Despite the miraculous Exodus, Israel was insistent in their rebellion against God (18). Their big problem was that they desired evil (1 Cor. 10:6). This is why grumbling is such a big deal to God (18-20). The same hearts that produced adult-version temper-tantrums also produced murder, adultery and debauchery.
Our culture has the same heart. In our wealth we’ve become a petulant, demanding people. So we too must take heed, lest we too fall (1 Cor. 10:12), like they did (Psalm 78:30-37). It was only after God killed some of them that they sobered up (34). We would do well to put down our bottle of addictive self-regard sooner than that.
Because God is gracious (38). Yet we must not confuse His grace and the nature of His love. He is gracious, but He is not a milquetoast push-over. He loves His own, with a consuming, jealous love (58). When His creation defects from Him, He does not go cry in the corner. He is moved by the fire of marital jealousy to destroy that which lures them away.
But after chastisement, God always lovingly brings a Shepherd - there was Abraham, then Moses, and then finally in Psalm 78, David (67-72), who shepherded the people with a skilled hand.
Yet David was only a precursor, a living parable of a better Savior to come. After all, Israel would quickly devolve back into idolatry after David’s death, much like the West has, after receiving all the post-war blessings of the last century. This greater David would come, in Jesus. In Him God would do all of verse 38: He would be infinitely compassionate to us, by stirring up all His wrath to land on him, in our place.
Then God raised him from the dead, proving to all that He is our only way out of our miasmic stupor of sin, idolatry and insanity. Only by being shepherded by his risen, skillful hand, in all of life, shall we exit our death spirals. Christ is Lord, the Lord of grace - gentle of spirit, compassionate, able to give us a new heart and new life.
Thus the solution to our cultural meltdown is not getting porn out of our corrupt public schools. No, it requires fathers to tell the coming generation about grace - about the glorious deeds of the LORD (5-8). The solution to our divisions is not economic equality, but that one generation would teach the next to not trust in riches at all, not to live by envy, but to place their faith in the greater David (7), that their heart would be faithful and steadfast to God (8). The new world will be built by men obeying Ephesians 6:4.
No wonder John the Baptist’s job was to “turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” (Mal. 4:6) Our culture will heal as fathers are shepherded by this greater David, and then they shepherd their children, into his royal law, just as they have been shepherded by Him. In this simple system we find the clarity and courage to say NO to our present insanities, all while building flourishing families of grace. Only around these new families will there arise a new culture of the kingdom, out of the ashes of the old.