Summary: The 78th Psalm teaches us how to turn the tide of evil in our nation. What is the key to making a nation moral?
Back in the 1800s, there was a famous preacher by the name of Peter Cartwright. Cartwright was known to be a very bold and uncompromising preacher, and one day the President of US - Andrew Jackson - was going to visit his congregation. But the elders were concerned and warned Cartwright: “You need to be careful when you preach. We don’t want you to offend the President of the US.”
Satisfied that they’d convinced him not to embarrass the President, the elders retired to the back of the sanctuary. When Cartwright got up to speak, the first words out of his mouth were these: “I understand that President Andrew Jackson is here this morning and I have been requested to be very guarded in my remarks. Let me say this: Andrew Jackson will go to hell if doesn’t repent of his sin!”
The entire congregation was appalled. The Elders were angry, and they ALL thought to themselves: “How could our preacher publicly offend the President of the USA?
After the service, Andrew Jackson walked up and met Cartwright face to face. Jackson had been a General in US Army, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans – and he was a man you did not mess with. Jackson sternly looked that preacher in the eye and said, “Sir, If I had a regiment of men like you, I could conquer the world!”
THAT IS THE MESSAGE OF GOD! (showing a meme by Mark Driscoll) “Death is real, Sin is real, Evil is real, Pain is real, God is real, Salvation is real, Forgiveness is Real, and Healing is real.”
THAT’S THE MESSAGE!
John Wesley once said the same thing: “Give me one hundred preachers (who believe that!!!) who fear nothing but sin, and desire nothing but God, and (they) will shake the gates of hell ….”
In this morning’s text, we read the words of a man named Asaph. Asaph confronted Israel with the reality of sin and the importance of desiring nothing but God. And he essentially told Israel (see footnote) you need to pay attention, because if you don’t - people will go to hell!
Asaph feared nothing but sin and desired nothing but God!
Here in the 78th Psalm Asaph used the name of the tribe of Ephraim to represent the attitudes of the entire nation, and he declared: “The Ephraimites, armed with the bow, turned back on the day of battle. They did not keep God’s covenant but refused to walk according to his law. They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them.” Psalm 78:9-11
He said that they had turned back in the day of battle… but I don’t think he’s referring to a MORTAL battle with a physical enemy. I think he’s talking about a MORAL conflict with spiritual consequences. He says Israel hadn’t KEPT God’s covenant. They’d refused to WALK according to the Law. They’d FORGOTTEN what God had done for them. God had armed them for a SPIRITUAL battle, and they just walked away. They surrendered. they threw down the weapons of righteousness and gave up to the enemy.
In this Psalm, Asaph told of the number of times that the Israelites had grumbled and complained against God. Times when they’d made sacrifices to pagan idols. Times when they’d done evil and immoral things… thinking that God wouldn’t care. But of course, God did care… and the people suffered because of their disobedience.
You know, I’ve heard a number of preachers (over the years) who have railed against the immorality and sin in our nation. They beat up on their audience and tell them what losers they are because they stood back and let it happen. They’ll berate their audience saying “You need to change your lives.”
And there’s a time for that kind of thing, but Asaph doesn’t seem to be focusing on his audience’s sins, as much as he was telling his audience how they could turn the tide. How they could defeat evil. How they could fix what was broken in their nation.
He says: “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!” (Psalm 78:1) Pay attention, and I’ll tell you how you can prepare for the battle!
And how were they going to prepare? Asaph said that … “(God) appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” Psalm 78:5-8