The Lord made a promise to the patriarchs, and He had every intention of keeping them to bless the nation He had chosen to be a light to the world. But His chosen ones decided to work against the benefits that were coming their way! Many Israelites threw away their inheritance by their high-handed conduct to exchange it for increased pain and suffering. They cried out to God about being in slavery to the Egyptians, yet they would choose later to bring even more difficulties into their lives by their willful disobedience.

Exodus 6:6-8 (ESV)

Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. 7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 I will bring you into the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you for a possession. I am the Lord.’”

God allowed His people to witness as many of the miracles that they did for their benefit. Before they left Egypt, they were kept safe from all the terrible plagues that struck the land. This instance of Egypt’s plagues is analogous to the tribulation period when God will unleash His wrath through the trumpet and bowl judgments (Revelation 8:6-9:19; 11:15-19; 16:1-21). There is often a big misunderstanding when it comes to the Lord’s protection of His own.

First, God disciplines His children. He does not punish them for unbelief since they are believers. Punishment is for unbelievers because they refuse to come to God in faith and thus incur His wrath. The words “punishment” and “discipline” are often used interchangeably, but we are discussing a marked difference in this case (even though the two words can be used at times to mean the same thing). The tribulation period will not involve punishment for believers who have put their faith and trust in Christ, for this dark time of testing has two purposes. First, let us briefly examine the Israelites as an example. We are not given much information on them during their four hundred or so years of slavery in Egypt. But coming from what we read when Moses came on the scene, we see a somewhat hopeless attitude from the people who feared they would never be free. But God’s allowing them to go through various tests was to see what was on their hearts, though the Lord already knew all of this. The incredible journey Israel would take would be a great test for them, and the Lord used this period to determine who was fit to enter the promised land.

There is much today’s believers can learn from Israel’s dark past. For one thing, the solution for most believers to pull out of the “accepted norm” of today’s lukewarm attitude is to “become zealous and repent,” which our Lord so clearly encourages in Revelation 3:14-22. But there is a problem. The Lord confirms to them their attitude, “I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing” (verse 17). When people believe their mentality and approach to life is correct and acceptable when it is not, then change is very unlikely and difficult. What is worse is that they pass this mindset onto others, showing in our churches today.

Today’s believers have far more than believers of the past. More physical wealth has deceived many into thinking that because they are rich, they must be spiritually rich. But they are not, and that is where they deceive themselves as our Lord confirms, " you do not realize that you are wretched, poor, pitiful, blind, and naked." Material riches do not equate to good spiritual health, as many in this day and age claim that they have great physical abundance because the Lord has blessed them for their faithfulness toward Him, but that is not the case. Nor is it that those who are materialistically poor are spiritually rich either per se.

The whole point in the context of Revelation 3:14-22 is that God does not care what we do or do not have materially but rather what we have spiritually, zeal, passion, and therefore great love for God, which is what the Lord wants to see from us. It is the treasures that we have in our hearts that truly mean anything in the Lord’s eyes. But because those riches of God’s Word are not sufficiently stored up in the hearts of most Christians today, then a lack of love for the truth results, limiting progress and production for the Lord. It hinders our main objective here on earth, for the great deception that many in the church want to believe is that they are spiritually rich. But our Lord tells us that is not the case.

Psalm 119:11 (ESV)

11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Handling our love for the Lord the way we should require us as believers to handle His truth the way we should, as our love for God and our love for His Word are inseparable, and they both go hand in hand. In the days that we live in, we believers have far more time and resources than ever before to learn the truths contained in Scripture. And yet, despite “being rich” in resources for further study and advancement in the Word, we do not take advantage of all that the Lord has allowed us to have, not because we can’t, but because we choose not to. And this explains our Lord’s evaluation of Laodicea, the current era of the church we live in now.

2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB)

15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Luke 8:21 (NIV)

21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

2 Timothy 3:16 (NIV)

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

Romans 15:4 (NASB)

4 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

And so, because of this half-hearted attitude, the Lord tells us He will “vomit us out of His mouth,” and where we land will be right into the tribulation, the most horrific time the earth will have ever seen. If believers are to “wake up” from their spiritual drowsiness, something needs to occur, and that is discipline. If most believers were red hot, they wouldn’t have to go through the tribulation as a form of testing. A good parent does not spank their child for no reason.

All the above is what we see with the Egyptians and the nation of Israel. The Egyptians are punished for their ungodliness by failing to release the Israelites. On the other hand, the Lord allowed the Israelites to go through hard testing by leading them through the wilderness. That is very similar to how the tribulation will be for the entire church alive at that future time; a test to see who is faithful and who is not. Only believers who endure to the end will receive an eternal inheritance. In contrast, all apostates alive during that time will suffer the loss of the eternal inheritance that could have been theirs (analogous to the Israelites who never entered the promised land).

Matthew 24:10-13 (ESV)

10 And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

God was so faithful to His people, even when they continued to disobey Him. The Lord even restrained His anger multiple times for their sake so that He would not have to deal with them in a manner too overwhelming for them to bear. That just goes to show that the Lord did not want to destroy anybody, nor was He quick to do so. He is not like lightning that just strikes at random. Though He could have killed the people sooner, He chose to give them even more time to repent to demonstrate His lovingkindness toward them. He gave them more than enough time to get their act together.

But Israel, not to mention many of the surrounding nations, had divine revelation manifested in front of their own eyes. Miracles of many kinds the Lord demonstrated. What more proof could a person want? To have all these visible wonders displayed before them and yet still fail to believe in the One true God shows how determined people are to stray from the Creator and do their own thing (Isaiah 53:6).

Exodus 14:10-14 (NKJV)

10 And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” 13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”

Many of the Israelites had only temporary faith or demonstrated some zeal only when God displayed His wondrous power. But like most during Jesus’s time on earth, this enthusiasm didn’t go much further than a shallow fascination. Many came to follow Christ just because of the many miracles He performed, but the people’s fascination went no further than the outward manifestations themselves. They wanted the visible signs, not the messenger who produced them. As soon as things got serious, many stopped following Him (John 6:60-67). Such was often the case with Israel. Time and time again, they put the Lord to the test by demanding a miraculous miracle for their deliverance as proof that God was with them. And all of this after the Lord had already performed the ten plagues in Egypt for their redemption.

Matthew 16:4 (ESV)

4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed.

John 20:28-29 (NASB)

28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

All of this has been a typical attitude from so many people since the beginning of time. Nothing has changed, for as king Solomon wisely said, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Unbelievers today are doing the same things that the rebellious Israelites did during Moses’s time. They demand visible proof through some sign or miracle so that they can believe that God exists. But as the examples in Scripture show, even receiving an outward sign will never convince the person who has hardened their heart to the truth to such an extraordinary degree.

Luke 16:19-31 (ESV)

25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

If we take care of the truth, it will take care of us. Scripture is speaking to us, and the only way we don’t get the answers is by refusing to search and believe all it contains. It is not mere ink and paper, but power and revelation from above, truth sufficient to enable anyone to live in a manner pleasing to God. Faith is what is needed. But if people don’t give the Bible a chance, they cannot profit from it, for if they don’t approach it with an open heart in faith (Hebrews 11:6), then the truth they read will only go in one ear and out the other. One must always approach God’s Word with a humble heart, ready to learn. If a person believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, His Spirit will come and dwell within them to make the truths they read real to them. Additionally, the Lord will also lead that person to someone prepared and qualified to help explain these same truths with more clarity.

Even if the Lord offered more proof of Himself, most would still refuse Him because they don’t want Him, not because they are ignorant of His existence. The Lord will manifest Himself to humanity through multiple manifestations during the tribulation, yet men’s hearts will only grow increasingly harder. Much of this is because the circumstances during those days will challenge man’s free will like never before. The Lord will make it very clear through the judgments He will unleash upon the earth during that time (the tribulation) that He is not pleased with humanity’s conduct and that, for those currently alive during those times, these are their last and final years to repent. But most will still refuse and will only further harden their hearts despite the warnings and opportunities. And thus, it will be shown that even when He has made Himself more apparent than ever before, just how proud, stubborn, and hateful people are toward God. It’s not because they want or need further proof, but because their attitudes toward Him are sour and downright hostile. Hostility is what keeps the majority of human creatures from surrendering to God. Their hearts are the issue. God is not the problem. As a wise person once said, “a man’s greatest enemy is often himself.”

Revelation 16:10-11 (ESV)

10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.

Revelation 9:18-21 (NIV)

18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulfur that came out of their mouths. 19 The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they inflict injury. 20 The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk. 21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.

And so, this was the sad reality of the Israelites during the exodus period. Many had developed hearts of stone. They did not lack provisions, nor would the Lord allow them to suffer harm in any way. All they had to do was trust and obey, and all would have gone well for them despite all the trials they had to face. Not only would the nation have been blessed physically, but the Lord would have blessed them spiritually as well.

So to those reading this paper contemplating why the Lord would allow His children to have to go through the tribulation period, keep the following facts in mind:

1. God is not punishing us. Instead, the Lord is disciplining the church as a whole for being lukewarm, not unleashing His wrath against them (Revelation 3:19). The Lord only reserves condemnation for unbelievers.

2. The Lord will protect and spare all believers from all the direct effects of the terrible and horrific judgments He will pour out upon the unbelieving inhabitants of the world at that time. The Lord protected His own during the plagues of Egypt and the tribulation is analogous to that time because the Lord will shield His own from the direct effects of the plagues unleashed during that period.

3. However, the above^ does not mean we won’t suffer (Acts 4:22). All the judgments God will unleash on the world at that time will still have indirect effects on His church (even if we are spared the direct effects reserved for the unrepentant). Plus, the antichrist will persecute all believers alive during the tribulation’s second half. Just as how the Lord didn’t spare Israel from the difficult trials He allowed them to face in the wilderness, so too the Church can expect to have to endure many difficulties. But what the Lord allows us to go through, He does so for His glory and our eternal benefit. There is great reward(s) for those who bear up under the crucibles of life meant for their growth, advancement, and eternal reward.

4. All those who endure to the end by holding fast to their faith will receive eternal life. Taking the mark of the beast is a choice any person can make, and it guarantees complete separation from God in the lake of fire for all eternity. But resisting the devil’s attacks by trusting in the Lord and continuing to allow Him to lead us forward even if we must face martyrdom will guarantee eternal life.

Many in the church have fallen for the false doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture which teaches that God will remove all believers from the earth before the tribulation, not after it. Nothing could be further from the truth, for no single verse in the entire Bible supports this. Christ’s second advent and only and final return will not take place until after the tribulation has been completed.

It is typical for believers to want the easy way out in life, desiring to avoid hardships. But we must remember that this world is under the control of the evil one. The apostles knew very well that they had to endure various trials and tribulations to enter the kingdom of heaven, which would entail much suffering. Jesus told us that “whoever does not pick up His cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Testing is what grows our faith, and it also indicates how committed we are to the Lord. That is why God will allow the church to go through the tribulation because they are lukewarm.

Revelation 3:14-22 then indicates that because of the attitude of those currently living, the Lord will discipline them, and this is to see who is fit to enter the kingdom of God. As we have already mentioned, this is analogous to Israel’s testing to see who could enter and who could not. Many will prove unfaithful during the tribulation, and that unfaithfulness could not have been exposed without testing to reveal it. That’s what tests are for, to strengthen faith to measure its quality. Bad faith crumbles under pressure, while true saving faith rises to the challenge and overcomes.

Revelation 3:14-22 (NIV)

14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. 15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

2 Thessalonians 2:1-4 (NASB)

Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.

Scripture clearly shows us that trials and tribulations are all part of the Christian experience, for they are necessary to prove and strengthen our commitment to the Lord. The church is making the same mistake that Israel made during the Exodus. They falsely believed that deliverance to their “promised land” would be a cakewalk and that God would just give everything to them on a silver platter. That is the error of misplaced wishful thinking. We can never afford to put our desires before the truth. The truth lies in Jesus Christ, who has revealed Himself to the world through His Word, and it is those among the church who fail to take advantage of it who suffer the most. That is where Laodicea falls short.

Acts 14:21-22 (NKJV)

21 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”

If something is in Scripture, then Scripture will speak for itself. But as it stands now, we have no single verse or passage that even comes close to supporting this false notion that God is pleased with today’s generation of believers and will spare them from going through the tribulation. The Israelites wanted everything handed to them, but God could not be brought low like that by doing things man’s way. Nor could He, in some unjust manner, allow the proud and disobedient to go unpunished. For though the Lord did provide food and water for His people, He destroyed those who disobeyed. It was not because of occasional minor sins here or there that the Lord handled them in such a way, but because the people continued to rebel through unbelief.

2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NASB)

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

We do not know what tomorrow will bring. We will suffer in this life, and the Lord will test us. Even the Bible’s greatest believers, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon, were tested, and often very severely. Job is another prime example of endurance through suffering, possibly the best after our Lord Jesus. And time does not allow us to list even more great heroes of the faith we have mentioned in Scripture.

Speaking of our dear Savior Himself, many of the Jews during His time on earth expected Him to come riding on a warhorse to liberate them from the power of the Roman Empire. But such was not the case, for Christ “came to serve and not to be served” (Mark 10:45 etc.).

Israel had the wrong expectations during Moses’ time and beyond just as much as they did during our Lord’s time on earth. They expected a quick and easy deliverance from life’s difficulties, but what they encountered were trials and tribulations designed for their benefit. Instead of seeing them as they were, they intentionally misunderstood and misapplied them for their desires and expectations. This handling of their situations resulted in their complaining and the complete loss of everything for many. What took the nation by surprise should have been something they should have been prepared to endure!

And this is why the false doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture is so dangerous. It is not only unbiblical, but it offers false expectations that will never come to pass. It is this terrible false teaching that will no doubt contribute to the spiritual failure of so many. Putting one’s hope in an adopted belief instead of trusting in the actual truth is bound to cause many problems. False hopes will lead to quite a shock when they do not come to pass, and such is the case with the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine. And so many will become discouraged and disheartened to learn that they were wrong because they put far too much stock and trust into a teaching with no basis whatsoever. We put our faith and trust in God and His plan for our lives, not our plans and expectations. The danger of failing to search for the truth to grasp it is that many who come to realize they were wrong in these significant areas of doctrine will begin to question everything else. Such things may even include doubting Christ Himself. When people are disappointed in seeing where they were wrong in so many areas, they will often question everything else in the process. Next thing you know, they begin to doubt one thing after another, then another, and then another. If continued, this can swamp a person’s faith to the point where it becomes choked with fear and unbelief.

There will undoubtedly be times when God will deliver us FROM something by sparing us from having to go through it. But if the Lord did this all the time, then our faith would never have any chance to grow past a basic level. So, on the contrary, it is often the case that the Lord will deliver us THROUGH a trial, not FROM it.

For example, when the Egyptians pinned them by the sea, the Hebrews became afraid. The Lord could have quickly snapped His fingers or spoken a word and sent them to the other side of the water. But He chose to part it and lead the nation THROUGH it to test the faith of His own. The same thing happened with the various tests the people faced in the desert, all having the same purposes.

Sadly, it is far too common to hear people doubt that the church will endure such a terrible time as the tribulation because they know God is punishing the world for its unrighteousness. But it is not believers who are God’s targets (discipline is not punishment in this case), but only unbelievers who have sinned against Him in their hearts by rejecting His payment for their sins.

We must learn from the Israelites’ mistakes, who often selfishly put themselves before God. If we seek to save our lives from the consequences of defying the antichrist, then we will only lose everything in the end, eternal life included (Luke 17:33). Not only that, but there will always be the torment in the minds of the apostates that they betrayed God and their own family in Christ just to relieve themselves of some temporary pain.

Revelation 13:5-10 (NIV)

5 The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven. 7 It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. 8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear. 10If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go. If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed.” This calls for patient endurance and faithfulness on the part of God’s people.

There is no point in suffering for something that we will only throw away later. That is why we must allow our yes to be yes, and our no to be no. Even though spiritual advance is not easy, our Lord has provided everything we need to get the job done. He has provided us His Word and everything else we need to grow spiritually, including the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower us to live righteously. In Christ, we have an advocate, a sacrifice for our sins who covered all our iniquities. Even during challenging times, our Lord will not fail to comfort us. He offers us His help, His love, His compassion, and the most remarkable thing of all, eternal life empowered by the gift of His One and only precious Son, Jesus Christ. For in eternity, there will be no sin, death, suffering, or imperfections. Only eternal bliss and tranquility that will never end. God will never fail us, for faithfulness is a significant part of His character. He has promised us relief from these imperfect bodies by giving us what He has promised-perfect everlasting bodies that will never see death, experience pain and suffering, and are no longer capable of committing any sin. Our Savior will lead us to the promised land of eternity if we would but continue to trust in Him, showing faithfulness until the very end. What is a little suffering on this earth compared to eternity?

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 (NLT)

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. 6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. 10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.

9. Psalm 78:56-66

Psalm 78:56-66 (ESV)

56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies, 57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow. 58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols. 59 When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel. 60 He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among mankind, 61 and delivered his power to captivity, his glory to the hand of the foe. 62 He gave his people over to the sword and vented his wrath on his heritage. 63 Fire devoured their young men, and their young women had no marriage song. 64 Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation. 65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, like a strong man shouting because of wine. 66 And he put his adversaries to rout; he put them to everlasting shame.

Verse 55 in our passage mentions that the Lord eventually brought the faithful into the promised land to give them their apportioned territories for possession. Verses 56-58 describe Israel’s continued apostasy and verses 59-64 God’s subsequent reaction to it all. Verse 61 describes the capture of the ark of the covenant by the Philistines and Israel’s defeat at their hands (all because of their disobedience). Disobedience and unbelief continued after Moses and the exodus and continued long after that.

We know that God cannot contradict His character, so whatever He does in dealing with anyone, whether believer or unbeliever, He does so in a just and righteous manner that perfectly reflects who He truly is. For those who turn back and reject Him, He handles them as their deeds deserve. For the believer who begins to stray, the Lord pursues through conviction and discipline. But once an individual has made up their mind not to return to the Lord, He can only deal with them by staying faithful to who He truly is. Just punishment and condemnation come the way of all those who refuse the Lord’s grace, and eternal separation in the lake of fire is what awaits all those who do so. It is not as if the Lord wanted to send any single person to such a terrible place, for our God is a God of love who desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:8-10). That is why God created man; to replace the fallen angels and demonstrate before Satan and his legions the pure justice of God’s character. Man chooses his destiny (Genesis 1:26-28)!

Psalm 119:90

90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.

But even when Israel had settled in the land, apostasy occurred not long after. Elijah eventually went on to say that there was no faithful believer left (1 Kings 19:9-18). But there was still a remnant the Lord preserved for Himself, not because the Lord forced their free will to bend to His commands, but because these people chose by their own accord to stay faithful to their God.

1 Kings 19:15-18

15 The Lord said to him (Elijah), “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; 16 and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. 17 It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. 18 Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

The Lord proved faithful in all that He did for those who obeyed Him. And those who submitted to Him benefitted greatly from their righteous conduct. They defeated most of their enemies, peoples mightier than they, and eventually settled in the land of Canaan. It just goes to show the hardness of heart people develop despite divine provision. The lesson of gratefulness again comes into view here. The nation of Israel had its good times, and there were faithful generations who obeyed. But the lessons and virtues of obedience were quickly forgotten far too often.

For example, Israel would fail; another generation would learn from their mistakes and prove obedient (the book of Judges shows this very clearly). But then another would soon repeat the error of disobedience all over again. It eventually got so bad that there were long periods that Israel lived in rebellion toward God and refused to return to Him. The result was the Babylonian captivity for Judah (the southern kingdom) and the Assyrian deportation as another example for the northern kingdom of Israel. Time and space do not permit us to examine and contrast the many examples of Israel’s/Judah’s obedience and disobedience, but we should understand the message by now. Obedience resulted in blessing, while disobedience resulted in cursing (Deuteronomy 28). And yet, God’s people still could not seem to learn from any of their mistakes. For although some did, many, or most, did not. There was rarely any consistency, and even though there were many great believers during David’s time, most of Israel would still prove unfaithful.


In this study, we describe the northern and southern kingdom as referring to Israel, all twelve tribes. However, the two domains didn’t separate until 975 B.C. after Solomon’s death during his son Rehoboam’s reign.

God was not good enough for Israel, a nation that continued to seek worldly solutions for peace and happiness. The people did not want God as their king, so they demanded a person from among their ranks, one (King Saul), who eventually proved unfaithful. Even if many today were to witness signs and miracles from God, most would no doubt still reject Him in light of all of this, proving that it is not a matter of whether they think God exists or not, but rather, a case in which they don’t want God and would instead choose their way. This response stems from a biased point of view that seeks to excuse self by putting the burden on God to prove Himself in a manner that fits their standards. If most people reject His existence now, what chance will they accept Him in the future when faced with divine miracles during the tribulation? And this fact should not escape our attention, and that is that those who have Christ’s spirit dwelling within them get to experience Christ’s working power every day, as long as they walk in the Spirit’s power.

Now to be clear, not all who witness God’s miraculous working power still reject Him. But it’s the majority we are discussing here, not the minority. Man would prefer to do his own thing apart from the Creator because so many want to be gods unto themselves without anyone having authority over them.

God gave the Israelites many chances to learn more about Him to be saved and enlightened by what they saw. But they had other interests. It is astounding how quickly human beings are to go and worship other things (as they will do during the tribulation with antichrist), but how there is such a hardness of heart to serve the One true and living God, Jesus Christ. God does not want bloodshed; He wants hearts.

Deuteronomy 12:1-7 (NIV)

These are the decrees and laws you must be careful to follow in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess—as long as you live in the land. 2 Destroy completely all the places on the high mountains, on the hills and under every spreading tree, where the nations you are dispossessing worship their gods. 3 Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. 4 You must not worship the Lord your God in their way. 5 But you are to seek the place the Lord your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6 there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you.

Again, things are no different today than they were in Israel’s old historical days. God is still the same today as He was back then, for He can’t change. People always have free will and ample proof and evidence of His existence, not to mention the time and opportunities to get to know Him better through believing in Him, seeking, learning, understanding, and applying His Word in their lives. Think of it this way—There are many careers, especially trades, where having head knowledge is not enough to do the job itself. You need hands-on experience. We cannot know God without experiencing His work in our own lives because learning from Christ requires faith and obedience, a red-hot attitude toward Him. Lukewarm is insufficient, not to mention displeasing to the Lord, who wants us to give our very best. We need the Holy Spirit living and working inside of us to understand the things of God and to see better how He thinks. By learning more about our Lord Jesus Christ by taking in His Word, we begin to see things from His perspective instead of our own.

Matthew 6:22-23 (ESV)

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

John 17:3 (ESV)

3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Like people who have existed since the very beginning, people today have exchanged their time and opportunities to serve other gods, which aren’t gods, for they do not exist as supreme beings. They come in many different forms today, ranging from technology to careers, science, false religion and deities, money/wealth, relationships, entertainment, food, fame, etc. There are so many things in this satanic world system we live in to distract the mind and take it away from God, just how the evil one likes it. But this still does not violate the free will of all human beings who possess it, for there is still no excuse (Romans 1:18-25). Yes, it may be challenging to spiritually get out of the mess of this world as we know it, and getting the truth, let alone finding a good and safe ministry to grow under as a believer, is no easy task. But all this is still possible for those who genuinely desire to put the Lord first. All who seek find, and all who ask receive.

So we should ask ourselves, “how much do we think about God?” If we think about Him always as we should, our minds will have less time and opportunity to think about anything evil. That is a great way to keep oneself from sin by taking in the Word of God, understanding it, believing it, and then applying it. But what about when we aren’t reading our Bibles? That is where meditation comes in. There is no specific definition of what meditation is, though the world has defined it in its own way. For example, it does not matter if we quietly think and dwell on the truth or express our thoughts aloud through murmurings and speech. Meditation is all about what is going on in our hearts, not how we express those thoughts.

Israel was to meditate on God’s laws so they would not forget and depart from them later on. Likewise, believers today are supposed to dwell on the truths of Scripture they have hidden in their hearts to have their spiritual “gun” on “fire” and not on “safety.” Yet Israel did not keep God at the front of their thinking but chose to put Him in second place. If God is first in our minds, then He will be first in our hearts as well, for it is in our hearts where we make our decisions. The battle starts in the mind working its way down to the heart, where we choose to make a decision. Sin is the process of doing wrong, and evil is the result.

If our minds are frequently on other things instead of where they should be, what can we expect but failure when the pressure is on? Most of Israel had its heart bent on disobedience because they failed to appreciate all the Lord had done for them, and this is because they chose to disregard God’s mighty works. The Lord offered the Israelites help frequently and would have continued to aid them had they continued in obedient submission. But they chose to squander their time and thoughts by disrespecting the Lord in word and action. Instead of counting their blessings, the people decided to take their minds off God’s holy standards. The problem was that instead of bracing their hearts and minds with truth as they should have done, the people became overly focused and worried about their circumstances, which often led to their failure.

Philippians 4:5-9 (NKJV)

5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

We are supposed to build up our faith by preparing our minds for action at all times so that we will be ready for any present or future challenges that may come our way (1 Peter 1:13). Trials and tribulations will come and will keep coming as long as we walk this earth. For example, during Moses’ time, the Israelites could have inherited what God promised them, but they chose to throw away their inheritance by disregarding the One who had the power to give it to them. How else did the people think they were going to enter the promised land? Either they wanted to go back to Egypt or resume the journey under new leadership, as was the case with Korah challenging Moses’s authority (Numbers 16).

The above in our last paragraph is one of the biggest mistakes people make. The idea that one can reach heaven apart from God is called religion, which means doing good works to please the Lord. But this means selfishly and blasphemously pleasing self and not God. The majority of people in all of human history have chosen to be gods unto themselves. This path will only lead to destruction, and it is known as the broad way in Scripture (Matthew 7:13-14). Only God’s righteousness within us will lead any person to the heavenly kingdom, for man’s so-called “righteousness” is only dust and stubble because it stands away from the presence of Holy God, who is the very definition of righteousness. Only God is good, for man without Him is evil and corrupt in every way, and only through coming to the Lord in faith can any person be rescued from the power of their sinful nature to rule over it. And that was what the Israelites had to do, but they chose instead to take matters into their own hands and become themselves the source of their own help, comfort, and deliverance.

Ephesians 2:8-10 (ESV)

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV)

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 34:8-10 (ESV)

8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! 9 Oh, fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him have no lack! 10 The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

Psalm 16:2 (ESV)

2 I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.”

Ironically, the people of Israel had seen the consequences of disobedience from the Egyptians from whom they had experienced deliverance. The people witnessed the futility of working against God, yet they did not learn from their enemies’ mistakes.

God’s purging away of all the unfaithful occurred during Moses’s time before the people entered the promised land and after that time after the people had entered the land. So Israel did have its times of faithfulness and blessing. But so much of their history is riddled with apostasy, even after the time of Joshua. Some of these good times in Israel’s history we see mentioned in our following verses.

10. Psalm 78:67-72

Psalm 78:67-72 (ESV)

67 He rejected the tent of Joseph; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, 68 but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loves. 69 He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever. 70 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; 71 from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance. 72 With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.

Here we will discuss the final section of our chapter in our current study. Despite all the stubborn behavior among the Israelites, faithful believers arose among the people who would submit to the Lord’s leading. Such was the case with Joshua when many people followed his lead going into the land, conquering as much of it as they did. What eventually resulted, later on, was the division of the land between each tribe as an allotted inheritance.

But even the land of promise would not satisfy Israel for very long. Many from the nation desired to have a king like the other peoples in the territory. Israel wanted an identity by having a typical political fashion to their governance, but this is not what they were supposed to seek. God should have been enough for the people, for the very point of Him having chosen them as a nation was for the world to see the marvelous testimony of an obedient people with God as their king. Contrast all the further success Israel would have had and the testimony they would have presented had they been content with God alone instead of going the route of unfaithfulness. There would have been no comparison to which was better. Not even David as Israel’s greatest human king of all time could compare to the Lord, and although the nation saw great success and prosperity under David’s rule, there is no doubt that Israel would have done far better had they been content with God as their One true king. Jesus is the King of kings, and there is none like Him, not even among some of the greatest believers of all time, which king David most certainly was.

1 Samuel 8:1-9 (NASB)

And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. 2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. 3 His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; 5 and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 The Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them. 8 Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. 9 Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.”

Israel failed to trust God’s character because they sought worldly means to solve their problems, something that many believers are in the process of doing sadly today. Laodicea’s issue involves their lack of love for the truth, God’s Word, and all it contains. This indifference is the exact mentality the nation of Israel had during their earlier history, even when the Lord manifested Himself among them. There is only one God in this world, our awesome Creator Himself, who made all there is. But how much do we truly live as if He is the only King in our life? What causes so many people to fail to trust the Lord as if He is not sufficient enough? In Israel’s case, we know they were very much influenced by how other nations governed themselves, but that is a huge mistake right there. It is all too common for many believers to get far too wrapped up in caring about others’ conduct and opinion because they see man’s ways as better than God’s. Though there are indeed times where more righteous people can have a tremendous and positive influence on us, such was not the case with the Israelites who coveted the government structure of the nations around them. God had already shown that He was more than sufficient for His people to thrive and succeed as the top leading nation of the world whom everyone would fear and look to as a light shining in a dark place.

The Hebrews were not content with the Lord Jesus as their One and only King, which would only bring problems down the road, as shown by so many kings of the northern and southern kingdom, most of whom (mainly in the north) proved to be ungodly. Though there were some great kings in the history of Judah, many proved to be unfaithful. But bad company corrupts good morals, and the chances are that if a ruler is wicked, many people will be as well.

Isaiah 55:6-9 (NIV)

6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God is everything, and we need no one else besides Him. If He wants to use worldly means for our benefit, He will do so on His own accord in His own good time. An example could be the Lord using medicine to help a person recover from a particular illness. Other good examples were Moses, David, Joshua, etc. The Lord first chose Saul to be king, but he proved unfaithful by forfeiting his right to be the nation’s leader.

Israel had the ULTIMATE King, a King who would die for the sins of all people and allow all men to come to Him for everlasting life. They had everything in their heavenly Father, not just a king to rule them, but an ultimate provider, protector, and guarantee of eternal life (Ephesians 1:3-14). The nation would have always prospered had they obeyed the Lord, and being content with His rulership would have resulted in a different history of the nation of Israel as we know it today.

Exodus 20:1-3 (NIV)

And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

Philippians 4:19 (NASB)

19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 55:22 (NASB)

22 Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.

Following Christ does entail sacrifice, pain, testing, trials, and tribulations. But all these are for the benefit of our salvation and eternal rewards that will last forever and ever. With God, we gain more, but without Him, we lose everything.

Being lukewarm presents a threat to one’s salvation in times of severe testing. Despite two-thirds of believers alive during the tribulation enduring through those terrible times, there will still be great regret from most of them because they wasted most of their lives putting too much stock and value into the temporary things of this world. God is loving and kind, and He wants us to produce a bountiful crop for Him so that we can reap as many benefits as possible from our conduct here on earth. Our Lord wants to give us our eternal rewards because He loves us just as a loving earthly father wants to bless His children with good gifts.

Our God is the only God there is, and He is the supreme ruler over all that He has created, ALL human beings included. It doesn’t matter how much we may look up to some individuals in this life, no matter how intelligent, popular, famous, rich, and powerful they may be. For even though David was a man after God’s own heart, it would have been foolish for the people to have trusted in him as if he was God Himself. He was most certainly a representative mouthpiece of God most high, but he was not someone to worship. Our trust is always in the Lord, and though He may use great people to represent Himself to others, we must always look to God first.

But we must also remember to submit to authority, for Moses (David), as an example, carried with Him the power of God in what he spoke, acting in it as God’s representative. Therefore, to challenge his authority would be to challenge the authority of God because the Lord spoke through Moses to talk to the people about what they were to do.

However, the overall point is that we should never see any human being God has chosen as equal to Him in any way. We submit to our spiritual leaders as required, but we do not raise them to the same level as God Himself. That was Israel’s mistake. They were not content with God’s rulership of them and foolishly believed that a human being could somehow turn out to be a better king than the very same God who brought them to the promised land.

Jeremiah 17:5-8 (ESV)

5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

This next verse below, we have it from king David himself!

Psalm 118:8-9 (ESV)

8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

As we Christians run this race, we will undoubtedly encounter some very great believers that we may come to admire. That is not wrong in and of itself as long as we keep God in first place. Even the greatest believers will fail us at times, but God never fails. Putting too much stock into others’ opinions is liable to get us into trouble sooner or later, even if said person is a great believer.

Though David turned out to be a great king, it was not so for Saul, who initially started well. Saul was good-looking and had much potential going for him. But he would later turn out to be unfaithful in pursuing God’s chosen man in the person of David, the greatest king Israel was ever to see, our Lord’s unique and divine kingship not included here. We must never let looks or charisma overtake our opinions of a person to the detriment of reasonable and proper judgment. And even if a believer is a great spiritual leader, we must remember that they too are serving Christ as the king to whom they submit. No person, not even the greatest believers in all of human history, could have accomplished anything without the Lord’s help, which means that nobody can take credit for anything at all. God is always the source of all things right, and without Him, we could do nothing. Though we believers are declared righteous through our faith in Jesus Christ, we can never achieve perfection on this side of eternity as long as we live in these sinful, corrupt bodies. But Jesus Christ is perfect, the King of kings who endured thirty-three years of suffering to die on the cross to pay for our sins. David is a pre-figure, or representation of Jesus Christ, but he is not Christ himself, nor was he the true father of our Lord Jesus.

John 15:1-7 (NIV)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Nevertheless, David was a great man of God who set an excellent example for all generations to follow. He had a willing and obedient heart set on serving the Lord, and though he was not perfect, he will go down as one of the greatest believers to have ever walked the face of the earth. God used him to accomplish His purpose in marvelous ways, even though Israel never needed a human king at all. But since they had chosen that route, the Lord knew the people needed someone righteous for the leadership task ahead to help guide them in the right direction, so David was selected from among his brothers by God to play this much-needed role after Saul had the kingship taken from him. So despite the dissatisfaction of His people, the Lord gave the Israelites what they wanted. Thus, the Lord did provide a great and noble king who would set a marvelous example for many future generations to come (1 Samuel 16:1-13).

1 Samuel 13:13-14 (ESV)

13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You (King Saul) have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.


The narrative of Israel’s history continues far past the time of Joshua, David, and Solomon. There would continue to be obedient as well as disobedient generations to come. Time and time again, the Lord would have to discipline His people for their obstinance. They would be handed over to other nations, Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, to name some of the more prominent ones, and suffer defeat and enslavement from other surrounding tribes. All of this was intended for their benefit to bring them back to the Lord. For if they had obeyed, they never would have been led into captivity and exile as they so often were.

Hebrews 12:4-11 (NIV)

4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Today, we live in the time of the Gentiles (the 2,000-year church era), who comprise the bulk of believers in our current age. But this will soon come to change after the tribulation when the Lord disciplines and purges His people to see who is fit to enter the Millennial kingdom, very similar to what the Lord did to His people before they entered the promised land. Thus, in the coming days to come, the amount of believing Jews alive will equal and even surpass that of Gentile believers, for many Jews will come to witness the return of the One whom they pierced and will call upon His name for salvation (Zechariah 12:10).

Israel will receive Abraham’s promises just as God had promised them, and the nation will experience restoration for all eternity (Romans 11:11-32). That is the God we worship, a God who never fails to keep any promises He makes. He loves all men and desires all to come to repentance. “Whoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). Faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ is all it takes. Let us strive to know the Lord more and then pass on our knowledge of Him so that others may too come to discover His awesome character. He is who He says He is, and once you truly get to know Him in a close and intimate relationship, there will be no turning back.