Israel, God’s rebel child
Three cheers for God1 The, LORD is good to us.
Thank him for it.
He will never run out of mercy.
2 Who could possibly do justice to the LORD
By reciting all the good things he has done
Or by giving him all the praise he deserves?
3 Happy people treat others fairly
And live each day as good human beings.
4 LORD, please count me in
When you show kindness to your people.
Save me when you save them.
5 When they prosper, I want to succeed, too.
I want to celebrate the joy your nation experiences.
I want to inherit your blessings when they do.
We sin, like our ancestors did6 Our ancestors sinned, but so did we.
We wandered away from you.
We did terrible things.
7 When you did those miracles in Egypt,
Our ancestors didn’t get it.
And they quickly forgot your kindness to them.
They rebelled by the Reed Sea.
8 But you saved them anyhow,
Because you’re as good as your name,
And because you wanted them to see your power.
9 You yelled at the Reed Sea,
And the sea went dry.
Then you led the people across the belly of the sea,
Like they were strolling through desert and field.
10 You rescued them from a hateful king.
You recovered them from the enemy.
11 The sea collapsed onto enemies chasing them.
Not one of them survived the waves.
12 Then the refugees believed in you.
That’s when they started singing your praise.
They forgot God saved them13 Short memories, however. They soon forgot.
They tried to get ahead of your plans.
14 They went crazy with cravings in the badlands.
They put God to the test in the desert.
15 You gave them their fill of what they wanted
Followed by a disease that emptied hem.
16 Some in the camp grew jealous of Moses
And of Aaron, your chosen high priest.
17 You cracked open the ground at Dathan
And swallowed the group led by Abiram.
18 A fire blew up on the rest of the rebels,
And burned the wicked to death.
19 They made a calf idol at Mount Sinai,
Crafted of metal and cast in a mold,
Then they bowed and worshiped it there.
20 God, they traded your majesty
For the statue of a grass-eating bull.
21 So quickly they forgot you had saved them.
They forgot your miracles in Egypt, too.
22 All the wonders you did in the land where Ham settled,
And the miracles you did at the Reed Sea.
23 Furious with all of them, You said you would kill them.
But Moses stepped up to intercede.
So you dialed it down and the people lived.
24 Then they rejected the good land you promised.
They didn’t trust the promise you made them.
25 They sat in their tents and complained.
They didn’t consider your promise at all.
26 So you made another promise:
They would die in the badlands.
27 And you would scatter their descendants abroad.
Nations of the world would swallow them up.
28 They worshiped the god Baal Peor
And ate food sacrificed to the dead.
29 This sin got you angry.
And a plague broke out.
30 Phinehas did something about it.
What he did put a stop to the plague.
31 To his credit, he did the right thing.
All generations will surely agree.
32 The people provoked you at Meribah Spring.
Moses got in trouble that time.
33 The people made him so angry
That he spoke thoughtless words without a filter.
They failed to clear the Promised Land34 They didn’t get rid of the people in the land
As you told them to do.
35 Instead, they learned to get along with neighboring countries.
And they picked up many of their customs.
36 They even worshiped their idols,
Which became an obsession to them.
37 These people sunk so low
They sacrificed their children to spirits of the devil.
38 They killed innocent children.
They shed the blood of their own sons and daughters,
Sacrificing them to Canaanite idols.
They contaminated this land with the children’s blood.
39 That made them ritually unclean,
And unfit to worship me, their LORD.
I didn’t tell them to act like this.
They disobeyed me.
God unleased the nations on Israel40 This fired up your anger toward your people.
You came to loath your own people.
41 So you let neighboring nations defeat them.
People who hated the Israelites were suddenly ruling them.
42 These enemy nations made life miserable for your people.
They bullied them and exploited them with force.
43 You rescued them time and again.
Didn’t matter. They always returned to their sinful habits.
And they became more entrenched in their sins.
44 Still, whenever they called on you
In moments of distress,
You listened to what they had to say.
45 You remembered your promise to protect them.
So you honored that promise
Because you’re so compassionate and merciful.
46 You also made their captors
Swell up with pity for them.
Bring us home47 LORD God, please rescue us.
We’re scattered around the world.
Please bring us home
So we can thank you for who you are
And feel happy about praising you.
48 Thank the LORD, God of Israel,
From eternity past to forever.
And everyone says in a single voice, “Absolutely.”
And I say, praise the LORD.
The Hebrew word is hallelujah, which is often translated as “praise the LORD.”
God’s “kindness” probably refers to his freeing the Hebrew ancestors of the Jews from slavery in Egypt in the time of Moses.
That’s not a typo. Many Bibles say “Red Sea.” But the Hebrew words are yam suph, “sea reeds.” Scholars usually track Moses and the Hebrews escaping Egypt by walking southeast, out of the Nile Delta fields and toward the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula. They would have passed through lake regions along what is now the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. These lakes and ponds reportedly had reeds growing along the banks, like the ones the Bible says grew along the Nile River and helped anchor Baby Moses in a basket (Exodus 2:3).
More literally, it was a “wasting disease.” Sounds like this might have been a polite way of describing the vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue someone feels after food poisoning. The songwriter may have been describing what is reported in Numbers 11:33, “While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck the people with a very severe plague” (New American Standard Bible).
This revolt was known as Korah’s Rebellion, which is reported in Numbers 16. Abiram, along with Korah, was one of the leaders who fell in the hole along an earthquake prone region called the Great Rift Valley.
The rest of the rebels died in a fire that Numbers 16:35 says came from the LORD. It may have been lightning or an accident caused by the burning censers they were carrying.
Literally “Horeb,” a word that means “desert” and that became an alternate name for Mount Sinai.
Ham was one of Noah’s sons. “Egyptians…. All descended from Noah’s son, Ham” (Psalm 78:52; see also Genesis 10:6).
This may refer to Numbers 11, when the people were hungry in the barren Sinai, and wanted to go back to Egypt, where there was plenty of food and water.
This may refer to the event recorded in Numbers 25, when some women from Moab, in what is now the Arab country of Jordan, seduced some of the Hebrew men on the exodus out of Egypt to engage in ritual sex. Some scholars say the idea was to entertain Baal so he would make it rain. It’s a tad gross, but some taught that the rain was Baal’s semen. So if the sex of worshipers got Baal stimulated enough, he would make it rain. Baal was considered god of fertility in family, flocks, and fields.
Phineas, a priest in Aaron’s family, followed a man of Israel into a tent where the man was apparently getting up close and personal with a woman from Moab. Phineas brought a spear and with a single thrust, skibobbed them together. Not something we generally associate with priests. The story is in Numbers 24.
On the exodus out of Egypt, the Hebrew ancestors of the Jews complained to Moses about needing water. Moses broke open a rock to reveal a spring. He gave the place two names: Massah, meaning “test,” and Meribah, meaning “complaint” (Exodus 17:7).
It’s unclear what Moses did that upset God. God said Moses didn’t trust him. Maybe hitting the rock twice was the problem. After Moses hit it once and nothing happened he hit it a second time, as if God needed an extra tap. Who knows? The story appears in Numbers 20:8-13.
More literally, “demons.” A reference to Deuteronomy 32:17.
The Hebrew word also used in English is Amen. It means: yes, so be it, and that’s the truth.
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