“The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle” (Psalm 78:9).
In Psalm 78, we read about Ephraim, the largest tribe in Israel. It was the most favored tribe of all: numerous and powerful, skilled in the use of weapons, and well equipped for battle. Yet, we read that when this mighty tribe saw the opposition, they gave up and retreated even though they were better armed and more powerful than their enemy. They had resolved to fight and win, but once they came face-to-face with their crisis, they lost heart.
In this passage, Ephraim represents the numerous believers who have been blessed and favored by the Lord. They are well taught, equipped with a testimony of faith, and armed for battle against whatever may come. But when mounting trials and troubles seem too big, too much to handle, they turn back and quit, casting aside their faith.
Scripture says Ephraim questioned God’s faithfulness: “Yes, they spoke against God: they said, ‘Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? Behold, He struck the rock, so that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed. Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people’” (78:19-20).
“[They] did not believe in His wondrous works … Nor were they faithful in His covenant” (78:32, 37). Finally, here was the result: “[They] limited the Holy One of Israel” (78:41).
Ephraim’s lack of faith and cowardice shook up the other tribes in Israel. Imagine the damaging effect when the others saw what had happened. “This highly favored people weren’t able to stand. What hope do we have?”
Beloved, we dare not condemn Ephraim, because we may be more guilty than they were. Think about it: we have the Holy Spirit abiding in us. Also, we have the Bible, the fully revealed Word of God, full of promises to guide us.
“Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Whenever we hold our faith position through hard times, we have the same affirmation from the Holy Spirit: “Well done. You are God’s testimony.”
As calamities increase, and the world falls into greater distress, the believer’s response must be a testimony of unwavering faith. There is hope for those who trust in God.