Psalms 78

1 My people, listen to my teaching. Pay attention to what I say.
2 I will open my mouth and tell stories. I will speak about things that were hidden. They happened a long time ago.
3 We have heard about them and we know them. Our people who lived before us have told us about them.
4 We won't hide them from our children. We will tell them to those who live after us. We will tell them about what the LORD has done that is worthy of praise. We will talk about his power and the wonderful things he has done.
5 He gave laws to the people of Jacob. He gave Israel their law. He commanded our people who lived before us to teach his laws to their children.
6 Then those born later would know his laws. Even their children yet to come would know them. And they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God. They would not forget what he had done. They would obey his commands.
8 They would not be like their people who lived before them. Those people were stubborn. They refused to obey God. Their hearts were not true to him. Their spirits were not faithful to him.
9 The soldiers of Ephraim were armed with bows. But they ran away on the day of battle.
10 They didn't keep the covenant God had made with them. They refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done. They didn't remember the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles right in front of our people who lived long ago. At that time they were living in the land of Egypt, in the area of Zoan.
13 God parted the Red Sea and led them through it. He made the water stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them with the cloud during the day. He led them with the light of a fire all night long.
15 He broke the rocks open in the desert. He gave them as much water as there is in the oceans.
16 He brought streams out of a rocky cliff. He made water flow down like rivers.
17 But they continued to sin against him. In the desert they refused to obey the Most High God.
18 They were stubborn and put God to the test. They ordered him to give them the food they longed for.
19 They spoke against God. They said, "Can God put food on a table in the desert?
20 When he struck the rock, streams of water poured out. Huge amounts of water flowed down. But can he also give us food? Can he supply meat for his people?"
21 When the LORD heard what they said, he was very angry. His anger broke out like fire against the people of Jacob. He became very angry with Israel.
22 That was because they didn't believe in God. They didn't trust in his power to save them.
23 But he gave a command to the skies above. He opened the doors of the heavens.
24 He rained down manna for the people to eat. He gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Mere men ate the bread of angels. He sent them all of the food they could eat.
26 He made the east wind blow from the heavens. By his power he caused the south wind to blow.
27 He rained meat down on them like dust. He sent them birds like sand on the seashore.
28 He made the birds come down inside their camp. The birds fell all around their tents.
29 People ate until they had more than enough. He gave them what they had longed for.
30 But even before they had finished eating, God acted. He did it while the food was still in their mouths.
31 His anger rose up against them. He put to death the strongest among them. He struck down Israel's young men.
32 But even after all that, they kept on sinning. Even after they had seen the miracles he did, they still didn't believe.
33 So he brought their days to an end like a puff of smoke. He ended their years with terror.
34 Every time God killed some of them, the others would look to him. They gladly turned back to him again.
35 They remembered that God was their Rock. They remembered that God Most High had set them free.
36 But they didn't mean it when they praised him. They lied to him when they spoke.
37 Their hearts were not true to him. They weren't faithful to the covenant he had made with them.
38 But he was full of tender love. He forgave their sins and didn't destroy his people. Time after time he held back his anger. He didn't let all of his burning anger blaze out.
39 He remembered that they were only human. He remembered they were only a breath of air that drifts by and doesn't return.
40 How often they refused to obey him in the desert! How often they caused him sorrow in that dry and empty land!
41 Again and again they put God to the test. They made the Holy One of Israel sad and angry.
42 They didn't remember his power. They forgot the day he set them free from those who had beaten them down.
43 They forgot how he had shown them his miraculous signs in Egypt. They forgot his miracles in the area of Zoan.
44 He turned the rivers of Egypt into blood. The people of Egypt couldn't drink water from their streams.
45 He sent large numbers of flies that bit them. He sent frogs that destroyed their land.
46 He gave their crops to the grasshoppers. He gave their food to the locusts.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail. He destroyed their fig trees with sleet.
48 He killed their cattle with hail. Their livestock were struck by lightning.
49 He brought great trouble on Egypt by pouring out his blazing anger. In his hot anger he sent destroying angels against them.
50 God prepared a path for his anger. He didn't spare their lives. He gave them over to the plague.
51 He killed the oldest son of each family in Egypt. He struck down the oldest son in every house in the land of Ham.
52 But he brought his people out like a flock. He led them like sheep through the desert.
53 He guided them safely, and they weren't afraid. But the Red Sea swallowed up their enemies.
54 He brought his people to the border of his holy land. He led them to the central hill country he had taken by his power.
55 He drove the nations out to make room for his people. He gave to each family a piece of land to pass on to their children. He settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.
56 But they put God to the test. They refused to obey the Most High God. They didn't keep his laws.
57 Like their people who lived before them, they turned away from him and were not faithful. They were like a bow that doesn't shoot straight. They couldn't be trusted.
58 They made God angry by going to their high places. They made him jealous by worshiping the statues of their gods.
59 When God saw what the people were doing, he was very angry. He turned away from them completely.
60 He deserted the holy tent at Shiloh. He left the tent he had set up among his people.
61 He allowed the ark to be captured. Into the hands of his enemies he sent the ark where his glory rested.
62 He let his people be killed with swords. He was very angry with them.
63 Fire destroyed their young men. Their young women had no one to get married to.
64 Their priests were killed with swords. Their widows weren't able to cry.
65 Then the Lord woke up as if he had been sleeping. He was like a man waking up from the deep sleep caused by wine.
66 He drove his enemies back. He put them to shame that will last forever.
67 He turned his back on the tents of the people of Joseph. He didn't choose to live in the tribe of Ephraim.
68 Instead, he chose to live in the tribe of Judah. He chose Mount Zion, which he loved.
69 There he built his holy place as secure as the heavens. He built it to last forever, like the earth.
70 He chose his servant David. He took him from the sheep pens.
71 He brought him from tending sheep to be the shepherd of his people Jacob. He made him the shepherd of Israel, his special people.
72 David cared for them with a faithful and honest heart. With skilled hands he led 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

Psalms 78 Commentaries

Holy Bible, New International Reader's Version® Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1998 by Biblica.   All rights reserved worldwide.