Meditations on the Psalms #224

Psalm 106 Part 3

How unreasonable was the envy of v16, for Moses was the one man in all the camp who laboured hardest and had the most to bear? They should have sympathised with him; to envy him was ridiculous. The fate of the envious was dramatic but should tell a story even today. V16-18. (see Numbers 16:31-33)

The writer of this psalm didn’t present the Exodus account in chronological order. In v19 he remembered Israel’s sin with the golden calf, which happened well before the rebellion of Korah. Israel’s idolatry with the golden calf did not actually debase God; it debased them. They lowered themselves to be the creatures and servants of a man-made beast. The story in Exodus 32:24 contains one of the funniest great excuses of all time: “I threw the gold earrings into the fire – and out came this calf!” 

Paul quoted from the Septuagint translation of the phrase from v20 in Romans 1:23, using it as a strong accusation against idolaters of all kinds. As Paul’s application demonstrates, it is not Israel alone that has been guilty of the sin of idolatry. This is humanity’s sin in general. We too are idolaters when we put anything but God in God’s place. Their sin was ingratitude (one of the sins of Laodicea.) The God who did ‘great things, wondrous works, and awesome things’ in bringing them out of Egypt was ignored in their praise of the golden calf. For those of us with expensive cars, fine houses, and a myriad of electronic devices, or obsessions with sport and work; sermons on idol worship would be dismissed as irrelevant to today’s world. When in reality, we are probably the most idolatrous generation of all history! 

God was ready to pass them over as descendants of the promise to Abraham, and raise up another nation via Moses. Like a bold warrior who defends the wall when there is an opening for the adversary and destruction is rushing in upon the city, Moses stopped the way of avenging justice with his prayers. Mighty as was the sin of Israel to provoke vengeance, prayer was mightier in turning it away!  

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