Psalms 78

1 Give ear, O my people, to my law; let your ears be bent down to the words of my mouth.
2 Opening my mouth I will give out a story, even the dark sayings of old times;
3 Which have come to our hearing and our knowledge, as they were given to us by our fathers.
4 We will not keep them secret from our children; we will make clear to the coming generation the praises of the Lord and his strength, and the great works of wonder which he has done.
5 He put up a witness in Jacob, and made a law in Israel; which he gave to our fathers so that they might give knowledge of them to their children;
6 So that the generation to come might have knowledge of them, even the children of the future, who would give word of them to their children;
7 So that they might put their hope in God, and not let God's works go out of their minds, but keep his laws;
8 And not be like their fathers, a stiff-necked and uncontrolled generation; a generation whose heart was hard, whose spirit was not true to God.
9 The children of Ephraim, armed with bows, were turned back on the day of the fight.
10 They were not ruled by God's word, and they would not go in the way of his law;
11 They let his works go out of their memory, and the wonders which he had made them see.
12 He did great works before the eyes of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
13 The sea was cut in two so that they might go through; the waters were massed together on this side and on that.
14 In the daytime he was guiding them in the cloud, and all through the night with a light of fire.
15 The rocks of the waste land were broken by his power, and he gave them drink as out of the deep waters.
16 He made streams come out of the rock; and waters came flowing down like rivers.
17 And they went on sinning against him even more, turning away from the Most High in the waste land;
18 Testing God in their hearts, requesting meat for their desire.
19 They said bitter words against God, saying, Is God able to make ready a table in the waste land?
20 See, the rock was cut open by his power, so that the water came rushing out, and overflowing streams; is he able to give us bread? is he able to get meat for his people?
21 So these things came to the Lord's ears, and he was angry; and a fire was lighted against Jacob, and wrath came up against Israel;
22 Because they had no faith in God, and no hope in his salvation.
23 And he gave orders to the clouds on high, and the doors of heaven were open;
24 And he sent down manna like rain for their food, and gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Man took part in the food of strong ones; he sent them meat in full measure.
26 He sent an east wind from heaven, driving on the south wind by his power.
27 He sent down meat on them like dust, and feathered birds like the sand of the sea,
28 And he let it come down into their resting-place, round about their tents.
29 So they had food and were full; for he gave them their desire;
30 But they were not turned from their desires; and while the food was still in their mouths,
31 The wrath of God came on them, and put to death the fattest of them, and put an end to the young men of Israel.
32 For all this they went on sinning even more, and had no faith in his great wonders.
33 So their days were wasted like a breath, and their years in trouble.
34 When he sent death on them, then they made search for him; turning to him and looking for him with care;
35 In the memory that God was their Rock, and the Most High God their saviour.
36 But their lips were false to him, and their tongues were untrue to him;
37 And their hearts were not right with him, and they did not keep their agreement with him.
38 But he, being full of pity, has forgiveness for sin, and does not put an end to man: frequently turning back his wrath, and not being violently angry.
39 So he kept in mind that they were only flesh; a breath which is quickly gone, and will not come again.
40 How frequently did they go against him in the waste land, and give him cause for grief in the dry places!
41 Again they put God to the test, and gave pain to the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not keep in mind the work of his hand, or the day when he took them from the power of their haters;
43 How he had done his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan;
44 So that their rivers were turned to blood, and they were not able to get drink from their streams.
45 He sent different sorts of flies among them, poisoning their flesh; and frogs for their destruction.
46 He gave the increase of their fields to worms, the fruits of their industry to the locusts.
47 He sent ice for the destruction of their vines; their trees were damaged by the bitter cold.
48 Ice was rained down on their cattle; thunderstorms sent destruction among the flocks.
49 He sent on them the heat of his wrath, his bitter disgust, letting loose evil angels among them.
50 He let his wrath have its way; he did not keep back their soul from death, but gave their life to disease.
51 He gave to destruction all the first sons of Egypt; the first-fruits of their strength in the tents of Ham;
52 But he took his people out like sheep, guiding them in the waste land like a flock.
53 He took them on safely so that they had no fear; but their haters were covered by the sea.
54 And he was their guide to his holy land, even to the mountain, which his right hand had made his;
55 Driving out nations before them, marking out the line of their heritage, and giving the people of Israel their tents for a resting-place.
56 But they were bitter against the Most High God, testing him, and not keeping his laws;
57 Their hearts were turned back and untrue like their fathers; they were turned to one side like a twisted bow.
58 They made him angry with their high places; moving him to wrath with their images.
59 When this came to God's ears he was very angry, and gave up Israel completely;
60 So that he went away from the holy place in Shiloh, the tent which he had put among men;
61 And he let his strength be taken prisoner, and gave his glory into the hands of his hater.
62 He gave his people up to the sword, and was angry with his heritage.
63 Their young men were burned in the fire; and their virgins were not praised in the bride-song.
64 Their priests were put to death by the sword, and their widows made no weeping for them.
65 Then was the Lord like one awaking from sleep, and like a strong man crying out because of wine.
66 His haters were turned back by his blows and shamed for ever.
67 And he put the tent of Joseph on one side, and took not the tribe of Ephraim;
68 But he took the tribe of Judah for himself, and the mountain of Zion, in which he had pleasure.
69 And he made his holy place like the high heaven, like the earth which is fixed by him for ever.
70 He took David to be his servant, taking him from the place of the flocks;
71 From looking after the sheep which were giving milk, he took him to give food to Jacob his people, and to Israel his heritage.
72 So he gave them food with an upright heart, guiding them by the wisdom of his hands.

Psalms 78 Commentary

Chapter 78

Attention called for. (1-8) The history of Israel. (9-39) Their settlement in Canaan. (40-55) The mercies of God to Israel contrasted with their ingratitude. (56-72)

Verses 1-8 These are called dark and deep sayings, because they are carefully to be looked into. The law of God was given with a particular charge to teach it diligently to their children, that the church may abide for ever. Also, that the providences of God, both in mercy and in judgment, might encourage them to conform to the will of God. The works of God much strengthen our resolution to keep his commandments. Hypocrisy is the high road to apostacy; those that do not set their hearts right, will not be stedfast with God. Many parents, by negligence and wickedness, become murderers of their children. But young persons, though they are bound to submit in all things lawful, must not obey sinful orders, or copy sinful examples.

9-39. Sin dispirits men, and takes away the heart. Forgetfulness of God's works is the cause of disobedience to his laws. This narrative relates a struggle between God's goodness and man's badness. The Lord hears all our murmurings and distrusts, and is much displeased. Those that will not believe the power of God's mercy, shall feel the fire of his indignation. Those cannot be said to trust in God's salvation as their happiness at last, who can not trust his providence in the way to it. To all that by faith and prayer, ask, seek, and knock, these doors of heaven shall at any time be opened; and our distrust of God is a great aggravation of our sins. He expressed his resentment of their provocation; not in denying what they sinfully lusted after, but in granting it to them. Lust is contented with nothing. Those that indulge their lust, will never be estranged from it. Those hearts are hard indeed, that will neither be melted by the mercies of the Lord, nor broken by his judgments. Those that sin still, must expect to be in trouble still. And the reason why we live with so little comfort, and to so little purpose, is, because we do not live by faith. Under these rebukes they professed repentance, but they were not sincere, for they were not constant. In Israel's history we have a picture of our own hearts and lives. God's patience, and warnings, and mercies, imbolden them to harden their hearts against his word. And the history of kingdoms is much the same. Judgments and mercies have been little attended to, until the measure of their sins has been full. And higher advantages have not kept churches from declining from the commandments of God. Even true believers recollect, that for many a year they abused the kindness of Providence. When they come to heaven, how will they admire the Lord's patience and mercy in bringing them to his kingdom!

40-55. Let not those that receive mercy from God, be thereby made bold to sin, for the mercies they receive will hasten its punishment; yet let not those who are under Divine rebukes for sin, be discouraged from repentance. The Holy One of Israel will do what is most for his own glory, and what is most for their good. Their forgetting former favours, led them to limit God for the future. God made his own people to go forth like sheep; and guided them in the wilderness, as a shepherd his flock, with all care and tenderness. Thus the true Joshua, even Jesus, brings his church out of the wilderness; but no earthly Canaan, no worldly advantages, should make us forget that the church is in the wilderness while in this world, and that there remaineth a far more glorious rest for the people of God.

Verses 56-72 After the Israelites were settled in Canaan, the children were like their fathers. God gave them his testimonies, but they turned back. Presumptuous sins render even Israelites hateful to God's holiness, and exposed to his justice. Those whom the Lord forsakes become an easy prey to the destroyer. And sooner or later, God will disgrace his enemies. He set a good government over his people; a monarch after his own heart. With good reason does the psalmist make this finishing, crowning instance of God's favour to Israel; for David was a type of Christ, the great and good Shepherd, who was humbled first, and then exalted; and of whom it was foretold, that he should be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. On the uprightness of his heart, and the skilfulness of his hands, all his subjects may rely; and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. Every trial of human nature hitherto, confirms the testimony of Scripture, that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and nothing but being created anew by the Holy Ghost can cure the ungodliness of any.

Chapter Summary

Maschil of Asaph. Or for "Asaph" {f}; a doctrinal and "instructive" psalm, as the word "Maschil" signifies; see Psalm 32:1, which was delivered to Asaph to be sung; the Targum is, "the understanding of the Holy Spirit by the hands of Asaph." Some think David was the penman of it; but from the latter part of it, in which mention is made of him, and of his government of the people of Israel, it looks as if it was wrote by another, and after his death, though not long after, since the account is carried on no further than his times; and therefore it is probable enough it was written by Asaph, the chief singer, that lived in that age: whoever was the penman of it, it is certain he was a prophet, and so was Asaph, who is called a seer, the same with a prophet, and who is said to prophesy, 2 Chronicles 29:30 and also that he represented Christ; for that the Messiah is the person that is introduced speaking in this psalm is clear from Matthew 13:34 and the whole may be considered as a discourse of his to the Jews of his time; giving them an history of the Israelites from their first coming out of Egypt to the times of David, and in it an account of the various benefits bestowed upon them, of their great ingratitude, and of the divine resentment; the design of which is to admonish and caution them against committing the like sins, lest they should be rejected of God, as their fathers were, and perish: some Jewish writers, as Arama observes, interpret this psalm of the children of Ephraim going out of Egypt before the time appointed.

Psalms 78 Commentaries

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