Verse 17. And they sinned yet more against him. Outdoing their former sins, going into greater deeps of evil: the more they had the more loudly they clamoured for more, and murmured because they had not every luxury that pampered appetites could desire. It was bad enough to mistrust their God for necessaries, but to revolt against him in a greedy rage for superfluities was far worse. Ever is it the nature of the disease of sin to proceed from bad to worse; men never weary of sinning, but rather increase their speed in the race of iniquity. In the case before us the goodness of God was abused into a reason for greater sin. Had not the Lord been so good they would not have been so bad. If he had wrought fewer miracles before, they would not have been so inexcusable in their unbelief, so wanton in their idolatry.
By provoking the most High in the wilderness. Although they were in a position of obvious dependence upon God for everything, being in a desert where the soil could yield them no support, yet they were graceless enough to provoke their benefactor. At one time they provoked his jealousy by their hankering after false gods, anon they excited his wrath by their challenges of his power, their slanders against his love, their rebellions against his will. He was all bounty of love, and they all superfluity of naughtiness. They were favoured above all nations, and yet none were more ill favoured. For them the heavens dropped manna, and they returned murmurs; the rocks gave them rivers, and they replied with floods of wickedness. Herein, as in a mirror, we see ourselves. Israel in the wilderness acted out, as in a drama, all the story of man's conduct towards his God.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 17. And they sinned yet more against him. He does not say that they sinned only, but that they sinned against God.
And they sinned yet more against him, namely, God. Against what God? Against him who had delivered them by great and unheard of wonders out of Egypt, who had led them as free men across the Red Sea with a dry foot, who had continued to lead and to protect them will pillars of cloud and fire by day and night, and had given them to drink abundantly of water drawn from the arid rock. Against this God they had added sin to sin. Simply to sin is human, and happens to the saints even after they have received grace: but to sin against God argues a singular degree of impiety. To sin against God is to injure and dishonour him in things immediately pertaining to himself. So they sinned against God, because after so many distinguished proofs and testimonies of his care made manifest to them, they continued to think and speak evil against him. All sins indeed, of whatever class they may be, are done against God, because they are opposed to his will; but those which are committed peculiarly against God, are certainly greater than others. Such are those wrought against his name, goodness, providence, power, truth, and worship, and against those things which specially concern him, whatever they may be. So we read of the sins of the sons of Eli, 1 Samuel 2:24-25 : "It is no good report that I hear: ye make the Lord's people to transgress. If one man sin against another, the judge shall judge him; but if a man sin against the Lord, who shall intreat for him?" Musculus.
Verse 17. They sinned yet more. Their sin was not murmuring only, sinful as that is, but uncontrolled desire. And for what was that desire? It was for meat. They had grown so weary of the bread of heaven which God so mercifully provided; and they wanted something in addition -- something, too, which was not absolutely necessary to their existence. When they murmured for water at Massah, they murmured for something needful. Their sin then was in murmuring, instead of praying. But here they lusted for something unnecessary, and this was an aggravation of their sin. And thus the psalmist, evidently comparing this sin with the murmuring at Massah, says, "They sinned yet more against him." George Wagner, in "The Wanderings of the Children of Israel."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 12-17. Obstinacy of unbelief. It makes head against God's majesty -- Psalms 78:17 ; his gracious providence -- Psalms 78:14-16 ; his interposing care -- Psalms 78:13 ; his avenging justice -- Psalms 78:12 ; his distinguishing grace -- Psalms 78:12-16 . C. D.
Verse 12-17. Prodigies cannot convert the soul. Luke 16:31 . C. D.
Verse 17. Sin in its progress feeds upon divine mercies to aid its advance, as also every other surrounding circumstance.