Israel Knew God's Acts But That Was All

What is it about my forgetting things? I make a mental note of something and, within two minutes, the thought has gone into a black hole, only resurfacing once I am past when I wanted it recalled. I was working at a local coffee shop and remembered I needed to get a gift certificate for someone from that vendor. “Don’t forget!” I told myself. It was even on my task list. And then I was driving back and, “Dang it!”, I did not get the gift card. Ugh!

In recent weeks I have been looking at Psalm 103 and its encouraging proclamation by David. Last week we discovered how we bless the Lord. This week I want to make a few insights regarding a stern warning that is given in this same chapter. Verse two:

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.

David then proceeds to list some of these many benefits including forgiveness, healing, redemption, steadfast love, and satisfying us with good. We are not to forget these things. But this word “forget” is not how we typically use it. It does not mean to overlook or have something slip our minds. David is not telling his readers to not overlook what God has done for His people, like “My bad, God, I forgot about your forgiveness in my life. Thanks for the reminder.” No, it is far more serious. This word actually means to stop caring, ignoring, or having something withering within you that was once important. In other words, it is a heart posture. I now want to skip down to verse 7:

He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel.

Only a statement of blessing?

At face value, this verse seems to exalt how God took care of His leader and His people Israel. That He made Himself known. And this is certainly true. God made known two aspects of His character: His ways and His acts. But I believe this verse is also an indictment against Israel by virtue of the fact that forgetting God’s words came to be a defining sin against Israel. If you trace the history of Israel, you will find many passages where God accuses Israel of ceasing to care about His words – they ignored God (Deuteronomy 4:9, 4:23, 8:19).

And verse 7 makes clear what God made known: Moses knew God’s ways; Israel knew God’s acts. When God “made known,” this was not merely a head knowledge but rather to know something about God by experiencing it. Moses and Israel experienced God firsthand. But they each experienced something different about God.

Moses knew God’s ways

It is said of Moses that God spoke with Moses face to face like a man would speak with his friend (Exodus 33:11). And when God made known His ways to Moses, it means that Moses knew God’s manners and habits, His moral character, and His paths. In other words, Moses knew God in intimacy.

Israel merely knew God’s acts

Israel knew God’s acts. They saw God’s deeds and exploits. And each was a circus trick to Israel that met a need and created a desire for God to “do it again.” They were hungry and God gave them manna. Then manna got old and so they wanted meat. And they always seemed to throw in God’s face the free food and lodging they received in Egypt. 

Ah yes, the good ole days. 

They were presumptuous with God – they assumed things about God that God never said. They assumed that God would meet their needs now, with their desires in mind. They presumed God was a genie, there for the bidding of Israel. 

Israel desired of God. They desired to be free from slavery, to be led to Canaan, and to have their needs taken care of. I have no issue with these desires. But it was not long before those desires morphed into something different. They changed into expectations of God – that they were owed. And it was then that Israel’s relationship with God turned into a contract. 

Please sign here

You know what a contract is. I have a contract with my internet provider. I pay. They deliver wireless access. Do you want to guess when is the only time I reach out to them? Exactly, when my expectations are not getting met. And there is a serious danger that we must heed in looking at the example of Israel, for I am no different. 

When our relationship with God turns “contractual,” there are three aspects of our relationship with God that cease to exist:

  1. There is no trust in God.
  2. There is no intimacy with God.
  3. There is no thankfulness toward God.

This is the great peril of being a consumer with God and forgetting His benefits. Sin is so sneaky and insidious that we do not even know when the relationship changed. Things just became contractual with God. And the gospel began to taste stale.

And an extra bonus feature for you husbands out there: this same mentality can take place with the relationship with your wife. Ask your wife if this is happening in your marriage.

I would ask you to seek the face of God and ask His Spirit to point out where expectations have entered your redeemed-as-far-as-the-east-is-from-the-west-forgiveness-and-steadfast-love relationship and repent. Our culture constantly pushes this “I am owed” mentality, and unfortunately, it has crept into our view of the gospel. 

Have you forgotten His benefits? If so, begin to seek His ways, not just His acts. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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