But they soon forgot what he had done
and did not wait for his plan to unfold.
In the desert they gave in to their craving;
in the wilderness they put God to the test.
So he gave them what they asked for,
but sent a wasting disease among 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 worshipped an idol cast from metal.
They exchanged their glorious God
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 wilderness,
make their descendants fall among the nations
and scatter them throughout the lands.
They yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor(Ps. 106:13-33 NIV)
and ate sacrifices offered to lifeless gods;
they aroused the Lord’s 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.
The Lord had delivered the people of God through the Red Sea but it didn’t take long for the people to forget what God had done. They grew impatient and were not prepared to wait on the Lord’s instruction. They demanded food from God and God gave them what they wanted, but also sent a wasting disease upon them to punish them for their sins.
Soon the discontent of the people expressed itself in anger and jealousy against Moses and Aaron. When people are discontented they usually turn their anger on those who are leading them. We can see in this country that no matter what happens it is always the government’s fault, because of what they did or what they didn’t do. In this case it is Moses and Aaron who are receiving abuse and challenge. The Lord acts swiftly and the accusers are consumed by fire.
The Psalmist recalls how the people made a golden calf. This was a clear violation of the second commandment. They worshipped an idol that they had fashioned by their own hand. How quickly they forgot the God of their salvation. When you think of the dramatic nature of the miracles that they had witnessed, you would have expected better from them. The Lord was righteously angry with them and said He would destroy the people, but Moses interceded on their behalf. The Lord responded to Moses’ intercession and did not destroy the people.
They complained and despised what God had given them. They failed to believe the promises that God had made. They became a disgruntled, complaining people and they failed to keep God’s commandments. God took an oath saying that this generation would all die in the wilderness and not enter the Promised Land. God also spoke of a later generation that would be sent into Exile because of their unbelief and disobedience.
At Mount Peor the people of God devoted themselves to a local Moabite god. They participated in the religious sacrifices to a lifeless god. God was angry with them because of their wickedness and disobedience and he visited them with plague. Aaron’s grandson Phinehas intervened and killed an Israelite who had joined with a Midianite woman. As a result the plague was halted and Phinehas’ faith was rewarded by the promise of a perpetual priesthood.
Just a few months away from entering the Promised Land, Moses too provoked the Lord. The people had complained about water and Moses was instructed to speak to the rock. Instead he struck the rock in anger having been provoked by the people. He spoke harsh words against the people. Moses was punished by not being allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Lord God forgive our sins. We have received so many blessings from You, yet we continue to fail You. Lord have mercy upon us and our churches. Help us to be faithful to Your word and to proclaim the Gospel. Help us so that we will not allow the ways of the world to creep into our way of living. Lord visit us with the blessings of salvation and may the joy of the Lord be our strength because we ask in Jesus name. Amen.