Psalms 78

Listen to Psalms 78
1 O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying,
2 for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
3 stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us.
4 We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the LORD, about his power and his mighty wonders.
5 For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children,
6 so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children.
7 So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands.
8 Then they will not be like their ancestors— stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God.
9 The warriors of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned their backs and fled on the day of battle.
10 They did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his instructions.
11 They forgot what he had done— the great wonders he had shown them,
12 the miracles he did for their ancestors on the plain of Zoan in the land of Egypt.
13 For he divided the sea and led them through, making the water stand up like walls!
14 In the daytime he led them by a cloud, and all night by a pillar of fire.
15 He split open the rocks in the wilderness to give them water, as from a gushing spring.
16 He made streams pour from the rock, making the waters flow down like a river!
17 Yet they kept on sinning against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They stubbornly tested God in their hearts, demanding the foods they craved.
19 They even spoke against God himself, saying, “God can’t give us food in the wilderness.
20 Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out, but he can’t give his people bread and meat.”
21 When the LORD heard them, he was furious. The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob. Yes, his anger rose against Israel,
22 for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them.
23 But he commanded the skies to open; he opened the doors of heaven.
24 He rained down manna for them to eat; he gave them bread from heaven.
25 They ate the food of angels! God gave them all they could hold.
26 He released the east wind in the heavens and guided the south wind by his mighty power.
27 He rained down meat as thick as dust— birds as plentiful as the sand on the seashore!
28 He caused the birds to fall within their camp and all around their tents.
29 The people ate their fill. He gave them what they craved.
30 But before they satisfied their craving, while the meat was yet in their mouths,
31 the anger of God rose against them, and he killed their strongest men. He struck down the finest of Israel’s young men.
32 But in spite of this, the people kept sinning. Despite his wonders, they refused to trust him.
33 So he ended their lives in failure, their years in terror.
34 When God began killing them, they finally sought him. They repented and took God seriously.
35 Then they remembered that God was their rock, that God Most High was their redeemer.
36 But all they gave him was lip service; they lied to him with their tongues.
37 Their hearts were not loyal to him. They did not keep his covenant.
38 Yet he was merciful and forgave their sins and did not destroy them all. Many times he held back his anger and did not unleash his fury!
39 For he remembered that they were merely mortal, gone like a breath of wind that never returns.
40 Oh, how often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved his heart in that dry wasteland.
41 Again and again they tested God’s patience and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power and how he rescued them from their enemies.
43 They did not remember his miraculous signs in Egypt, his wonders on the plain of Zoan.
44 For he turned their rivers into blood, so no one could drink from the streams.
45 He sent vast swarms of flies to consume them and hordes of frogs to ruin them.
46 He gave their crops to caterpillars; their harvest was consumed by locusts.
47 He destroyed their grapevines with hail and shattered their sycamore-figs with sleet.
48 He abandoned their cattle to the hail, their livestock to bolts of lightning.
49 He loosed on them his fierce anger— all his fury, rage, and hostility. He dispatched against them a band of destroying angels.
50 He turned his anger against them; he did not spare the Egyptians’ lives but ravaged them with the plague.
51 He killed the oldest son in each Egyptian family, the flower of youth throughout the land of Egypt.
52 But he led his own people like a flock of sheep, guiding them safely through the wilderness.
53 He kept them safe so they were not afraid; but the sea covered their enemies.
54 He brought them to the border of his holy land, to this land of hills he had won for them.
55 He drove out the nations before them; he gave them their inheritance by lot. He settled the tribes of Israel into their homes.
56 But they kept testing and rebelling against God Most High. They did not obey his laws.
57 They turned back and were as faithless as their parents. They were as undependable as a crooked bow.
58 They angered God by building shrines to other gods; they made him jealous with their idols.
59 When God heard them, he was very angry, and he completely rejected Israel.
60 Then he abandoned his dwelling at Shiloh, the Tabernacle where he had lived among the people.
61 He allowed the Ark of his might to be captured; he surrendered his glory into enemy hands.
62 He gave his people over to be butchered by the sword, because he was so angry with his own people—his special possession.
63 Their young men were killed by fire; their young women died before singing their wedding songs.
64 Their priests were slaughtered, and their widows could not mourn their deaths.
65 Then the Lord rose up as though waking from sleep, like a warrior aroused from a drunken stupor.
66 He routed his enemies and sent them to eternal shame.
67 But he rejected Joseph’s descendants; he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.
68 He chose instead the tribe of Judah, and Mount Zion, which he loved.
69 There he built his sanctuary as high as the heavens, as solid and enduring as the earth.
70 He chose his servant David, calling him from the sheep pens.
71 He took David from tending the ewes and lambs and made him the shepherd of Jacob’s descendants— God’s own people, Israel.
72 He cared for them with a true heart and led them with skillful 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.

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Psalms 78 Commentaries