This is a psalm of confession. Confession is an important part of both personal and corporate worship. We need to be able to regularly admit that we’ve done wrong and receive forgiveness from God, and find renewal of peace. It’s hard to live with a guilty conscience. Here, in this long psalm, we have the confession of seven instances of Israel’s sin from the time of the exodus to the entrance into Canaan.
It is possible for people to become jealous of leaders for all kinds of subtle reasons, as well as the more obvious ones (16-18). We may not always fully understand ourselves and what is really going on in our hearts. Leaders can become ”envious” of other leaders. People in the congregation can feel similarly about those in authority. Perhaps some look at them and covet their roles. But we should learn from this incident (Nu.16:1-35) that it is a dangerous move to set yourselves against God’s appointed and anointed leadership. Here is one of God’s ‘Danger’ signs in the road telling us to beware. If you act in a way you shouldn’t towards a leader you may well find the ground give way beneath you. There is more than one way for this to happen!
On our pilgrimage we too can lose the vision of God. We can become forgetful of the wonderful things He has done for us. We can also all too easily turn to substitutes and look to them for deep satisfaction (19-23; see Ex.32:1-30/Ro.1:22, 23)). ”They traded the Glory for a cheap piece of sculpture – a grass-chewing bull! They forgot God, their very own Savior, who turned things around in Egypt, Who created a world of wonders in the land of Ham, who gave that stunning performance at the Red Sea.” The Message. You don’t have to literally erect a golden calf to become an idolater. Maybe you have become disappointed with God and your lot on the Christian journey, and in your heart you have drifted off to find fulfilment elsewhere. You now look for life in your hobby, which has assumed far too great an importance in your heart. Or perhaps your pursuit of happiness is in something (or someone else),but God has been dethroned in your life, even though you may still attend church. Your body is in a pew, but the best part of you is somewhere else. Verse 23 shows the power of intercessory prayer. Although these people had strayed so far from God, Moses’ prayers brought about a great deliverance (Ex.32:9-14, 31-35). Who do you need to ‘stand in the gap’ for today? (Moses here, is a foreshadowing of Jesus, who ultimately ”stood in the breach before him” at the cross, in order to rescue us from God’s wrath.) Note that in (28-31; see Nu.25:1-9) there is another similar instance of a spiritual leader having a massive impact for good on a sinning people. Church leaders have a huge task on their hands. They are engaged in a spiritual battle, as we saw yesterday. It is a battle for hearts and minds, to see every single thought taken a prisoner for Jesus. No human is sufficient for these things, so leaders have a great work to do in prayer. Let us ensure that we also pray for them in the burdens they carry. The prayers of leaders can rescue those who are turning away to ‘idols’. Your prayers can achieve the same results too!
It is dangerously possible for us to ‘despise’ what God has given to us, and even in the middle of our blessings to grumble and complain instead of praising God. We need to learn from these things. They were written for our help and instruction and warning. ”They went on to reject the Blessed Land, didn’t believe a word of what God promised. They found fault with the life they had and turned a deaf ear to GOD’s voice.” The Message. Determine to make it a habit to ”count your blessings.” Cultivate an ”attitude of gratitude”. We too may seriously lose out if we do these four things: a.) Despise our blessings; b.) become ‘unbelieving believers’; c.) grumble in our ‘tents’; and d.) fail to obey God (24-27; see also Nu.14:1-35; Hebs.3:12, 17-19, 4:1). If, as many think, the psalmist was himself an exile, he knew that his own generation had experienced the punishment written about in (27; see Lev.26:33). God’s Word is to be taken seriously. He never forgets what He has written. ”This is the privilege of possessing the word of God and the reason why it is our cardinal sin to ignore it: the word of God is the living voice of God.” J.A.Motyer: The New Bible Commentary,p.556.
Prayer: Lord God, you have blessed me so abundantly and I thank you.