The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. They did not keep the covenant of God; they refused to walk in His law, and forgot His works and His wonders that He had shown them. Marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. He divided the sea and caused them to pass through; and He made the waters stand up like a heap. In the daytime also He led them with the cloud, and all the night with a light of fire. He split the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink in abundance like the depths. He also brought streams out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers. But they sinned even more against Him by rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness. And they tested God in their heart by asking for the food of their fancy.
There has been much debate regarding whether this passage refers to a metaphorical pattern of behavior or a specific battle of the children of Ephraim, and if so, which one. This debate is largely inconsequential as the Psalmist here is driving home a singular point regardless of his specific reference. He paints for us a picture of warriors prepared for battle yet deciding in the last moment to flee instead of fight. It is a picture of those who failed to keep a covenant with God by deserting him on that day. There is no mention of fear or apprehension concerning the battle, but that can be assumed from what is listed for us as their troubles. They turned from soldiers to deserters because they forgot about God, his ways and his works. Their lack of faithfulness caused them to lose faith in him.
The pattern of faith to unbelief to faith and back again spans the full course of the Old Testament. We must remember that this historical account covers generations of people, some who witnessed the miraculous hand of God before their eyes and others who merely heard tales of it. Regardless, the history is there for a people created as God’s chosen few to exercise faith in him without much trouble. These are people who once had faith then encountered circumstances which made them forget the power and faithfulness of the God they served. They began to question whether He could get them through the battle, so they deserted it and deserted him. Even though God’s track record before them and with them showed an unparalleled ability to accomplish the impossible and the amazing, they chose to forget those works.
I have forgotten many things in my life that simply do not matter. If I cannot remember the address of the first house I ever lived in or the telephone number there, it is because that simply is not important or necessary to me today. No one could say that I have a duty to retain that information over the course of my life. However, remembering God’s ways and his works certainly is a duty of his followers. When we forget what He has done, it is because we have chosen not to remind ourselves of his great works. We must be intentional about remembering what He has done for us and those before us so that we can recall his faithfulness and have confidence in the fight. Perhaps our lack of faith is rooted in our lack of faithfulness. Father, make us better at reminding ourselves of the awesome works You have done so that we can remain faithful to follow your will in confidence.