Psalms 78

1 Open your ears to my teachings, my people. Turn your ears to the words from my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth to illustrate points. I will explain what has been hidden long ago,
3 things that we have heard and known about, things that our parents have told us.
4 We will not hide them from our children. We will tell the next generation about the LORD's power and great deeds and the miraculous things he has done.
5 He established written instructions for Jacob's people. He gave his teachings to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to make them known to their children
6 so that the next generation would know them. Children yet to be born [would learn them]. They will grow up and tell their children
7 to trust God, to remember what he has done, and to obey his commands.
8 Then they will not be like their ancestors, a stubborn and rebellious generation. Their hearts were not loyal. Their spirits were not faithful to God.
9 The men of Ephraim, well-equipped with bows [and arrows], turned [and ran] on the day of battle.
10 They had not been faithful to God's promise. They refused to follow his teachings.
11 They forgot what he had done-- the miracles that he had shown them.
12 In front of their ancestors he performed miracles in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and led them through it. He made the waters stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them by a cloud during the day and by a fiery light throughout the night.
15 He split rocks in the desert. He gave them plenty to drink, an ocean of water.
16 He made streams come out of a rock. He made the water flow like rivers.
17 They continued to sin against him, to rebel in the desert against the Most High.
18 They deliberately tested God by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God by saying, "Can God prepare a banquet in the desert?
20 True, he did strike a rock, and water did gush out, and the streams did overflow. But can he also give us bread or provide us, his people, with meat?"
21 When the LORD heard this, he became furious. His fire burned against Jacob and his anger flared up at Israel
22 because they did not believe God or trust him to save them.
23 In spite of that, he commanded the clouds above and opened the doors of heaven.
24 He rained manna down on them to eat and gave them grain from heaven.
25 Humans ate the bread of the mighty ones, and God sent them plenty of food.
26 He made the east wind blow in the heavens and guided the south wind with his might.
27 He rained meat down on them like dust, birds like the sand on the seashore.
28 He made the birds fall in the middle of his camp, all around his dwelling place.
29 They ate more than enough. He gave them what they wanted,
30 but they still wanted more. While the food was still in their mouths,
31 the anger of God flared up against them. He killed their strongest men and slaughtered the best young men in Israel.
32 In spite of all this, they continued to sin, and they no longer believed in his miracles.
33 He brought their days to an end like a whisper in the wind. He brought their years to an end in terror.
34 When he killed [some of] them, [the rest] searched for him. They turned from their sins and eagerly looked for God.
35 They remembered that God was their rock, that the Most High was their defender.
36 They flattered him with their mouths and lied to him with their tongues.
37 Their hearts were not loyal to him. They were not faithful to his promise.
38 But he is compassionate. He forgave their sin. He did not destroy them. He restrained his anger many times. He did not display all of his fury.
39 He remembered that they were only flesh and blood, a breeze that blows and does not return.
40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness! How often they caused him grief in the desert!
41 Again and again they tested God, and they pushed the Holy One of Israel to the limit.
42 They did not remember his power-- the day he freed them from their oppressor,
43 when he performed his miraculous signs in Egypt, his wonders in the fields of Zoan.
44 He turned their rivers into blood so that they could not drink from their streams.
45 He sent a swarm of flies that bit them and frogs that ruined them.
46 He gave their crops to grasshoppers and their produce to locusts.
47 He killed their vines with hail and their fig trees with frost.
48 He let the hail strike their cattle and bolts of lightning strike their livestock.
49 He sent his burning anger, rage, fury, and hostility against them. He sent an army of destroying angels.
50 He cleared a path for his anger. He did not spare them. He let the plague take their lives.
51 He slaughtered every firstborn in Egypt, the ones born in the tents of Ham when their fathers were young.
52 But he led his own people out like sheep and guided them like a flock through the wilderness.
53 He led them safely. They had no fear while the sea covered their enemies.
54 He brought them into his holy land, to this mountain that his power had won.
55 He forced nations out of their way and gave them the land of the nations as their inheritance. He settled the tribes of Israel in their own tents.
56 They tested God Most High and rebelled against him. They did not obey his written instructions.
57 They were disloyal and treacherous like their ancestors. They were like arrows shot from a defective bow.
58 They made him angry because of their illegal worship sites. They made him furious because they worshiped idols.
59 When God heard, he became furious. He completely rejected Israel.
60 He abandoned his dwelling place in Shiloh, the tent where he had lived among humans.
61 He allowed his power to be taken captive and handed his glory over to an oppressor.
62 He let swords kill his people. He was furious with those who belonged to him.
63 Fire consumed his best young men, so his virgins heard no wedding songs.
64 His priests were cut down with swords. The widows [of his priests] could not even weep [for them].
65 Then the Lord woke up like one who had been sleeping, like a warrior sobering up from [too much] wine.
66 He struck his enemies from behind and disgraced them forever.
67 He rejected the tent of Joseph. He did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which he loved.
69 He built his holy place to be like the high heavens, like the earth which he made to last for a long time.
70 He chose his servant David. He took him from the sheep pens.
71 He brought him from tending the ewes that had lambs so that David could be the shepherd of the people of Jacob, of Israel, the people who belonged to the LORD.
72 With unselfish devotion David became their shepherd. With skill he guided them.

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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