From the moment Moses’ original appearance before Pharaoh led to that ruler’s hard hearted crackdown on the family of Jacob, the children of Israel established their spiritual credentials as unappreciative complainers in response to the goodness of the LORD. Even as they came to recognize His power through the ten plagues, their instincts focused on complaining before the Red Sea, complaining in the wilderness, and complaining at the foot of Mount Sinai. After receiving the Law, they complained about the prospect of fighting giants, and even after coming within the confines of Canaan, they complained when events did not turn out as they wished. They had some high points in their history, such as the reign of David, but their history as a nation trudged ever downward—with only a few exceptions—until finally they ended up in Babylonian captivity. Then, after their national humiliation at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, the destruction of Solomon’s temple, and years of poverty and exile, they received the hope that God had promised all along: they could go home and rebuild. Only then did they begin to appreciate the care and character of the God on High they had ignored. Thus, the reflection of Psalm 107, which begins the Fifth Book of the Psalms, reviews the history of Israel with attention to hindsight, highlighting the lessons Israel should have learned along the way but had not. However, rather than offering a heavy condemnation of their forefathers, the psalmist focused on the goodness and mercy of God throughout. “Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever: (Psa. 107:1).
In hindsight Israel realized their identity as a needy people redeemed by God, cared for by God, and established by God (Psa. 107:2-7). In hindsight Israel recognized the consequences of their own rebellious behavior and how essential their humiliation proved in awakening them to their spiritual need for the salvation only God provides (Psa. 107:8-14). In hindsight Israel recognized the foolishness of sin and the justice of God’s judgment. In turning to the LORD they finally accepted the saving power of His Word when coupled with faith (Psa. 107:16-20). In hindsight God’s children developed an appreciation for sacrifice, for the joys of serving God, for the benefits of His presence in their lives, and for the hope deliverance offers (Psa. 107:21-30). God had done plenty for them throughout their history, and they finally took the time to see it and thus offer the repeated cry, “Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Psa. 107:31). In hindsight they offered the praise due for centuries, acknowledging God’s providential care and activity throughout all of life and history, especially to their spiritual benefit (Psa. 107:32-42). Therefore, after a millennium of rebellion, of ignorance, and of self-inflicted pain, the children of Israel finally had concluded what God had made available to them all along. Everything God had done for them, everything God required of them, and everything God had said to them was for their benefit and came from the deepest heart of love.
How sad that the most important insight into the character of the LORD would come only after years of obstinacy! And yet how often does that situation repeat itself today? God has showered so much love (Rom. 5:8), so much attention (Heb. 2:5-18), and so much wisdom (Prov. 1:7) on mankind, and yet so many ignore Him, reject Him, and rebel against Him, just like Israel of old. The lessons of truth remain available, for God has made them known (Jn. 8:32; 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Unfortunately, the stubbornness of men often holds out, waiting for a worldly option instead of embracing the only saving option we have. Hindsight is 20/20. But do you really want to wait until Judgment Day to learn how much you needed God all along (2 Cor. 5:10)? “Whoever is wise will observe these things, And they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psa. 107:43).