Summary: That is the rest of the story. You are not destroyed for your sins. Your Shepherd took that punishment. Your guilt is removed forever. The glory of the Lord will not depart from you because the Holy Spirit will not leave you.
Psalm 78:65-72 He Will Not Fail Them
12/31/06 D. Marion Clark
The application of Psalm 78:1-8 was the following exhortation:
“We must be careful not to exhibit complaining spirits before our children. Do they see that in us? What will your children hear from you today – how wonderful it was to worship God with his people or complaints about parking or room temperature? What will they hear from you this week – your sharing of God’s glorious deeds or grumblings about how tough life is? Will they remember best your prayers with them or your complaining about them?
“And these are not just questions for parents. Everyone here, you need to know that you are being watched and listened to by children. They see and hear you when you don’t notice them. They are learning from you whether worship in the house of God is boring as it seems or something that they too should be delighting in. They are learning from you by your attitude in worship and your attitude towards them if the gospel is something to really believe; if it is something for them. What are you teaching them?
“Today is the first day of a new year. Brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, let us resolve today that we will not hide the sayings from of old in the Scriptures; rather, we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. Let us make known the faithfulness of the Lord to all generations.”
Here is my question. How did you do? Can you look back over the past year and with satisfaction say, “I’ve been a good witness to my children and the children of my church this year; by my words and actions, they know better the glorious deeds of God and his faithfulness”? Before we answer such a question, let’s do as one noted commentator liked to say and give the “rest of the story.”
As noted in the previous messages, Psalm 78 reviews Israel’s sad history of forgetting what God had done for them and then falling away from him. The psalmist gives warning not to follow the example of their ancestors who rebelled against God in the wilderness after his miraculous deliverance from Egypt, preservation in that same wilderness and even after entry into the Promised Land. The result of such rebellion was God’s rejection of them and their deliverance into the hands of their adversaries. But the psalm does not end with rejection. Let’s pick up with verse 65.
65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
like a strong man shouting because of wine.
66 And he put his adversaries to rout;
he put them to everlasting shame.
Here is what the psalmist Asaph is referring to. During the period of the judges’ rule over Israel, the tabernacle that had moved with the people during their wilderness journey, had been located at Shiloh in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim. This was the tribe, descended from Joseph that had risen to prominence over the other tribes.
According to the psalmist, Israel’s idolatry during the period of the judges led to Shiloh’s destruction and the downfall of Ephraim from its position of prominence as the location of government and worship. The soldiers fighting against the Philistines turned the very ark of God into an idol by taking it into battle as a talisman to secure victory. Instead of victory, they were defeated and the ark taken into captivity, never again to return to Shiloh. Indeed, Shiloh would eventually be destroyed and become an example of the destruction that comes to those who fail to keep God’s covenant.
At the battle of the ark, the two ungodly priests “fell by the sword,” as verse 64 notes, and the widow of one of them died while giving childbirth when she heard the news of her husbands death and the ark’s capture. She just had time to name the child – Ichabod, which means “inglorious”; for, as she said, “The glory has departed from Israel!”
This was the legacy of the Israelites who centuries earlier at the foot of Mt. Sinai had vowed, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do” (Exodus 19:8). What they did was break all the commandments that the Lord had spoken and passed on that same trait to their descendants. And so the day of shame finally came that the glory departed in the form of the ark from Israel. The ark, which represented the presence of God among his people, was taken away.
But that was not the end of the story. “Then the Lord awoke as from sleep.” He put his adversaries, in this case the Philistines to rout and everlasting shame. How did he do it? He gave them hemorrhoids! Or a plague like it that disfigured and killed many men. After seven months of passing the ark around their cities, they returned the ark to Israel by letting it be pulled on a cart by unmanned cows. A generation later, King David would bring the ark to Jerusalem on Mt. Zion in the territory of Judah. As the psalmist Asaph explains: