Psalm 78:38-39 Yet he was merciful;
he forgave their iniquities
and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
and did not stir up his full wrath.
He remembered that they were but flesh,
a passing breeze that does not return.
The Psalmist was aware that if God wanted to He could destroy mankind, but having no concept of physics at all he had no idea how very simple it would be. There are countless things about the existence of life, not to mention the universe itself, that if they were just the slightest bit different, everything would fall apart. The odds against all of this coming together by chance are beyond calculation, but there are still people who want to insist a Creator doesn’t exist, simply because they don’t want to acknowledge their accountability to Him. The Psalmist has been recounting some of God’s disciplinary measures toward the Israelites, and here he is talking about God’s restraint in what He did. We too are treated better by God than we deserve, whether we want to acknowledge that or not. Books have been written about “Why bad things happen to good people,” but the fact of the matter is, every one of us has done things that by rights should disqualify us from the eternal life of fellowship with our Creator. It started in Eden and has continued right to today. God was aware of the moral weakness of His creatures, which is why He planned for the Incarnation and the cross from the point of creation. (Revelation 13:8) That’s why repentance is absolutely essential. If we say we believe, yet don’t repent of our rebellion against God, then our “faith” does us no good. James went on at some length about that, and Luther, in a reaction against the teaching that you could essentially buy your way into heaven, called the letter of James “a book of straw.” However, from the first of His public ministry Jesus proclaimed that people should “Repent and believe the good news.” (Mark 1:15) When we read all the things people did in the Bible that brought God’s judgment down on them we need to look at ourselves honestly, and be deeply grateful for the grace and mercy of God.
This certainly applies to me! I have commented many times that if I had been God, I would have squashed me a long time ago! I am deeply impressed with God’s mercy and patience. I think it was Jack Hayford who used the analogy of a field with a huge boulder in it. When we acknowledge Jesus as Lord and repent of our unbelief, that boulder of sin is taken away. However, as we walk around our “field” we find lots of “head-sized” rocks scattered around it, and we have to deal with each one, generally lugging it out of the area. Then we start to notice all the fist-sized rocks that seem to be everywhere! That is what Paul was talking about when he was insisting he hadn’t reached perfection. (Philippians 3:13) I certainly agree with him! Major lapses may be a thing of the past, but I know I’m capable of them, and if I get complacent I could fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12) I’ve got to keep my repentance up to date, and rejoice in the gracious mercy of my God.
Father, thank You for this reminder. I’m certainly not the best judge of my own actions. Thank You that I can indeed trust everything to You, (2 Timothy 1:12) and rest, relax, and rejoice as You have told me to. Hallelujah!