The LORD had just delivered His people from the madness of Pharaoh … parting the waters of the Red Sea, bringing them safely across, and then letting gravity resume its course when Pharaoh and his hoards ventured onto the seabed. “Then they believed His words” we are told in Psalm 106:12. And then “they sang His praise.” And rightly so! They had doubted Him (v.7) when their backs were against the wall of the Sea, with Pharaoh in hot pursuit. But God had saved them anyway, “for the sake of His name” (v.8)! And rightly did they sing! And rightly did they now believe God’s promises to them! It must have been a marvelous scene!
And they all lived happily ever after, right? They went right on their way from the Red Sea, singing with faith, right? Surely that’s what the psalm will tell us! So let’s keep reading this story of triumph:
Then they believed His words;
They sang His praise.
They quickly forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel
Did I miss something between verses 12 and 13? They believed God? Yes. They sang? Yes, and rightly so! And the very next thing we read is that these same people forgot the mighty deeds, and “did not wait for [the] counsel” of the very same God who had just rescued them? Yes!
I know, I know. Most of us know the details of these events well enough that verse 13 doesn’t actually surprise us. We know about the Israelites’ backsliding. But it still ought to startle us to read about the rapidity of it! “They believed His words; They sang His praise” … and, without missing a beat, the very next words of the psalm are: “They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel”? Not to say that they forgot and became impatient as rapidly as we can read about it in Psalm 106. But it did happen “quickly”! And the rapidity of the about-face between vv.12-13 is startling. And so are the sad details of that about-face, rehearsed for us as we read on in the psalm.
How quickly Israel forgot the kindnesses and promises and mighty acts of their God! And how rapidly they began doing things their own way! And aren’t we glad that we are not like that? Except that, sometimes, we kind of are!
Now it’s true, the New Covenant people of God (all of whom are truly converted, Jeremiah 31:31-34) will not usually turn as far, and forget as deeply, as Old Testament Israel sometimes did. And we praise God for that! But, even though we who have been born again may not typically fall as hard or as far as the Israelites, we still often find ourselves fairly rapidly forgetting the promises of God, and the mighty deeds that He has done, and the prayers He has answered. And we still often find ourselves doing things our own way, don’t we? We still find ourselves, sometimes, moving fairly quickly from faith to forgetfulness, and from singing to self-direction! We still sometimes find ourselves doubting, sulking, murmuring, despairing, disobeying, and taking matters into our own hands.
Sometimes the testimony of our lives can read: ‘They believed! They sang! They forgot! They turned to their own ways!’ So let us be warned by the rapid backsliding of Israel. By God’s grace, let us cultivate better memories! And by His grace, let us dig deeper wells of faith! And the better those memories, and the deeper those wells, the more consistent will be the songs and the obedience which flow from them!