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FRAMEWORKS: Psa 78: The Ebb & Flow of Israel's Unbelief


A maskil of Asaph.


[Preliminary Comments: The psalmist determines to teach the present generations what God had done in the past [v.1-5] so they would learn to follow the Lord [v.6-7] and not be like the peoples of the past and turn from the Lord [v.8-11]. He then (Part 2) recounts their past, God's blessing of them, their constant failures and God's judgments intended to draw them back to Him. If the history of Israel reveals anything it is, a) God's mercy and goodness and b) Israel's sin.]



PART 1: v.1-11: A Determination to teach on the Past


v.1-2 The Psalmist determines to teach his people


v.1  My people, hear my teaching;
     listen to the words of my mouth.
v.2  I will open my mouth with a parable;
     I will utter hidden things, things from of old—

v.3,4 He will pass on to the next generation the things the Lord did in the past


v.3  things we have heard and known,
     things our ancestors have told us.
v.4  We will not hide them from their descendants;
     we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord ,
     his power, and the wonders he has done.

v.5,6 He will tell how God gave them the Law so further generations will know


v.5  He decreed statutes for Jacob
     and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
     to teach their children,
v.6  so the next generation would know them,
     even the children yet to be born,
     and they in turn would tell their children.

v.7 His goal is that they will come to trust the Lord


v.7  Then they would put their trust in God
     and would not forget his deeds
     but would keep his commands.

v.8-11 He doesn't want them to be like those in the past who turned from the Lord


v.8  They would not be like their ancestors—
     a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
     whose spirits were not faithful to him.

v.9  The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
     turned back on the day of battle;
v.10  they did not keep God's covenant
     and refused to live by his law.
v.11  They forgot what he had done,
     the wonders he had shown them.


PART 2: v.12-71: Israel's recurring sins and God's recuring mercy & blessings


v.12-16 God's Goodness (1): He had done great and marvellous things in the exodus


v.12  He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
     in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
v.13  He divided the sea and led them through;
     he made the water stand up like a wall.
v.14  He guided them with the cloud by day
     and with light from the fire all night.
v.15  He split the rocks in the wilderness
     and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
v.16  he brought streams out of a rocky crag
     and made water flow down like rivers.


v.17-20 Israel's Sin (1): Despite that the people had turned away from the Lord


v.17  But they continued to sin against him,
     rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
v.18  They willfully put God to the test
     by demanding the food they craved.
v.19  They spoke against God;
     they said, “Can God really
     spread a table in the wilderness?
v.20  True, he struck the rock,
     and water gushed out,
     streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
     Can he supply meat for his people?”

v.21,22 God's Judgment (1): He had brought judgment on His people


v.21  When the Lord heard them, he was furious;
     his fire broke out against Jacob,
     and his wrath rose against Israel,
v.22  for they did not believe in God
     or trust in his deliverance.

v.23-25 God's Goodness (2): God had provided manna in the wilderness


v.23  Yet he gave a command to the skies above
     and opened the doors of the heavens;
v.24  he rained down manna for the people to eat,
     he gave them the grain of heaven.
v.25  Human beings ate the bread of angels;
     he sent them all the food they could eat.

v.26-29 God's Goodness (3): He had provided quail in abundance


v.26  He let loose the east wind from the heavens
     and by his power made the south wind blow.
v.27  He rained meat down on them like dust,
     birds like sand on the seashore.
v.28  He made them come down inside their camp,
     all around their tents.
v.29  They ate till they were gorged—
     he had given them what they craved.

v.30,31 God's Judgment (2): Yet this involved a judgment and many died

v.30  But before they turned from what they craved,
     even while the food was still in their mouths,
v.31  God's anger rose against them;
     he put to death the sturdiest among them,
     cutting down the young men of Israel.


v.32,33 Israel's Sin (2): But they kept on sinning and died in the desert


v.32  In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
     in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
v.33  So he ended their days in futility
     and their years in terror.

v.34,35 Their history was one of failure, repentance again and again


v.34  Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
     they eagerly turned to him again.
v.35  They remembered that God was their Rock,
     that God Most High was their Redeemer.

v.36,37 Israel's Sin (3): But despite this they then went on to sin again and again


v.36  But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
     lying to him with their tongues;
v.37  their hearts were not loyal to him,
     they were not faithful to his covenant.

v.38,39 God's Goodness (4): But amazingly he didn't destroy them completely


v.38  Yet he was merciful;
     he forgave their iniquities
     and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
     and did not stir up his full wrath.
v.39  He remembered that they were but flesh,
     a passing breeze that does not return.


v.40,41 Israel's Sin (4): Again and again they tested him in the wilderness


v.40  How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
     and grieved him in the wasteland!
v.41  Again and again they put God to the test;
     they vexed the Holy One of Israel.

v.42-51 God's Goodness (5): They forgot the wonderful things He did in Egypt


v.42  They did not remember his power—
     the day he redeemed them from the oppressor,
v.43  the day he displayed his signs in Egypt,
     his wonders in the region of Zoan.
v.44  He turned their river into blood;
     they could not drink from their streams.
v.45  He sent swarms of flies that devoured them,
     and frogs that devastated them.
v.46  He gave their crops to the grasshopper,
     their produce to the locust.
v.47  He destroyed their vines with hail
     and their sycamore-figs with sleet.
v.48  He gave over their cattle to the hail,
     their livestock to bolts of lightning.
v.49  He unleashed against them his hot anger,
     his wrath, indignation and hostility—
     a band of destroying angels.
v.50  He prepared a path for his anger;
     he did not spare them from death
     but gave them over to the plague.
v.51  He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt,
     the first-fruits of manhood in the tents of Ham.

v.52-55 God's Goodness (6): He brought them out of Egypt and into the Promised Land


v.52  But he brought his people out like a flock;
     he led them like sheep through the wilderness.
v.53  He guided them safely, so they were unafraid;
     but the sea engulfed their enemies.
v.54  And so he brought them to the border of his holy land,
     to the hill country his right hand had taken.
v.55  He drove out nations before them
     and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance;
     he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.


v.56-58 Israel's Sin (5): But even there they sinned and turned to idols


v.56  But they put God to the test
     and rebelled against the Most High;
     they did not keep his statutes.
v.57  Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless,
     as unreliable as a faulty bow.
v.58  They angered him with their high places;
     they aroused his jealousy with their idols.

v.59-64 God's Judgment (3): Thus again and again He disciplined them


v.59  When God heard them, he was furious;
     he rejected Israel completely.
v.60  He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh,
     the tent he had set up among humans.
v.61  He sent the ark of his might into captivity,
     his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
v.62  He gave his people over to the sword;
     he was furious with his inheritance
v.63  Fire consumed their young men,
     and their young women had no wedding songs;
v.64  their priests were put to the sword,
     and their widows could not weep.


v.65,66 God's Goodness (6): He fought their enemies on their behalf


v.65  Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
     as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine.
v.66  He beat back his enemies;
     he put them to everlasting shame.

v.67-69 God's Goodness (7): When Saul was king He blessed Judah & Jerusalem


v.67  Then he rejected the tents of Joseph,
     he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim;
v.68  but he chose the tribe of Judah,
     Mount Zion, which he loved.
v.69  He built his sanctuary like the heights,
     like the earth that he established forever.

v.70-72 God's Goodness (8): He chose David to be the new king to replace Saul


v.70  He chose David his servant
     and took him from the sheep pens;
v.71  from tending the sheep he brought him
     to be the shepherd of his people Jacob,
     of Israel his inheritance.
v.72  And David shepherded them with integrity of heart;
     with skillful hands he led them.



[Additional Comments: This long psalm is an embarrassing testimony to the folly of mankind where we see that despite all the good things God did for Israel they repaid him with grumblings, disobediences and rebellions. It started in Egypt, continued through the Exodus, continued through the taking of the land, through the period of judges until a king ruled over them and still got it wrong and had to be replaced by God's man.]



Continue to Psa 79