“When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.”
The psalmist is describing God’s persistent dealing with the Israelites. They were consistently straying from the Lord and His Word. God performed many miracles for them and blessed them in a multitude of ways, yet they were stubborn and rebellious. Their hearts were not steadfast toward God. However, when God would severely chasten them, they would temporarily turn to Him. It was this pattern of behavior that is being described in our text: “When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.” It was only the strong chastisement of God that they responded to. As long as they were not being disciplined, the Israelites did not have the character to seek the Lord and follow Him.
This is a thought worthy of our consideration. How consistent are we in our personal pursuit of God? Do we habitually seek Him, as we should? Why should we daily and devotedly hunger after righteousness? Is it not because we love our Lord and want to please Him? I am confident that we know those who have much in common with the Israelites in our text. The only time they get serious about their spiritual lives is when serious problems come. Otherwise, they are content to live apathetically in their spiritual pilgrimage. If trouble never came, they would never seriously seek after God. When God sorely deals with them, they take an interest in the things of God, but usually only until the pressure is off and they are not being chastened.
Doesn’t that sound like the people in our text? This is evidence of a lack of self-discipline in our personal habits. It should not take problems to motivate us to spiritual initiative or activity. To the contrary, the blessings of God should stir us to love and want to please our Lord. Truthfully, problems do cause us all to draw near to Him. But shouldn’t it be equally true that the absence of trouble should cause us to thank Him and praise Him for His goodness? Rather than only responding to chastisement, the children of Israel should have responded to God’s gracious protection and provision. The Lord daily loads us with benefits. Every day we have more than ample reasons to love Him, thank Him, praise Him, and want to live for Him.