With two daughters under the age of five, it seems like my daily routine is trying to manage their fickle emotions. On the one hand, both are sweet and kind in their own unique ways, yet defiant and stubborn on the other. One moment, they want to love and hug one another and their parents. The next, they’re itching for a fight. Around and around we go, ad nauseam.
At my best, I can be extremely patient with them. I can pray in the moment and remind myself that God is patient with me, and He will help me to be patient with them. At my worst (and probably most often), I can be short-tempered and impatient, doing anything I can think of to appease the situation and have control over their emotions. Of course, as anyone with kids knows, trying to control a child’s emotions is like trying to contain the force of a hurricane with an umbrella.
The story of Israel in the Bible is not much different than what I just described about my own household. Just when you think Israel recognizes the goodness of the Lord and trusts Him to lead them, their hearts turn on a dime, as they grumble and complain about His apparent reluctance or inability to meet their every need in that moment.
In our passage today, the Israelites engage in the worship of other gods. It seems they do this primarily because of the instant gratification of receiving mercy from other nations. For them, the most expedient way to obtain comfort was to give into the demands of the other nations, bowing down and worshiping those gods over the Lord.
Rightly so, God is unhappy with this situation. He reminds them that He’s the one who delivered them from slavery in Egypt and so much more. As a result, He tells them He won’t deliver them—He’ll leave it up to the gods of the other nations.
Now, unlike me when I’m frustrated or impatient with my children, God’s anger is righteous and perfect. He is not snapping at them because He is spiritually immature or because He wants His own comfort; rather, He’s frustrated because He knows the other gods cannot deliver them. He knows that worshiping idols will lead to not only immediate, but eternal, destruction.
Just like my daughters, Israel’s hearts can be fickle and immature. But unlike me, God is consistently and immovably loving and patient and kind. His discipline is never a result of sinful emotion, but out of His perfect love for us (Hebrews 12:4-11). May we remember that God’s commands, and even His judgment, are ultimately for our good and His glory—found most clearly in the death and resurrection of Jesus and by the sealing of the Holy Spirit.
Written by Brandon D. Smith