Verse 40. “How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!” Times enough did they rebel: they were as constant in provocation as he was in patience. In our own case, who can count his errors? In what book could all our perverse rebellions be recorded? The wilderness was a place of manifest dependence, where the tribes of Israel were helpless without divine supplies; yet they wounded the hand which fed them while it was in the act of feeding them. Is there no likeness between them and us? We are in the desert where we need our God, let us not make it a wilderness of sin by grieving him.
Verse 40. “How oft did they provoke him …!” They provoked God at least ten times during the first two years of their journey through the wilderness:-
- At the Red Sea (Exodus 14:11-12)
- At the waters of Marah (Exodus 15:24)
- In the wilderness of sin (Exodus 16:2)
- When they kept the manna until the following day (Exodus 16:10)
- When manna was collected on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:27)
- In Rephidim where there was no water (Numbers 20:2,13)
- At Horeb when a molten calf was made (Exodus 22:1)
- At Taberah where God's fire fell (Numbers 11)
- When they lusted for flesh (Numbers 11:4)
- When they murmured against the spies (Numbers 14:1)
Verse 41. “Yea, they turned back, and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.” We may be guilty of limiting God -
(One) In prescribing to Him certain methods and ways of action. In this case we do not allow Him to be the Lord of His own favours, or to have the privilege of being his own director.
(Two) In binding Him down to particular times and seasons for working our deliverances. This is to rob Him of that which He hath “put in his own power,” and to arrogate the right of giving laws to our Sovereign Ruler.
Verse 41. “Yea, they turned back ….” How easy it is for any professing child of God to “turn back” in heart, mind, tongue or action. So it was with the godly Archbishop Cranmer after he had made such a gallant stand with Latimer, Ridley and good John Bradford, and then, signed a retraction of his reformed beliefs in order to escape the martyr's fire. Yet, grace prevailed, and as he had “turned back” in the faith, so he was “turned back” to the faith, and died at the stake, holding the hand that had signed the retraction in the fire, and exclaiming, “That unworthy hand; that unworthy hand.”
Verse 42. “They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.” The day of the Passover was ever to be the cardinal day of remembrance in the life of the nation of Israel. This was their day of deliverance, and to this their minds and hearts were ever to turn in thankfulness. So, their children were to be taught it, and so the prophets ever called them back to think on it when they were in danger of following after false gods or lapsing into unholy practices or erroneous forms of worship. And as the shadow and picture was precious, how much more the substance; for the day of the Cross is the day to which the hearts and minds of the true Israel – the church of the living God – is ever meant to be directed when “Christ our Passover” was “Sacrificed for us.” So, we have only one “remembrance feast” ordained by the Lord for His church - “This do in remembrance of me.” So, the preachers of the new Israel will call us ever back to one spot - “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you … before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” The Lamb has been slain, the blood has been sprinkled, the devil has been robbed of his slaves, the way to the eternal Canaan lies before us, and the Lord will one day lead His church over the Jordan to her eternal rest. And now in her pilgrimage, and then in her rest, there is but one focal point and one theme for time and eternity - “Now unto him that hath loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood … worthy the lamb that was slain ...”
Dear Mr. Bunyan called “Forgetful Green” - “The most dangerous place in all these parts.” When old Israel forgot the Passover she stood in the most dangerous place on earth, but when the New Israel forgets her Passover her feet have “well nigh slipped.”