Psalm 78

The Psalms

Psalm 78
Learning from the past

Psalms index

Psalm 78 has 72 verses. Time and space prevent comment in detail on all the psalm. Verses 1-8, 9-12, and 70-72 are commented on. Verses 13-69 are briefly summarised.

Psalm 78

1 A maskil of Asaph.

O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old— 3 what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, 6 so that the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. 8 They would not be like their forefathers—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.

9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle; 10 they did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law. 11 They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them. 12 He did miracles in the sight of their fathers in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan…

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

Listen to the whole Psalm 78 here


Psalm 78 – Learning from the past

(Verses 1-8) This psalm is written to remind Israel of how God dealt with them in the past. It is to teach future generations and their children a very helpful history lesson. Asaph recounts Israel’s blessings and backslidings as their forefathers told them. All this is in God’s written word for them to read, heed, and apply. We also should read the Bible daily, ask God to speak to us through it, and apply it. Their children will learn God’s ‘praiseworthy deeds’ and see His power, wonders, statutes and law. They must ensure that children’s children also hear it and obey God.

Israel’s roller-coaster ride shows Israel failing God in a downward trend of forgetting His works, unbelief, stubborn rebellion, disobedience, and unfaithful disloyalty. Now, we who trust in Jesus and in His death as our substitute and sin-bearer who was punished for our sins, must pass on our knowledge of God to children and grandchildren. The risen Lord Jesus loves them as He loves us.

(Verses 9-12) The bad example of Ephraim’s men, in their stubborn rebellion against God, is a clear warning to Israel. Their cowardice, disobedience, and covenant-breaking made them forget God’s miracles and blessings to their forefathers. Like them, we must learn from others’ mistakes in the Bible (and from our own) and not repeat them.

(Verses 13-69) This is a summary. Please read the verses. In this broad sweep of Israel’s history, there are two constants: God’s faithfulness and Israel’s sin. Verses 35-36 seem to recur often in principle:

Whenever God slew them, they would seek Him: they eagerly turned to Him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. But then… their hearts were not loyal to Him.’

Israel rebels ‘Again and again’ against God (verse 41). This repeated up-and-down pattern is often interrupted by God, who chastises them, often through other nations. They fail to trust and obey God, and rebel. God chastises them. They come to their senses and repent. God forgives, restores, revives and blesses them again. Then the whole roller-coaster ride starts again. The main focus of God’s works here is how He causes and engineers Israel’s exodus from Egypt (sending plagues and instituting the Passover), the miraculous Red Sea crossing,

God’s leading them through the desert where He provides food and drink, His replacing Canaan’s ungodly nations with Israel and defeating Israel’s foes, the return of the Ark of the Covenant, and His replacing the Tabernacle with the Temple. Do you trust and obey God constantly and daily?

 (Verses 70-72) David is the main writer of psalms, writing more than anyone else. Asaph tells us simple truths about David. God chose him. He was God’s servant. God took him from being a humble shepherd of sheep to shepherd His people, Israel. (He became king.) With God’s grace and help he led them in integrity, seeking God’s glory. He used his skills to serve and please God, and so caused God’s people to be blessed. Christians can learn from David. If you know Christ as your personal Saviour, God has also chosen you to be His servant, to walk in integrity with God, and to bless others.