In Psalm 78:56-58 we read a sad account of Israel rejecting God. They did things like:
- “Did not keep His testimonies”
- “Turned back and acted unfaithfully”
- “Provoked Him to anger with their high places”
- “Moved Him to jealousy with their carved images”
But after this, in Psalm 78:59, it tells us how God found out:
When God heard this, He was furious...
And, sadly, He had to give them up to captivity as a result. Though keep reading until the end where God also, even after their unfaithfulness, showed outlandish love in bringing them back and restoring them.
But back to Psalm 78:59. Does anyone else find it peculiar that God found out about their unfaithfulness by “hearing” about it?
A similar, tragic account of Israel’s unfaithfulness is found in Deut. 32:15-18. But the result there is different:
And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them...
And He said: 'I will hide My face from them...
Notice the difference? In Deut. 32:19, God, “saw” what Israel did. His face was already present with them such that He needed to hide his face after they did this.
But in Psalm 78:59, God “heard” what they did.
Of course, it would be just as true to say God knows everything and sees everything. So it’s not as if God really didn’t know in Psalm 78:59 until He heard it.
Instead, I believe it’s intended to leave the impression that God wasn’t in their immediate presence. That God’s face was already hidden from them. Or, perhaps better yet, they already intentionally were hiding things from God and didn’t want His scrutiny.
It reminds me of Genesis 3:8-9. After the first sin of humanity, Adam and Eve heard the sound of God walking, “and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord.”
Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, "Where are you?"
Notice again the verbiage. Adam and Eve heard God walking (which means they weren’t in His presence anymore). Then they hid from his presence (so they stayed out of His sight). Then God had to ask, “Where are you?” (which shows they are not together).
Again, of course God knew where they were and what they did. Just as in Psalm 78:59, God didn’t have to wait until he “heard” about the events. But it challenges me to ask this question:
Am I living my life in such a way that God has to “hear” about what I do?
Or am I constantly seeking Him, seeking His presence, welcoming His difficult (as well as good) words to lead me before I get to that point of rebellion? Such that, before it got to the point of abhorrent disobedience, I would have heard God and responded when He said, “Don’t go that way,” “Don’t keep doing that.”
And, the good news is, even if you’ve been so distant from God that He needs to “hear” about what you’ve done, He is far from done with you. He did come back to Adam and Eve. He did come back to Israel. He did come back to the Prodigal Son. He ran back to him when he was a long way off.
But like a dad having to discipline their kids for something they did in his absence, I’d think that God would rather you initiate the conversation and come honestly to Him, instead of Him having to start the conversation (though He will, in love, as necessary).