“Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41).
Three times in Psalm 78 it is said of the children of Israel that they turned back. It is hard to believe that God’s special people would deliberately turn away from God, yet on numerous occasions they did.
First, we see that they turned back while wandering in the wilderness. “How oft did they provoke Him in the wilderness and grieve Him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel” (vv.40,41). Stephen, in his great sermon in Acts 7:39, put his finger on the problem and at the same time accused the Jewish leaders to whom he spoke when he said, “In their hearts (they) turned back again into Egypt.” People who turn back have a definite heart problem.
Also, they turned back while enjoying the privileges of dwelling in the land of promise. “Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not His testimonies: but turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers” (Psalm 78:56,57).
Then again, they turned back during a time of war. “The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle” (v.9). Just the opposite is said of faithful Jonathan by his friend David in II Samuel 1:22, “the bow of Jonathan turned not back.”
Thus, three times in Psalm 78, Asaph rebukes those who would turn back from following the Lord. But, in Psalm 80 the same writer prays three times for restoration and renewal. “Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved” (vv.3,7,19). How can anyone be saved who does not turn to the Lord?
May we be encouraged always to turn to, and not away from, the Lord of our salvation! NPS