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When We Forget God

God’s Warning

In Psalm 105, the psalmist writes of God’s warning against forgetting Who He is and what He has done. The Psalmist uses his own nation of Israel during the wilderness wanderings as an example. Even after witnessing all that God did in Egypt to bring them out of slavery and then parting the Red Sea and saving them from Pharaoh’s army, they quickly forgot all God did for them and chose to murmur, complain, and they did not trust God. What is the warning? The Psalmist writes in verses 13:15, “But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the desert; he gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them.

Be careful what you wish for

“We want what we want; and we want it when we want it.” This seems to be the mantra of modernity. Tragically, such attitudes permeate even the Christian life. We imagine that we know what we want, but never pause to consider that He who gives us our being knows what we need and provides for us in abundance out of his goodness. Focused on our immediate desires, few of us can say what we actually need. We might even pray, “Your will be done,” but we don’t mean it.

When you don’t get what you wish for

When God does not grant what you desire, how do you typically react and behave towards God? Do you fume, pout, get angry with God and blame Him? Or do you trust God and know that if He did not provide what you desire He has a reason for it. Perhaps He has something even better or maybe He just knows that what you think you desire right now is really something you’ll regret asking for later.

If God doesn’t grant what you desire, will you still love Him? Are you able to say with the Psalmist in Psalm 18:1-3, “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.”

Do you feel that God is still worthy to be praised when He does not grant your desires?

Recalling God’s Goodness

When we recall God’s goodness, we will almost always be satisfied, even when that thing we think we desire is not granted. When we consider the fact that God is ever with those who love Him, we will rejoice. And when we think about the blessings God showers on us each day, we will praise the Lord our God.

However, when we begin to compare ourselves to others, we will inevitably begin to feel cheated. When we focus on what we don’t have, we will soon begin to grumble about how unfair life can be.

It’s all about where we choose to focus – on our circumstances or on God’s goodness.

Focusing on God’s Goodness so we don’t forget God

Focusing on God’s Character

The first twelve verses of this Psalm speak of God’s rich blessings to Israel during the wilderness journey. The first several verses speak in general of God’s goodness, encouraging those who know God to reflect His character. In verses 1-3, we read, “Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Who can utter the mighty deeds of the Lord, or declare all his praise? Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!”

In difficult times, we can loose focus on God’s goodness and it becomes hard to praise Him. However, we can always praise Him for His steadfast love that endures forever. Sometimes, when we utter that first statement of praise, our minds will begin to remember all the goodness of the Lord and that one statement turns into numerous accounts of God’s goodness. A beautiful sunrise. A gentle rain. A good night’s sleep. Enough food to eat. A safe drive to the office. A gentle breeze. The ability to pay the bills. God’s goodness isn’t just in the miraculous and unexpected. See His goodness in the everyday, ordinary things of life.

Asking God to show His goodness again

Verses 4-5 are a petition addressed to the LORD, pleading with Him to again show goodness as He has in the past. “Remember me, O LORD, when you show favor to your people; help me when you save them, that I may look upon the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the gladness of your nation, that I may glory with your inheritance.”

Many of the Psalms are prayers and in this Psalm, the writer makes his request in full confidence that God will hear what he asks. He is not simply tossing out a plea in some vague hope that God might do something; he asks, confident that God does hear and that God will act in order to glorify His Name.

They Soon Forget

When we forget God, we fall into the trap of sin

Whenever we forget God, we fall into the trap of sin. And this is what we find throughout Psalm 106. Israel committed sin against God both in the Promised Land and during the wilderness wanderings. In the Promised Land, Israel accommodated the ways of the Canaanites. In Exodus 34:11-14, they were warned not to adopt the ways of the people when they at last entered into their inheritance. God had specifically warned, “Take care, lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land to which you go, lest it become a snare in your midst”. Instead of obeying God, we learn, “They mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did.” [PSALM 106:35] In verses 36-37, we find that Israel went so far as serving their idols and “sacrificing their sons and their daughters to the demons”.

Just as guilty as Israel

I’m certain that each Christian would say, “We would never do such a thing!” I’m certain that any of us today would say that we are horrified at the thought that God’s people would ever do such things. However, I wonder if we don’t act just as Israel acted. How many professed Christians sacrifice their children by pushing them into a worldly environment so that they can gain a better place in the world? We fail to equip our children to face the evil of this world by neglecting to instruct them in the Word of God, through failure to invest time in prayer with them.

If we do not have times of regular Bible reading and teaching them to hide God’s Word in their hearts, we are failing in our responsibility to our own children. If we do not spend time in prayer with each child, teaching them that God both hears and answers prayer, we are failing in our responsibility to our children. We cannot anticipate that the world will teach them to honor the Lord; we cannot anticipate that the world will teach them that God hears prayer.

How many Christian parents accommodate the morality of the world, just so they can get ahead? Then, when their children make the same choices, these same parents justify what is done because it is, after all, their child whom they know so well! Let me caution you that if you worship any of the gods of this dying world—power, prosperity, possessions, position—they will become a snare to you. If you are not careful, you will sacrifice your own standing with the Master, just as you will sacrifice your own children—and you will justify doing so.

Seven Sins from the Wilderness Wanderings

Sin #1: Rebellion against God

In PSALM 106:32-33 we find the people rebelled against God. This is in reference to the insurrection at Kadesh when the people had no water [see NUMBERS 20:2-13]. This terrible sin even led Moses to disobey the LORD as result of his frustration with the people and as a result, God would not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land.

Sin #2: Apostasy

In PSALM 106:28-31 we find that Israel was guilty of apostasy. We are told about this sin in NUMBERS 25:1-18, when the people of Israel entered into cultic immorality, attracted by the promise of sex without guilt. In this respect, it was not unlike the ubiquitous sexuality that contaminates modern life, drawing church members and even pastors into the morass through what we justify as innocuous entertainment.

Sin #3: Unbelief

The Psalmist identified the sin of unbelief in PSALM 106:24-27. Despite God’s mercies, despite God’s provision, the people did not believe. We see the impact of their unbelief when we read of their refusal to enter into the Promised Land after the spies had gone throughout the land [see NUMBERS 13:1-14:45]. You will recall that when it became apparent that God would not accommodate their unbelief, they acted presumptuously. It is a sad reminder that unbelief almost always leads to presumption.

Sin #4: Idolatry & child sacrifice

In verses 19-23, the Psalmist focused attention on the sin of idolatry. This sin is described in EXODUS 32:1-35, describing how the people made a calf of gold. Had you asked any of the people whether the calf was their god, they would have no doubt been horrified that such a suggestion could even be made. In fact, they would be insulted that anyone would even think such a thing. They would have argued that the calf only represented the Living God. They would have insisted that they knew it wasn’t a god. However, they began to think as idolaters always think: “God doesn’t see me. He’s somewhere else. I can do what I want. Since I made him, I can ignore him.” Their disobedience quickly led them into gross immorality. There is always a correlation between idolatry and immorality.

Immoral people are idolaters

Immoral people are idolaters—they have begun to worship their own pleasure! They fall into the ghastly trap described in the opening verses of Romans. “What can be known about God is plain to [wicked mankind], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So, they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

The result of pursuing our own fallen desires

People who pursued gratification of their own fallen desires at the expense of righteousness, were given over to fulfilling their own passions. Therefore, Paul says, “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

Understand what Paul has just stated, idolatry led to immorality. He is teaching those who are willing to receive the truth to recognize the correlation between idolatry and immorality. Just as idolatry leads to immorality, immorality leads to idolatry. This is the natural progression of giving free rein to unnatural passion!

The downward progression of society

Paul concludes by exposing the downward progression once a society, or an individual for that matter, surrenders to idolatry/immorality. “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. And they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” [ROMANS 1:18-32].

Sin #4: Lack of Faith that led to Disobedience

In verses 24-27, we find the sin of disobedience. The Psalmist explains, “Then they despise the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord.” Recounting from Numbers 13:32-14:38, we find that after the 12 spies returned from their mission to scout out the land that God had promised, ten of them gave a bad report, which led Israel to give in to fear. As a result, they refused God’s command to enter the land to conquer it. As a result, God made the Israelites fall in the wilderness and their offspring would fall among the nations, scattering them among the lands.

Sin #6: Jealousy

In verses 16-18, the Psalmist exposes the sin of jealousy resident within Israel. The reference is to the incident recorded in NUMBERS 16:1-50, which detailed Korah’s rebellion. Though Moses did not specifically state that Korah was motivated by jealousy, the Psalmist is certain that jealousy was the reason for this rebellion. Verse 16 reads, “Men in the camp were jealous of Moses and Aaron, the holy one of the LORD.”

The account in Numbers speaks of how widespread the action was when it informs us, “Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, ‘You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD’” [NUMBERS 16:1-3]?

Sin #7: Discontent, murmuring, and complaining

Whenever we are discontent in life, it will always lead us to murmuring and complaining. Numbers 14:1-3 tells us: “So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, ‘If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?'”

In Psalm 106:25, the word “murmuring” is used. To murmur means to grumble or whine. Over and over again Israel would murmur, grumble, whine, and complain to Moses. They complained about a lack or water, a lack of food, and the report of the spies who scouted out the Promised land.

Sin of murmuring in the New Testament

There are several examples of the sin of murmuring in the New Testament, like the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16). They murmured because they had worked all day while others who had worked for a much shorter period received the same wages. They had received their just due but they still murmured.

The scribes and Pharisees murmured against the disciples of Jesus because they ate and drank with publicans and sinners but they were really striking out at Jesus (Luke 5:29-32). They did not care that the publicans and sinners needed Jesus. They were only concerned with their personal agenda.

The Jews murmured about Jesus because He said He was the bread of life (John 6:41). Instead of investigating His claim in an effort to know the truth, they murmured.

Christians who murmur and complain

Sadly, many Christians are murmurers and complainers. In the home, on the job and in the local church they grumble, murmur and complain. They pastor’s sermon is too long. The seats are uncomfortable. It’s too hot or too cold. This or that politician is at fault for all that’s wrong in our world (and never acknowledge the sin of their own heart). They can see nothing good. To them, everything is bad—their life is miserable and they want to make it that way for everyone else.

Murmuring IS a sin

Make no mistake, murmuring is sin. “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15). “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling” (1 Pet. 4:9). It causes one to perish (1 Cor. 10:10).

Sadly, murmuring is one of the most prevalent sins among some brethren. Those who would never think of committing adultery or murder are guilty of this sin. Some who have the highest morals, adhere most closely to doctrine and are most liberal in their giving negate all the good things they do by whining.

What causes murmuring?

Discontent causes murmuring. Christians are taught to be content with necessities (1 Tim. 6:7-8); what they have (Heb. 13:5); their lot (Phil. 4:11); and God’s way (Luke 5:5).

Selfishness is the second cause of murmuring (Phil. 2:4; Rom. 15:2). Selfish people want their way and do not like it one bit if they do not get it, therefore, they murmur.

Being discontent and selfish, one murmurs and whines and thus sins bringing condemnation to himself. Another product of his actions, though, is division among God’s people for that is what the murmurer is trying to do—get people to become sympathetic to his point of view and antagonistic toward the other point of view. The Proverbist tells us that one of the seven things God hates is “one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19).

Confession of Sin

In verses 6-12, on behalf of his people, the Psalmist confesses their awful sin of forgetting God’s goodness to the nation. He writes, “Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power. He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry, and he led them through the deep as through a desert. So, he saved them from the hand of the foe and redeemed them from the power of the enemy. And the waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.”

Let’s think through what the Psalmist has written. God’s people did not think about God’s wondrous works when they were enslaved. They didn’t give thought to God’s power and might. In effect, they differed little from the Egyptians. Perhaps the sole difference was that the Egyptians worshipped various gods that had no real power; but what difference does it make whether people worship false gods or worship no gods? Israel was virtually indistinguishable from the Egyptians in that they had no god to whom they looked.

What about you, dear Christian? Is your life indistinguishable from the lost people around you? What about the religious practices that identify you as “Christian?” Are those practices a mere performance without any real impact in your life?

How soon do your forget God’s works in your life?

After all God had done to bring the nation of Israel out of Egypt, after parting the Red Sea and saving them Pharaoh’s army, we find in the verse 12 that “they believed his words; they sang his praise.” But then we come to verses 13-14. “But they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel. But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness and put God to the test in the desert.”

It is easy to give God praise when He does something big and miraculous in our lives. It’s easy to praise Him when we see Him do the impossible. It’s easy to praise Him when He answers our prayers. But do you still praise Him when you do not see Him at work? Do you still praise Him when it seems like He is silent? Psalm 71:14-15 says, “But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.”

How do we still hope and praise when life is hard? By remembering God’s goodness and rich blessings in the past. If you begin to list and count your blessings, naming them one by one, you will find, like the psalmist, that their number will be past your knowledge.

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