Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Psalms 77-|
Psa. 77 & 78
Writers & Content
Both at the beginning and end of this series of studies, we include a table showing the whole content covered. Next to the study number we have included a letter indicating the writer of that particular psalm as noted in your Bible. You will see from the following table that this part of the psaltery contains a number of writers we haven't seen for a while – the Sons of Korah (one of the priestly families), Moses and Ethan (a Levite)
The Variety of Content
The first two psalms in this series, 77 & 78, remind us of God's acts in delivering Israel out of Egypt . This is followed immediately by cries from the exile (79,80). A later long psalm, 89, struggles with why David's covenant no longer seems to be operating, and there is a call to be restored (85). Each of these has an historical element to them. There are calls to be delivered from enemies (83 & 86), cries out of weakness (88,90). There are also a number of psalms of testimony to the Lord's greatness (84,87, 91-93) and a number of psalms that exhort us to praise and worship (95-100). It is a very mixed bag! However, because there is only one from David here, there is much less of the anguish that we've seen in previous section where David's experiences dealing with enemies kept on coming through.
The Personal Nature of the Psalms
One of the things that perhaps we take for granted is the personal nature of each of these psalms. There seems to be no psalm that was written ‘just to create poetry'. These are, as we've briefly noted before, all cries of the heart. Although it may not be particularly commented upon in each study, do not the emotion with which each writer writes. There is anguish and there is joy. There is strong testimony and there is questioning doubt. There is the full gamut of emotions in these psalms, more than you will find anywhere else in Scripture.
We are sometimes fearful of emotions but we need to observe them in each of those psalms because they help point out the significance of what was going on, what it was that was almost driving some of these psalmists to write! So, we repeat again, do try and catch the emotions within each psalm, enter into what the psalmist was feeling, and what had happened to make him feel like that.
Theme of the Psalms in this Series
NB. The Letters with the study numbers = the author. See recaps.
Passage: Psalm 77:1-12
A. Find Out:
1. What did the psalmist do? v.1,2
2. So how did he seek to resolve this? v.3-6
3. What were the questions worrying him? v.7-9
4. So how did he seek to reassure himself? v.10-12
1. How do verses 1 & 2 summarise what this psalm is about?
2. How do verses 7 to 9 reveal the heart of the concern?
The structure of this psalm is simple and straight forward. Verses 1 & 2 reveal the cry of the psalmist, verses 3 to 6 his starting to reflect on what he has lost, verses 7 to 9, the questions he has, verses 10 to 12 his determination to appeal to what he knows of the Lord through history, and verses 13 to 20, some of that history. In this part we consider only verses 1 to 12.
The depth of emotion felt by the psalmist is revealed in the words, “cried out,” and, “in distress,” and “untiring hands,” and, “refused to be comforted.” (v.1,2) This isn't a quick ‘flash in the pan' prayer, this comes out of deep anguish.
As he prays he starts to reflect back on how life had been (v.5) and how he had sung of the Lord in the past (v.6), but all that seems past history. It seems now as if, all that having gone, the Lord has rejected them (v.7), had taken His love away (v.8), and withheld His compassion that He was known for (v.9). It is these things that causes him deep anguish which in turn causes him to pray.
The way he deals with it? He resolves to remind the Lord (implied) of all that He has done with Israel , the incredible things He did for them in the past, perhaps as a means of stirring the Lord to act again on their behalf. Our faith is built in history – the history we have with the Lord, the things He has done for us in the past.
1. Is our experience of the Lord as powerful today as it once was?
2. Declare the greatness of the Lord through your testimony.
Passage: Psalm 77:13-20
A. Find Out:
1. How does the psalmist describe the Lord? v.13,14
2. How specifically has He done that? v.15
3. Which of the elements were moved by God? v.16-18
4. What did He do for Israel ? v.19
5. What did He did with them? v.20
1. How would you summarise how God is described?
2. Which particular miracle is remembered?
In the first part of the psalm the psalmist had been expressing his concerns, wondering if the Lord has rejected them for ever. Obviously they were going through a time of difficulty as a nation and the signs of the Lord's presence were not there. As the psalmist ponders on this, his mind goes back to what he knows of Israel 's history.
There no other like God (v.13) who performs miracles (v.14), and delivers His people (v.15). It is that compilation of descriptions that must explain what follows for in verses 16 to 18 he speaks of the way the elements rage at the Lord's instigation, the seas (waters) rising up (v.16), the clouds pouring out rain (v.17), and the earth trembling (v.19). Now all of that could just be general descriptions of the elements being stirred by the Lord, but verse 19 is more specific, speaking of a way though the waters. Now in Israel 's history the only two times they passed through water were when they left Egypt and passed through the Red Sea , and when they entered the Promised Land and passed through the River Jordon.
The picture is clarified by verse 20 where he speaks of Moses and Aaron leading the people, so the descriptions obviously refer to the parting of the Red Sea . Why is he thinking back to this time? Because it was a mighty miracle, God's means of bringing the people to salvation. Surely He will not waste all that and give up on them now!
1. Hold on to your testimony, what you know God has done for you.
2. Remind yourself of it and let your faith be strengthened today.
Passage: Psalm 78:1-8
A. Find Out:
1. What does the psalmist say he will do? v.1-3
2. Yet what more will he do? v.4
3. What had God done? v.5
4. Why? v.6
5. With what result? v.7
6. So from who would they differ? v.8
1. What from the past does the psalmist want to talk about?
2. Why does he want to do that?
3. What does he want to avoid?
This is a long psalm and so we will deal with it in four parts. This first part sets the scene and tells us what the psalmist wants to do and why he wants to do it.
First of all, WHAT HE WANTS TO DO. There are two parts to this. First, he wants to speak of the things of Israel 's past (v.2), the things that had been passed on by word of mouth (v.3). But he is more specific than that; he wants to tell of the wondrous things God has done (v.4) and the decrees and statutes that God had given Israel (v.5). For Judaism and Christianity, there is history to be told. Both faiths are founded in history, in what God HAS done.
Now the second part is TO WHOM HE WANTS TO DO THIS. He wants to tell the next generation (v.4-6). It is important to pass on to succeeding generations what we know, what we have learnt.
Next, WHY HE WANTS TO DO IT. There is a positive and a negative side to this. First, the positive side. He wants to tell the next generation so that they too will put their trust in God (v.7). Relationship with God is founded on what He has done in the past. The negative side is to stop them being like their forefathers (v.8) who were unfaithful to God. This latter part comes out as a warning again and again. It is what this psalm is really all about.
1. Do we relish recounting what God has done for us?
Passage: Psalm 78:9-31
A. Find Out:
1. Who failed how? v.9,10
2. What specifically did they do? v.11
3. What had God done? v.12-16
4. How had they responded? v.17-20
5. How had God responded? v.21-31
1. List the ways god had blessed them in v.12-16.
2. What were the blessings of v.23-29
3. Yet what did God also bring? v.31
Remember yesterday we said that a large part of this psalm was about revealing the failures of Israel and warning against such failures. Here today, the men of Ephraim (shorthand for Israel , Ephraim being one of the largest and most influential tribes) are shown as an example NOT to follow (v.9)
The sin of Israel had been to forget what God had done for them and to turn away from Him (v.11,17). He provided miracles to deliver them out of Egypt (v.12,13) and to lead them in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land (v.14-16) yet despite this they responded badly to Him (v.17-20). Having seen His incredible provision for Him they didn't simply ask for further provision in the desert, they complained against Him.
Now although God's response was anger (v.21,31) He also gave them what they wanted – manna and quails. Both of these were again miraculous provisions (v.23-29). We might have given up on Israel at this point but God did not. Yes, there was an accounting and judgement came on the complainers and they were taken (v.31) but that still left the rest, the majority of the people to continue. Whenever God brought judgement on a group of the people, it was to contain the wrong attitudes that they had expressed and allow the rest of the nation to continue into the future blessings of God.
1. Realise the wonder of all of God's provisions for us even today.
Passage: Psalm 78:32-55
A. Find Out:
1. How had Israel carried on sinning? v.32,36,40-42
2. What had they forgotten? v.42-55
3. What happened when they turned away? v.33
4. How had God dealt with them? v.34
5. Yet what are we told about that? v.38,39
1. List the things God had done in v.43-55.
2. Summarise the psalmist's assessment of Israel .
3. Summarise what he said about God's dealing with them.
Remember the psalmist's objective is to warn future generations not to follow in the way of their forefathers. That is what this psalm is all about. Previously we saw how Israel had complained and had a bad attitude in the wilderness after having been delivered from Egypt. Having written that, it almost seems as if the psalmist feels that that was an inadequate warning about their folly. Thus now in today's verses he summarises their activity as not believing (v.33) and being unfaithful to God (v.37), and forgot what God had done (v.42).
God had dealt with them again and again and again. Yes some did die (v.34) – see Judges, when they turned away God allowed their enemies to chasten them in war. Yet again and again God restrained His hand of judgement (v.38) and did not wipe them out.
What seems so amazing to the psalmist was that Israel could have such an incredible history with God, yet still forget and turn away from this wonderful God. This is the Lord who had brought the plagues on Pharaoh and Egypt (v.43-51) and delivered Israel (v.52) and brought them to the Promised Land and drove out their enemies before them (v.54,55). This is an incredible testimony to the greatness, power and love of God. How could Israel forget it so easily!
Passage: Psalm 78:56-72
A. Find Out:
1. List the ways Israel failed? v.56-58
2. How did the Lord respond? v.59-64
3. But then what happened? v.65,66
4. Who did the Lord reject and who did he choose? v.67,68
5. What did He do there? v.69
6. And who did He choose to do what? v.70-72
1. How did Israel fail?
2. How did Israel deal with them?
3. Yet how did He make a fresh start with Israel ?
In the start of this part, the psalmist has moved on in history from that recorded in Judges to that recorded in 1 Samuel. Yes, yet again Israel turned away from the Lord (v.56). The did not keep His laws (v.56) and they turned to idols (v.58). At that time the ark of the covenant was kept at the tabernacle at Shiloh (v.60) and in the ensuing history found in the earlier chapters of 1 Samuel, the ark was taken by the Philistines and Israel were defeated.
But then, with the passing of time, (Saul is not mentioned) the Lord chose a man for Himself, not from the mighty tribe of Ephraim (v.67) but from Judah (v.68), David the shepherd boy (v.70) who came eventually in 2 Samuel to lead all Israel. In Jerusalem He had the tabernacle established and eventually the Temple which would be the meeting place between God and man.
This psalm is a remarkable testimony to the grace and mercy of God. It was written, you may remember, as a warning to future generations not to follow the ways of their forefathers. It has recounted how, even from shortly after leaving Egypt , Israel had bad attitudes towards God, had problems getting into the Promised land, and once there continually turned from God. Yet the story is also of how God prevailed and did not give up on this people. Amazing!
1. God has an eternal purpose and will not be diverted from it.
RECAP - Psalms 77 & 78
In this set of studies, as in the earlier psalms studies, our recaps will be different from those usually found in Bible Alive Studies. We will simply produce a table as a reminder of what we have recently been reading in the Summary, and then a similar table in the Lessons. Next to the study numbers, the letter indicates the writer. A= Asaph
Two longish psalms with strong historical content. The first one looks back on past blessings, the miracles of God in delivering Israel from Egypt . The second reminds us of Israel 's tendency to fail, and yet how God had nevertheless kept them throughout the years. There is testimony here, but not what you might want to remember. It comes as a needful reminder.
Lord, I look back and I can see your hand on my life and I am so grateful for what you have done. Keep me close, never let me forget your goodness, help me to remain faithful to you at all times.