Psalms 78

Psalm 78


A maskil of Asaph.

1 Listen, my people, to my teaching; tilt your ears toward the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth with a proverb. I'll declare riddles from days long gone—
3 ones that we've heard and learned about, ones that our ancestors told us.
4 We won't hide them from their descendants; we'll tell the next generation all about the praise due the LORD and his strength— the wondrous works God has done.
5 He established a law for Jacob and set up Instruction for Israel, ordering our ancestors to teach them to their children.
6 This is so that the next generation and children not yet born will know these things, and so they can rise up and tell their children
7 to put their hope in God— never forgetting God's deeds, but keeping God's commandments—
8 and so that they won't become like their ancestors: a rebellious, stubborn generation, a generation whose heart wasn't set firm and whose spirit wasn't faithful to God.
9 The children of Ephraim, armed with bows, retreated on the day of battle.
10 They didn't keep God's covenant; they refused to walk in his Instruction.
11 They forgot God's deeds as well as the wondrous works he showed them.
12 But God performed wonders in their ancestors' presence— in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 God split the sea and led them through, making the waters stand up like a wall.
14 God led them with the cloud by day; by the lightning all through the night.
15 God split rocks open in the wilderness, gave them plenty to drink— as if from the deep itself!
16 God made streams flow from the rock, made water run like rivers.
17 But they continued to sin against God, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They tested God in their hearts, demanded food for their stomachs.
19 They spoke against God! "Can God set a dinner table in the wilderness?" they asked.
20 "True, God struck the rock and water gushed and streams flowed, but can he give bread too? Can he provide meat for his people?"
21 When the LORD heard this, he became furious. A fire was ignited against Jacob; wrath also burned against Israel
22 because they had no faith in God, because they didn't trust his saving power.
23 God gave orders to the skies above, opened heaven's doors,
24 and rained manna on them so they could eat. He gave them the very grain of heaven!
25 Each person ate the bread of the powerful ones; God sent provisions to satisfy them.
26 God set the east wind moving across the skies and drove the south wind by his strength.
27 He rained meat on them as if it were dust in the air; he rained as many birds as the sand on the seashore!
28 God brought the birds down in the center of their camp, all around their dwellings.
29 So they ate and were completely satisfied; God gave them exactly what they had craved.
30 But they didn't stop craving— even with the food still in their mouths!
31 So God's anger came up against them: he killed the most hearty of them; he cut down Israel's youth in their prime.
32 But in spite of all that, they kept sinning and had no faith in God's wondrous works.
33 So God brought their days to an end, like a puff of air, and their years in total ruin.
34 But whenever God killed them, they went after him! They would turn and earnestly search for God.
35 They would remember that God was their rock, that the Most High was their redeemer.
36 But they were just flattering him with lip service. They were lying to him with their tongues.
37 Their hearts weren't firmly set on him; they weren't faithful to his covenant.
38 But God, being compassionate, kept forgiving their sins, kept avoiding destruction; he took back his anger so many times, wouldn't stir up all his wrath!
39 God kept remembering that they were just flesh, just breath that passes and doesn't come back.
40 How often they rebelled against God in the wilderness and distressed him in the desert!
41 Time and time again they tested God, provoking the holy one of Israel.
42 They didn't remember God's power— the day when he saved them from the enemy;
43 how God performed his signs in Egypt, his marvelous works in the field of Zoan.
44 God turned their rivers into blood; they couldn't drink from their own streams.
45 God sent swarms against them to eat them up, frogs to destroy them.
46 God handed over their crops to caterpillars, their land's produce to locusts.
47 God killed their vines with hail, their sycamore trees with frost.
48 God delivered their cattle over to disease, their herds to plagues.
49 God unleashed his burning anger against them— fury, indignation, distress, a troop of evil messengers.
50 God blazed a path for his wrath. He didn't save them from death, but delivered their lives over to disease.
51 God struck down all of Egypt's oldest males; in Ham's tents, he struck their pride and joy.
52 God led his own people out like sheep, guiding them like a flock in the wilderness.
53 God led them in safety—they were not afraid! But the sea engulfed their enemies!
54 God brought them to his holy territory, to the mountain that his own strong hand had acquired.
55 God drove out the nations before them and apportioned property for them; he settled Israel's tribes in their tents.
56 But they tested and defied the Most High God; they didn't pay attention to his warnings.
57 They turned away, became faithless just like their ancestors; they twisted away like a defective bow.
58 They angered God with their many shrines; they angered him with their idols.
59 God heard and became enraged; he rejected Israel utterly.
60 God abandoned the sanctuary at Shiloh, the tent where he had lived with humans.
61 God let his power be held captive, let his glory go to the enemy's hand.
62 God delivered his people up to the sword; he was enraged at his own possession.
63 Fire devoured his young men, and his young women had no wedding songs.
64 God's priests were killed by the sword, and his widows couldn't even cry.
65 But then my Lord woke up— as if he'd been sleeping! Like a warrior shaking off wine,
66 God beat back his foes; he made them an everlasting disgrace.
67 God rejected the tent of Joseph and didn't choose the tribe of Ephraim.
68 Instead, he chose the tribe of Judah, the mountain of Zion, which he loves.
69 God built his sanctuary like the highest heaven and like the earth, which he established forever.
70 And God chose David, his servant, taking him from the sheepfolds.
71 God brought him from shepherding nursing ewes to shepherd his people Jacob, to shepherd his inheritance, Israel.
72 David shepherded them with a heart of integrity; he led them with the skill 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.

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Perhaps instruction; the root is used in Ps 32:8.
  • [b]. Or everyone ate the bread from heaven; Heb uncertain
  • [c]. Correction; MT to hailstones

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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