Psalms 78:1



The Bible says in Psalms 78:1-3, “Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.[2] I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:[3] Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.” God is speaking in verse one. God reminds His people that they need to hear His words. In the Old Testament they had the law. Today we have both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and so we have even more of the words of God than they had. God has given us His Word and His truth, but there is a requirement on our part. We must “give ear,” and we must “incline” our ears to his words. In other words we must desire to hear and know His words and we must seek to open our hearts to His word. God has given the Word. The question is: do we receive it?


In verses two and three the Psalmist is now speaking, and he is telling us what he is going to do. He knows the importance of God’s Word, he has received and studied God’s Word, he knows the will of God regarding the Word, and therefore the Psalmist is going to open his mouth and teach others. Some of the word of God is made of “parables” and “dark sayings.” It takes the enlightening of the Holy Spirit, it takes study, and it takes having good teachers in order to be prepared to teach the Word of God. The apostles were three years with Jesus twenty-four by seven in order to be properly prepared, and then there was a transitional period after the Day of Pentecost where they had even more to learn, especially learning the difference between law and grace. How many years will it take people in our age to learn what the apostles learned? It might take decades. If you get an early start, that will help. The sooner one turns to the Lord Jesus and starts learning His Word, the better. The Psalmist said in verse three, “our fathers have told us.” One of the primary responsibilities of Christian parents is to teach their children the Word of God. Reading the Bible and praying in the home is important. Christian schools can help and Christian home schooling. And then going to a Christian college when they leave home is important. These things are primarily decided by the parents. If Christian parents neglect such responsibilities, where will we be once the new generation takes over?


The Bible says in Psalms 78:4-7, “We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.[5] For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:[6] That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:[7] That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:” Notice the first phrase of verse four: “We will not hide them from their children…” Some parents are hiding the truths from God from the children in effect because they do not read the Bible at home, or take the children to church to hear God’s Word, or put them in a Christian school, or point them to a Christian college. The children are called “the generation to come.” If the younger generation do not come to know Christ and the Word of God, then faith and Christianity will die out with this generation. That very thing may be happening now. Jesus did say, “When the Son of Man cometh, will he find faith on the earth


According to this Psalm, we should be teaching the children three things, “the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.” We should teach children the reasons to praise the Lord. There are many. There are innumerable reasons to praise Him. Just to name a few: we can praise Him for His death on the cross, His teachings, His love, His daily provision, His promises, forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and heaven that awaits us because of His salvation. We should teach our children about God’s strength. God can do anything. That is how He can answer our prayers. That is how He can solve any of our problems. That is how He can remove any obstacle. Jesus said, “All power is given unto me.” To live by faith we must think about the power of God and not about our own limitations. We should also teach our children about “his wonderful works that he hath done.” The Bible tells us what He has done for so many believers who trusted in Him. We know about Abraham, Moses, Noah, David, Daniel, Ruth, Deborah, Samson, and all the other believers and the wonderful works that God did in their lives. Because God does not change, we can expect the same kinds of wonderful works to be done in our lives too. Because of these teachings, we know that God has a plan for our lives, and all we need to do is go His way, and He will make it happen. We know that God will take of us. We know that God will give us victory over the evil ones. We know that God will give us love and family. We know that God will give us opportunity, and wisdom, and understanding. These are the things that children need to be learning while they are growing up. No wonder that God commended the children of Israel to make these things “known to their children.” And then these children will eventually “declare them to their children.” That is God’s way. If these things are not done, then verse seven tells us what the result will be: 1. They will not “set their hope in God.” Instead they will set their hope in this world and in man. 2. They will “forget the works of God,” and so they will not become people of faith. 3. They will not “keep his commandments,” which means that they will live ungodly and secular lives. All of this will happen because Christian parents did not teach their children what they should have taught them on a daily basis.  


The Bible says in Psalms 78:8-17, “And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.[9] The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.[10] They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law;[11] And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.[12] Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.[13] He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.[14] In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.[15] He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.[16] He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.[17] And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.” Verse eight gives us one of the reasons that children need to be taught the Word of God: that they “might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.” The previous generation had gone the wrong way spiritually. How can the new generation be helped to avoid the same mistakes? They can only be helped if they have the right diet in the Word of God. The Word of God will reprove them of sin and of righteousness and of judgment. People will not stay right with God if they do not stay in the Word. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God


What happened to the fathers? Instead of being surrendered to God, they became “stubborn and rebellious.” They resisted God and did not want to do His will. They wanted to do their own will. They also were “a generation that set not their heart aright.” Each person has control over their own heart. You can choose to have a right attitude toward God or not. If someone goes through life and is not right with God, it is because that is what they chose. The third thing said about the previous generation in verses eight is that they were those “whose spirit was not stedfast with God.” We need to be consistent, always seeking the Lord no matter what happens to us in life. Something will turn you away from God unless you are determined to be steadfast.


In verse nine the children of Israel were represented by the children of Ephraim. They were prepared for battle, but then they did not go to battle. Christians should be prepared for war. We have all the armor available to us as described in Ephesians chapter six. But some people do not want the hardships of a battle, and they shrink away. They want an easy way. The Christian life is not easy. It is a challenge: the greatest challenge of all. If you do not bear a cross, you cannot wear a crown. Do not be like those who “turned back in the day of battle.” Verse ten says, “They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law.” No one could keep the covenant of the Old Testament, but these people “refused” to walk in his law. It is one thing to fail out of weakness, but it is another to fail out of a refusal to try. Verse eleven says that they “forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.” If you are going to be a person of faith and joy in the Lord, then you must have a good memory. You must remember the good things that the Lord has done for you, including your salvation. You determine what you remember and think about. This previous generation sinned because they did not remember what they should have remembered. They certainly had a lot of good things that God did for them that they should have remembered. So do we. Three great things are mentioned that God did for them. Verse thirteen says, “He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through.” He saved them. Verse fourteen says, “In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.” He led them. Verse fifteen says, “He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.” He provided for them. Yet, in spite of the miracles and the blessings, verse seventeen says that “they sinned yet more against him.” How ungrateful they were and unthankful! What a sad commentary on human nature.


The Bible says in Psalms 78:18-22, “And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.[19] Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?[20] Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?[21] Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;[22] Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:” They had a problem in their heart. They had a problem with what they said. And they had a problem with their faith. A strong desire started in their heart. There is nothing wrong with eating. God made our bodies to desire food. It is a blessing to have a good meal. Food for our bodies symbolizes what Jesus did for our souls when we took Him into our hearts. But a normal desire can become a sinful lust when that desire goes over the boundary that God has set for it. God gave them manna from heaven, but they started lusting after meat. And then they spoke against God. God did not give them what they desired and so they questioned God’s power and they said, “Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?” Yes, God can do anything, but it is always according to His will. We need to use the words of faith when we talk. The Lord can do anything. Do not ever say anything contrary to that basic truth. Do you have financial needs? God can provide. Do you know someone with a hard heart? God can melt the heart of stone. Do you have a medical problem or know someone who does? Jesus still performs miracles and He can guide you to the right doctor for your condition. Are you a student and need help with your studies? God can give you discipline and wisdom and confidence so that you can be properly prepared for each assignment and test. The children of Israel doubted God. That was their great sin. If Jesus has saved your soul, you should never doubt Him. That is why it says in verses twenty-one and twenty-two, “Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;[22] Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation.” It says to Christians in Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” Jesus said to His apostles, “O ye of little faith,” because the supreme will of God is that we live by faith. In other words we trust in Him instead of ourselves or some other thing or other person. “The just shall live by faith.” “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved


The Bible says in Psalms 78:23-31, “Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,[24] And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.[25] Man did eat angel’s food: he sent them meat to the full.[26] He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.[27] He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fouls like as the sand of the sea:[28] And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.[29] So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;[30] They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths,[31] The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.” The first word of verse twenty-three says, “Though.” In other words in spite of all that God had done for them and all the miracles that God had performed, they still turned away from Him. No wonder that the New Testament tells the Christian to be thankful for all things. If you are not aware and thankful for all that the Lord has done for you, you are likely to fall into the trap of doubt and selfishness wanting what the Lord has not done. Notice that verse twenty-five says that “Man did eat angel’s food.” That is how they should have looked at God’s supply for them. They did not have a high enough regard for what God had done. They wanted their own will instead of God’s will. And then what happened was one of the worse things that can happen to anyone: God gave them what they wanted instead of His will. It says in verse twenty-nine: “he gave them their own desire.” God knows the end from the beginning. We do not. Jesus calls us to go His way, not to punish us or to keep us from obtaining something, but because that will be the best outcome in life for us to find His will in something. Single people often make this mistake in marriage. They think that they want someone so badly that they neglect to seek God’s will. That can end up being a terrible mistake that will only be manifested after the wedding ceremony.


Of course, the children of Israel lived under the law, and the penalty for breaking the law was the death penalty. And so it says in verse thirty-one, “The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.” Thank the Lord Jesus that we live under the new covenant instead of under the law. We are not under law, but under grace.


The Bible says in Psalms 78:32-33, “For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.[33] Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.” God gives us many chances to learn, and He is very forgiving. The best way to learn is to pray and to ask the Lord for wisdom. Another way to learn is to read and study the scriptures and to be exposed to good teachings through the preaching of the Word of God. If we do not learn from prayer and Bible study, what other way can we learn? We can learn from our mistakes because God is merciful. He always forgives when we ask Him. It can be painful to learn from our mistakes, but at least it is possible. But what happens if we do not even learn from our mistakes? We will have happen what happened to the Israelites: we will be consumed “in vanity” and we will have “years in trouble.” The Israelites did not learn the importance of repenting and turning away from their sins: “For all this they sinned still.”


The Bible says in Psalms 78:34-37, “When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and inquired early after God.[35] And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.[36] Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.[37] For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.” One of the goals in life is to improve. That is one of the benefits of believing in Jesus and following Him: we have the ability to make real improvements. It is called growing in Christ. We want to avoid a life that is a constant train wreck. That is what happened to the Israelites. They kept making the same mistakes as they kept turning away from the Lord again and again. Notice verse thirty-seven: “neither were they stedfast in his covenant.” To be stedfast is to be constant and faithful. We are told to pray without ceasing. We are told that every beat of our hearts and every thought of our mind should be dedicated to Him. Those who constantly turn away from the Lord are in real danger of turning away from Him and not coming back. That seems to be what happened to the Israelites. Eventually, they only pretended to come back. It says in verse thirty-six, “they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.” We have a lot of pretend Christians today. They claim that they believe, but they lie “unto him with their tongues.”


The Bible says in Psalms 78:38-39, “But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.[39] For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.” These verses are a reminder of how great is God’s mercy towards us. He could have destroyed the Israelites many times, but He did not. We are all sinners, and God is holy. That means that God would be just and righteous to bring His anger and His wrath against sinners. Jesus could have called twelve legions of angels to destroy the world and set Him free, but instead He died alone for you and for me. God’s mercy is available because Jesus died for us. God also knows how weak we are: we are “but flesh.” One of the great differences between God and man is that He is Spirit, but we are flesh. We may not know how great that difference is, but God certainly does. God also knows how short our lives are. Compared to eternity our lives are so very short, and evidently that truth compels the Lord to give us extra chances. Once He destroys us our chances are gone forever. And so He gave us life so that we would accomplish something, and He is trying to keep us from throwing it all away. Therefore, He forgives you, giving you one more chance: maybe this time you will learn and start serving Him.


The Bible says in Psalms 78:40-56, “How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert![41] Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.[42] They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.[43] How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan:[44] And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink.[45] He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them.[46] He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust.[47] He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost.[48] He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.[49] He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.[50] He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;[51] And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:[52] But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.[53] And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.[54] And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.[55] He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.” Notice the phrase in verse forty-one that the Israelites “limited the Holy One of Israel.” God is holy, and so when we sin, we limit what He otherwise would have done through us. The question is this: do want the Lord to use you or not? If yes, then live a holy life.


In order to serve the Lord faithfully, you need to have a good memory, which evidently the children of Israel did not have. It says in Psalms 78:42, “They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.” Of course, this is talking about when God delivered them out of Egypt. And so the rest of the verses down to verse fifty-five tell once again many of the mighty things that God did for the children of Israel. Jesus is the One who delivered us. If you remember and appreciate what Jesus did for you to save your soul, then you have a chance to follow Him faithfully. But if you do not remember, you will be just like the Israelites and fall back to the world from which Jesus saved you.


The Bible says in Psalms 78:57-64, “But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.[58] For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.
[59] When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:[60] So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men;[61] And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand.[62] He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance.[63] The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage.[64] Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation
.” An interesting phrase is used in verse fifty-seven about the fact that the children of Israel turned away from the Lord. It says, “they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.” The purpose of shooting an arrow is that it will go straight, and a good bow has a lot to do with that happening. It does not matter how good the archer is if the bow is defective. Every human being should be following God through faith in Christ. Every day our lives should be like a straight arrow going right towards the Lord Jesus Christ and His will for us. Because God is in charge, and because we reap what we sow, there will be a price to pay if we do not go towards the Lord. The Israelites lived under the law, and the law was very unforgiving. Thank God that we have Jesus as our Savior. Verse fifty-eight says that “provoked him to anger” with false religion. If you do not serve the one true God through faith in Christ, then something else will fill the void, and that something else is your religion. It says about the Israelites and their false religion in verse fifty-nine, “When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel.” That will never happen to a Christian because we live in the age of grace and the New Testament says about the love of Christ, “Having loved his own, He loved them unto the end.” And Jesus also said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee


Five things happened to the children of Israel because they turned away from God: 1. God was angry with them. 2. They had war instead of peace, and according to verse sixty-one, their enemies were strengthened against them. 3. “The fire consumed their young men.” 4. “their maidens were not given to marriage.” 5. “Their priests fell by the sword.” 6. “their widows made no lamentation.” In other words there was such trouble for the widows that remained alive that that they could not even mourn the dead. The lesson is this: you might want to serve the Lord instead of turning away from Him.


The Bible says in Psalms 78:65-71, “Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.[66] And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach.[67] Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:[68] But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.[69] And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.[70] He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds:[71] From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.” Notice the phrase in verse thirty-five: “Then the Lord awaked as one out of sleep…” The Israelites sinned more and more and things got worse and worse because of sin, and God could not take it any more. For a long time it appeared that God was not going to do anything, but like He always does, the time came that God did do something: God decided to remove Israel from the wonderful position that He had given them. God was going to make Israel the greatest nation on the earth, and use them marvelously to spread His truth to the rest of the world. But they turned their back on Him, and so judgment came. God strengthened their enemies instead of strengthening Israel. God brought war, and God let their enemies win.


But all of that failure and judgment did not keep the Lord from His great eternal plan to provide salvation for sinful man. That is why it says in verse sixty-eight: “But chose the tribe of Judah.” Even though the rest of Israel was rejected, God’s plan would still be fulfilled through the tribe of Judah. King David was of the tribe of Judah, and then the Messiah came in the lineage of King David. And so it says in verses seventy and seventy-one, “He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds:[71] From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.” King David symbolized what Christ would eventually do. Jesus feeds us spiritual food. Jesus makes us “his inheritance” when we are born again.


The Bible says in Psalms 78:72, “So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.” This verse describes King David, the great king of Israel, the writer of the Psalms. And in many ways David symbolized the Messiah, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This verse said that David did two things: he “fed them” and he “guided them.” If you know Jesus as Savior, He has fed you the bread of life, and therefore you have eternal life through Christ. The bread of God is spiritual bread. It is not something that you get from a religious ceremony. David guided the children of Israel. Every person needs to be guided because we are like sheep. We will go the wrong way, we will fall off of a cliff, or we will be eaten by a wolf unless we have the right guide. One of the great benefits of having been saved through faith in Christ is that Jesus becomes our Shepherd and our Guide. He leads us. As David wrote in Psalms 23:2, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.”                                       





Copyright; 2019 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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