In the rest of this chapter we have a recounting of God’s great compassion towards Israel throughout her history as a basis for prayer for God to act on their behalf in the context of their exile. It is good for us to remember all that God has done for us!
The allusions in verses 7 to 10 seem most often to relate to the exodus, but could describe other stages of Israel’s history. “Kindnesses”, framing verse 7 denote the goodness of God, particularly in regard to his covenant promises. The prophet recognises that God is worthy to be praised for his mercy and favour towards Israel. The reference to “my people” and “sons” highlights God’s election and adoption of Israel. “Distress” points to the slavery in Egypt and “became their Saviour” / “angel of his presence saved them” signifies deliverance from Egypt. “Redeemed them” speaks of the Israelites set free from their Egyptian slavery. “Carried them” relates to how God sustained his people in the wilderness after the departure from Egypt. “They rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit” speaks of Israel’s unbelief and ingratitude, something that characterised the wilderness generation but their descendants in the Promised Land as well. “He turned and became their enemy” denotes how God withdrew his blessing and opposed his people according to his covenant stipulations (see Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28), even having them taken into exile.
The material in verses 11 to 14 referring to divine deliverance more explicitly looks back to the exodus and to the arrival in Canaan. God did these great deeds on the behalf of his people not so much for their sake as for his sake – “to make for himself a glorious name”: his fame and renown are totally deserved!
We see in the next verses that following a review of God’s merciful dealings with his people, particularly in bringing deliverance, the focus shifts to a current need for a fresh divine intervention. The appeal is made to God in his lofty majesty to show his power and prove his covenant compassion. The case is stated that even though their natural fathers, the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob), have effectively disowned them due to their unfaithfulness, God remains their “Father”. God is petitioned in his capacity as the “Redeemer”, highlighting his commitment to divine deliverance and ownership of his people.
The question is asked why God caused his people to stray from his ways, but of course the truth is that they chose to do this and he allowed them to do so. Appeal is then made to God to have mercy on his people as they are his “inheritance”. “For a little while your people possessed your holy place, but now our enemies have trampled down your sanctuary” relates to the fact that the Israelites’ occupation of Canaan and the presence of the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem was all too short lived. The specific historical situation is likely to be the overrunning of Jerusalem and the temple by the Babylonians. Verse 19 is best translated, “We are like those you have never ruled, like those never called by your name”: in other words, the question on the lips of the exiles was “are we still the people of God or are we now just like the other nations?” Of course, the deliverance from exile that God’s people will experience shows his commitment to them but unfortunately they continually will be a nation who fall short of God’s plan for them to the point of rejecting their promised Messiah, Jesus!
PRAYER: Take time to remember the goodness of God to you over your lifetime. Take a piece of paper and pen and jot down the things that come to mind of the ways that God has been faithful to you. Be specific as you remember so that you fill the page with examples and memories of God’s wonderful dealings with you. Let this fuel a prayer of thanks to the Lord.