35 And they remembered that God was their rock,
And the Most High God their Redeemer.
36 But they deceived Him with their mouth
And lied to Him with their tongue
37 For their heart was not steadfast toward Him,
Nor were they faithful to His covenant.
38 But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them;
And often restrained His anger
And did not arouse all His wrath.
39 Thus He remembered that they were but flesh,
A wind that passes and does not return.
Why did they remember that God was their rock? Because tragedy struck. This is a recurring theme with the Israelites. They forget about their Redeemer, fall into sin (as a lifestyle), God displays His anger, and they quickly tuck their tails between their legs and follow suit again. Some afflictions in our lives "are sent to put us in mind of God as our rock and redeemer, for, in prosperity, we are apt to forget Him" (Henry).
Unfortunately, Israel did not have their hearts in the right place and they were not faithful. They got into the habit of only turning to the Lord in order to escape the evils of life or His wrath. That isn't truly seeking after the Lord. That's only seeking to escape from something else! Because their hearts weren't right in seeking after the Lord, "The pressure being removed, they returned to their habitual position, as all such penitents do" (Expositor's).
Have you ever been witness to such "seeking" in this day and age? Someone who lives a not-so-heavenly life is diagnosed with cancer and told they don't have long to live. In an effort to save their souls, they suddenly begin attending church, serving others, and truly seeking after the Lord. Then test results come back in and the cancer is gone! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! They give God the credit for their healing. For awhile, church attendance and their dedication to the Lord's work continues. But soon, they aren't coming as often, their heart isn't in the work they are doing. And pretty soon after that they quit attending church altogether, seeking the Lord has been forgotten. It is no longer a priority now that the pressures of imminent death have been removed.
It happens. Some of those people who were driven to the Lord because of their affliction stay there. And that's awesome. But some people only want the Lord when things are bad and then they don't have the time to seek him when all is well. Their hearts were never in the right place to begin with and "when the heart is wrong, the life is wrong" (Clarke).
But, in "the midst of this sad narrative of faithlessness, springs up, like a fountain in a weary land, or a flower among half-cooled lava blocks, the lovely description of God's" patience and restraint (Expositor's). If we got what we deserved every time our hearts weren't in the right place...well...we would be doomed to weeping and gnashing of teeth. Thankfully, "Though [Israel] often grieved His Spirit, and rebelled against Him, yet He seldom punished them, and when He did chastise them, it was as a tender and merciful Father. He did not stir up all His wrath - the punishment was much less than the iniquity deserved" (Clarke). And He does the same for us.
God wants what is best for us. He wants us to succeed. He wants our hearts to be right. And every single day He gives us another chance to get it right!
We are given second chance after second chance.
Is that not the most beautiful thing you have ever heard?
The choice is yours to make. Will your heart be in the right place today? Or will you let it wander in the wilderness as the Israelites did?