I did know you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.…
As Moses had foretold (Deuteronomy 8:10-18; Deuteronomy 32:15), when Israel became prosperous, he forgot God, and lightly esteemed the rock of his salvation. The exaltation of Baal was itself an act of self-will - a species of self-exaltation. The egoistic principle, however, had more direct manifestations. We have in these verses -
I. GOD KNOWN IN ADVERSITY. "I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought" (ver. 5).
1. God knew Israel, in the great care he exercised over the nation, leading it, providing for its wants, protecting it, and showing it manifold tokens of his goodness.
2. Israel knew God. The nation was never nearer to its God than during these years of severe trial and hourly dependence. It believed in him, waited on him, trusted him, and was - at least latterly - willing to serve him. Adversity had its uses. It did the people good, It made a strong nation of them, fit to conquer and occupy Canaan.
II. GOD FORGOTTEN IN PROSPERITY. (Ver. 6.) As the people grew prosperous, they forgot God. The stages are:
1. Sense of repletion. "They were filled." Satisfied with the good things of earth, they did not feel the same need of God's blessing. They had not the same sense of dependence.
2. Uplifting of heart. "Their heart was exalted." Prosperity tends in this direction. It uplifts the heart. It makes the possessor of wealth proud, self-sufficient, arrogant.
3. Forgetfulness of God. "Therefore have they forgotten me." This was their base ingratitude. Yet the sin is common. The more we receive from God - so perverse and prone to depart are we - the more ready we are to forget him. We feel as if we were independent. We are full. We reign as kings without him.
III. THE PENALTY OF SELF-EXALTATION. (Vers. 7, 8.) Pride in the creature is the sin which more than any other provokes God to wrath. The Greeks, with just discrimination, viewed the gods as specially wroth with the man who unduly exalted himself. Υβρις never failed to bring down on the unhappy mortal who was guilty of the sin "swift destruction." God here likens himself to the wild beasts that tear the flock - so fierce and unsparing is his anger. He will be "as a lion," "a leopard," "a bear bereaved of her whelps." Strange images to apply to him whose name is Love! But love, outraged and grieved, is the most vehement and fierce of all passions. God's love, because it is intense and real, is not to be trifled with, and, when roused to anger, is terrible to encounter. Better meet wild beasts of the forest than fall into the hands of the living God. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought.