So I Gave Them Over
(8) Listen, my people, and I will warn you. O Israel, if you would only listen to me! (9) There shall be no strange god among you. You shall not worship a foreign god. (10) (I am) Yahweh, your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open wide your mouth, and I will fill it. (11) But my people did not listen to my voice, and Israel did not obey me, (12) so I gave them over to the stubbornness of their hearts to walk in their own counsels. (13) O that my people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in my ways! (14) I would quickly subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes. (15) Those who hate Yahweh would cringe before him. Their time (of punishment) would endure forever. (16) But he would feed them with the finest of wheat. With honey from the rock would I satisfy you.
Several repetitions show us the emphasis of this segment. The verb, “to listen,” is found four times (twice in vs. 8 and once each in vss. 11 & 13). “My people” occurs three times (vss. 8, 11, & 13). Two words are used twice: “God” (twice in vs. 9) and “walk” (in vss. 12 & 13).
All three verbal moods are found in these verses. First we encounter the imperative, what God commands (vss. 8-10). Then the psalmist uses the indicative to describe what actually took place (vss. 11 & 12). Finally, the subjunctive or conditional, what could have and should have happened (vss. 13-16), comes into play. When God commands our worship and obedience (vs. 8-10) and we fail to obey him (vss. 11 & 12), the only thing left for him to do is to withhold his blessings and chasten us (vss. 13-16) until we finally learn to submit to his will.
I. What God commanded (8-10)
II. What actually happened (11 & 12)
III. What could have, should have happened (13-16)
When we fail to obey, God will withhold his blessings and subject us to the oppression of our enemies until we submit to his will.
In verse 12 we read a solemn phrase of judgment: “So I gave them over.” In Romans 1, we encounter that same phrase in three different places with increasing intensity: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another” (vs. 24). “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts” (vs. 26). “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done” (vs. 28).
When God chastens us, he does not have to do anything more than to withdraw his protective hand of blessing and give us over to the consequences of our own destructive ways. The removal of his restraint leaves us free to pursue what we want but subjects us to every kind of evil. Like the prodigal son, far away from home and left to his own foolish ways, we will eventually come to our senses and realize how much we miss our Father’s protection and blessing (Lk. 15:11-32). Once that happens, we are finally ready to humble ourselves and return home to seek the Father’s mercy, a response that delights his ever gracious heart and prompts him to throw his loving arms around us.