Summary: One of the hardest things for us to do is once we have a relationship with God to keep that relationship going and to remain faithful. Israel faced this same problem over and over and in the psalms we look at today, we find some ways to help us stay loyal
Psalm 78 looks at the past to draw lessons for the present. Specifically in Israel’s life, God wants them to avoid the mistakes of the past. In here are important lessons for us for, as the old saying goes, those that do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
1 – 8
Asaph describes three different things he is giving in this psalm: “instruction” is the Hebrew word “torah” which means literally instruction, law, or teaching. “wise sayings” are proverbs, and “mysteries” can be translated “riddles.” It can also be translated as “parables.”
A parable is a practical story with a spiritual moral. A proverb is a short saying that packs a punch, and teaching is direct instruction. So the psalmist will use various methods to get through the thick heads of His people. And sometimes God has to use various methods to get through to us as well!
And he stresses the importance of not only getting God’s truth, but passing it on. He wants them to know the mistakes as well as the victories. This is important to us as well—we learn as much or more from our weaknesses as we do our strengths.
The point is so they would not continue to be a “stubborn and rebellious generation.” (vs 8). The end goal then is to be “loyal” and “faithful” to God.
In the next section he recounts numerous occasions where God was faithful and the people rebellious.
9 – 11
The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh represented northern Israel, which were the first to rebel against God and serve other Gods.
12 – 16
Here Asaph recounts the crossing of the Red Sea, and the fact that the presence of God followed Israel as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He also provided water when they had none.
17 – 20
So after all that—the attitude of the people was “God might be able to provide water, but can he also provide food?” There is a truth we must embrace, that if we continue to let our human nature rule, we will never be satisfied. If we let God rule, we may not get all we want, but we will get all we need.
Galatians 5:16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want.
21 – 31
The accounts of God providing Manna and quail are stories of a rebellious people. God gave them what they wanted, but they also suffered the consequences of it. (Numbers 11)
Galatians 6:7 7 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, 8 because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
Next, it appears as if they’ve learned their lesson, but in reality they have merely learned how to hide their true nature even from themselves.
32 – 39
Life in the wilderness was tough, and many died who had rebelled. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that if we talk to God like a Christian should, and we go to church and carry a big Bible that we really are being faithful to Him. Being transformed on the inside is what matters, not looking good on the outside.
Notice the compassion and grace of God to forgive over and over.
Then the psalmist goes back to describing the rebellion in their wilderness wanderings, and how they had forgotten what God had just done for them in Egypt.
40 – 55
So here we see all of the plagues against Egypt found in the book of Exodus. Zoan is a city in Egypt that became its capital. Verse 52 shows God leading His people out like sheep, through the Red Sea and eventually into the Promised Land. But even there, they rebelled.
56 – 64
During the period of the judges, many people died and they went from one tyrant over them to another. There was this see-saw that happened. The people would suffer, then they would cry out to God and He would rescue them. But they were not sincere in their repentance and so went right back to worshipping other Gods.
One of the worst things Israel did was to try to use the Ark of the Covenant as a talisman in battle. It was captured by Philistia (vs 61).
65 – 72
Finally God had had enough with the northern tribes. He chose Judah and Jerusalem as the place to put his temple, and David as His king the man after His own heart