Verse 32. For all this they sinned still. Judgments moved them no more than mercies. They defied the wrath of God. Though death was in the cup of their iniquity, yet they would not put it away, but continued to quaff it as if it were a healthful potion. How truly might these words be applied to ungodly men who have been often afflicted, laid upon a sick bed, broken in spirit, and impoverished in estate, and yet have persevered in their evil ways, unmoved by terrors, unswayed by threatenings.
And believed not for his wondrous works. Their unbelief was chronic and incurable. Miracles both of mercy and judgment were unavailing. They might be made to wonder, but they could not be taught to believe. Continuance in sin and in unbelief go together. Had they believed they would not have sinned, had they not have been blinded by sin they would have believed. There is a reflex action between faith and character. How can the lover of sin believe? How, on the other hand, can the unbeliever cease from sin? God's ways with us in providence are in themselves both convincing and converting, but unrenewed nature refuses to be either convicted or converted by them.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 31-34. See Psalms on "Psalms 78:31" for further information.
Verse 32. For all this they sinned still. They went on sinning, and believed not for his wondrous works. That is, even his great wonders or miracles, did not bring them to believe. Neither speculative atheism, nor atheism of heart, nor practical atheism was ever cured by miracles, because they are all founded in a wicked disposition. "Men are not always in a mood to be convinced." It is not want of evidence, but the want of right dispositions that keeps men from believing God. William S. Plumer.
Verse 32. They did not believe the history of his works, namely, that such things as are there recorded were done; they could not but believe that God had wrought wonders for them in Egypt, that he had drowned Pharaoh in, and brought them safe through, the Red Sea: they saw these things, their senses were witnesses, but yet they did not believe the prophecy or promise which was virtually in those works, namely, that God would do more wonders for them till he had finished and accomplished their deliverance. That history of bringing through the Red Sea had this prophecy in it -- that they should be brought safe to Canaan; but they did not believe the voice of this prophecy. When God gave them water out of the rock, this work promised that he would give them meat out of the clouds, if they needed it; but this they believed not. Hence the same Psalm reports their unbelief, under this notion ( Psalms 78:19-20 ). They spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people? When the Lord heard this (language of unbelief) he was wroth. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 32-33. What faith can do to a prophecy of judgment, the same can unbelief to a promise of mercy; overthrow it. The psalmist assigns this to the unbelief of the works of God, as well as of his word. They believed not his wondrous works. Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble: but are not the days of all men consumed in vanity? Is not man at his best estate altogether vanity? Yes, but here was a special vanity, and somewhat more penal and judicial lay upon that generation for their unbelief, than lies upon mankind as the fruit of sin in general. And what was that? Even the evil threatened in the text ( Isaiah 7:9 , latter part): they could not be established. God lets them wander forty years in a wilderness, up and down, forward and backward; now in hope, anon in fear; now in joy, anon in sorrow; now in success, by and by in disappointment. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 32. Experience ought to strengthen faith; but there must be present faith to use the experience. J. N. Darby, in "Practical Reflections on the Psalms." 1870.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS