Psalms 78

1 A Contemplation of Asaph. Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old,
3 Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.
5 For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children;
6 That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children,
7 That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments;
8 And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
9 The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, Turned back in the day of battle.
10 They did not keep the covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law,
11 And forgot His works And His wonders that He had shown them.
12 Marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers, In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and caused them to pass through; And He made the waters stand up like a heap.
14 In the daytime also He led them with the cloud, And all the night with a light of fire.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness, And gave them drink in abundance like the depths.
16 He also brought streams out of the rock, And caused waters to run down like rivers.
17 But they sinned even more against Him By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness.
18 And they tested God in their heart By asking for the food of their fancy.
19 Yes, they spoke against God: They said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?
20 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?"
21 Therefore the Lord heard this and was furious; So a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also came up against Israel,
22 Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation.
23 Yet He had commanded the clouds above, And opened the doors of heaven,
24 Had rained down manna on them to eat, And given them of the bread of heaven.
25 Men ate angels' food; He sent them food to the full.
26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens; And by His power He brought in the south wind.
27 He also rained meat on them like the dust, Feathered fowl like the sand of the seas;
28 And He let them fall in the midst of their camp, All around their dwellings.
29 So they ate and were well filled, For He gave them their own desire.
30 They were not deprived of their craving; But while their food was still in their mouths,
31 The wrath of God came against them, And slew the stoutest of them, And struck down the choice men of Israel.
32 In spite of this they still sinned, And did not believe in His wondrous works.
33 Therefore their days He consumed in futility, And their years in fear.
34 When He slew them, then they sought Him; And they returned and sought earnestly for God.
35 Then they remembered that God was their rock, And the Most High God their Redeemer.
36 Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouth, And they lied to Him with their tongue;
37 For their heart was not steadfast with Him, Nor were they faithful in His covenant.
38 But He, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, And did not destroy them. Yes, many a time He turned His anger away, And did not stir up all His wrath;
39 For He remembered that they were but flesh, A breath that passes away and does not come again.
40 How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, And grieved Him in the desert!
41 Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy,
43 When He worked His signs in Egypt, And His wonders in the field of Zoan;
44 Turned their rivers into blood, And their streams, that they could not drink.
45 He sent swarms of flies among them, which devoured them, And frogs, which destroyed them.
46 He also gave their crops to the caterpillar, And their labor to the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail, And their sycamore trees with frost.
48 He also gave up their cattle to the hail, And their flocks to fiery lightning.
49 He cast on them the fierceness of His anger, Wrath, indignation, and trouble, By sending angels of destruction among them.
50 He made a path for His anger; He did not spare their soul from death, But gave their life over to the plague,
51 And destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt, The first of their strength in the tents of Ham.
52 But He made His own people go forth like sheep, And guided them in the wilderness like a flock;
53 And He led them on safely, so that they did not fear; But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54 And He brought them to His holy border, This mountain which His right hand had acquired.
55 He also drove out the nations before them, Allotted them an inheritance by survey, And made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents.
56 Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God, And did not keep His testimonies,
57 But turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers; They were turned aside like a deceitful bow.
58 For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, And moved Him to jealousy with their carved images.
59 When God heard this, He was furious, And greatly abhorred Israel,
60 So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, The tent He had placed among men,
61 And delivered His strength into captivity, And His glory into the enemy's hand.
62 He also gave His people over to the sword, And was furious with His inheritance.
63 The fire consumed their young men, And their maidens were not given in marriage.
64 Their priests fell by the sword, And their widows made no lamentation.
65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, Like a mighty man who shouts because of wine.
66 And He beat back His enemies; He put them to a perpetual reproach.
67 Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph, And did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
68 But chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved.
69 And He built His sanctuary like the heights, Like the earth which He has established forever.
70 He also chose David His servant, And took him from the sheepfolds;
71 From following the ewes that had young He brought him, To shepherd Jacob His people, And Israel His inheritance.
72 So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them by the skillfulness 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 1

Chapter Summary

Psalms 78 Commentaries

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.