Praise the LORD. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the LORD or fully declare his praise? Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.
Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise.
We have sinned, even as our fathers did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly. When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, to make his mighty power known. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert. He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived.
Then they believed his promises and sang his praise. But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them. In the camp they grew envious of Moses and of Aaron, who was consecrated to the LORD. The earth opened up and swallowed Dathan; it buried the company of Abiram. Fire blazed among their followers; a flame consumed the wicked.
At Horeb they made a calf and worshiped an idol cast from metal. They exchanged their Glory for an image of a bull, which eats grass. They forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt, miracles in the land of Ham and awesome deeds by the Red Sea. So he said he would destroy them— had not Moses, his chosen one, stood in the breach before him to keep his wrath from destroying them.
Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe his promise. They grumbled in their tents and did not obey the LORD. So he swore to them with uplifted hand that he would make them fall in the desert, make their descendants fall among the nations and scatter them throughout the lands.
They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods; they provoked the LORD to anger by their wicked deeds, and a plague broke out among them. But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked. This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come.
By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips. They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them, but they mingled with the nations and adopted their customs. They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons. They shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was desecrated by their blood. They defiled themselves by what they did; by their deeds they prostituted themselves.
Therefore the LORD was angry with his people and abhorred his inheritance. He handed them over to the nations, and their foes ruled over them. Their enemies oppressed them and subjected them to their power. Many times he delivered them, but they were bent on rebellion and they wasted away in their sin. But he took note of their distress when he heard their cry; for their sake he remembered his covenant and out of his great love he relented. He caused them to be pitied by all who held them captive.
Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise. Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Let all the people say, “Amen!” Praise the LORD.
How great is God’s love for His people. The Old Testament shouts that fact from nearly every page. Though Israel disobeyed time after time, incurring God’s wrath in the process, He always forgave them and restored them, knowing that sooner or later they’d rebel again.
It gave Him no pleasure to punish them, but His righteousness demanded that every sin be addressed. He couldn’t over look a single one. He ordained the sacrifice to set aside their sins so He could live among them, but they even perverted that, turning what began as an act of worship into something He detested.
Man’s heart being incurably wicked, he always found a way to pervert God’s law. No matter what God did to demonstrate the advantages of being faithful, man always rebelled.
Finally it was time to do what He always knew He’d have to do. You see, man’s disobedience wasn’t a surprise to God. And His various attempts at co-existence with man weren’t experiments conducted in the hope that He’d eventually discover a way that would work. No. They were all made to teach man what God had known from the foundation of the world. There’s no way for sinful man to live a life acceptable to a righteous God.
We’re not sinners because we sin. We sin because we’re sinners. It’s an integral part of our fallen nature, as natural to us as breathing. And even if we can restrain ourselves for a time from acting on our evil thoughts, we can’t keep from thinking them. And to God, who knows what lies hidden in our hearts, that’s just as bad. So all of our sins, past, present, and future had to be dealt with in one horrendous act of judgment. He had to eliminate the sin problem for good. Otherwise we’d just sin and be lost again, like Israel did over and over.
But what kind of punishment could satisfy God’s righteousness yet leave us alive to receive the love He longed to express to us? If the punishment we deserved was levied against us, we’d all die.
The only solution was for Him to punish Himself in our place, once and for all time, in the greatest demonstration of love ever seen. Only God could love us enough to do it. So He did.