Oh, how often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved his heart in the wilderness. Again and again they tested God’s patience and frustrated the Holy One of Israel. - Psalm 78:40-41
Have you ever wondered how God feels about human behavior? We know that we get upset when people hurt us, and if we cause pain we feel bad about it. But what about the impact of our behavior on God?
In the time of Noah, we are told, “The Lord observed the extent of the people’s wickedness, and he saw that all their thoughts were consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them. It broke his heart” (Gen. 6:5-6). Human sin apparently broke the divine heart.
After the Flood things did not improve appreciably. In the long and tortuous history of the children of Israel, God suffered constant heartache. The cycle of sin, repentance, recommitment, restoration, apathy, decline, oppression, repentance, and recommitment continued in relentless fashion. This revealed the obduracy of man and the patience of God, as man’s behavior subjected the Lord to ongoing heartbreak.
Psalm 78 catalogues for all time the many sins of ancient Israel and the many gracious acts of God. No matter how much good God sent to his people, or how much chastisement, “They did not keep God’s covenant, and they refused to live by his law” (78:10; see 78:11-16, 31-33). Sometimes they did repent and return to God, but their zeal was short-lived and often insincere (78:36-37). The writer of this psalm summarized the situation by saying, “Oh, how often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved his heart in the wilderness. Again and again they tested God’s patience and frustrated the Holy One of Israel” (78:40-41).
We do well to consider the impact of human behavior on the heart of God. Human sin is an affront to God. It is a denial of his sovereignty. It is a statement by one created from dust that he is taking control from the Creator. That breaks God’s heart. When sinful actions predominate in our lives, they demonstrate the extent of human fallenness. When a man’s heart is corrupt, his humanity is polluted. Understandably, God is indignant about man’s condition and actions, so he disciplines his erring children. But even his discipline stems from his brokenhearted love.
A vision of God’s heart may soften and break the most hardened human heart. And that can lead to our hearts being molded into that for which he created and redeemed us. Our lives can be expressions of his love and goodness, rather than examples of human wickedness—for all time!
For Further Study: Psalm 78:11-57
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