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Psalm 78 Feb. 14 A contemplation by Asaph.  1Hear my teaching, my people; turn your ears to the words of my mouth. 2I will open my mouth in a parable, I will utter dark sayings of old, 3which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. 4We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of Yahweh, His strength, and His wondrous works that He has done. 5For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a teaching in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; 6that the generation to come might know, even the children who should be born; who should arise and tell their children, 7that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, 8and might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that didn’t make their hearts loyal, whose spirit was not steadfast with God. 9The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle. 10They didn’t keep God’s covenant, and refused to walk in His law. 11They forgot His doings, His wondrous works that He had shown them. 12He did marvellous things in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. 13He split the sea, and caused them to pass through. He made the waters stand as a heap. 14In the daytime He also led them with a cloud, and all night with a light of fire. 15He split rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink abundantly as out of the depths. 16He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers. 17Yet they still went on sinning against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. 18They put God to the test in their heart by asking food according to their lust. 19Yes, they spoke against God. They said, Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? 20Behold, He struck the rock, so that waters gushed out, and streams overflowed. Can He give bread also? Will He provide flesh for His people? 21Therefore Yahweh heard, and was angry. A fire was kindled against Jacob, anger also went up against Israel, 22because they didn’t believe in God, and didn’t trust in His salvation. 23Yet He commanded the skies above, and opened the doors of heaven. 24He rained down manna on them to eat, and gave them food from the sky. 25Man ate the bread of angels; He sent them food to the full. 26He caused the east wind to blow in the sky, by His power He guided the south wind. 27He rained also flesh on them as the dust; winged birds as the sand of the seas. 28He let them fall in the midst of their camp, around their dwelling places. 29So they ate, and were well filled; He gave them their own desire. 30They didn’t turn from their cravings. Their food was yet in their mouths 31when the anger of God went up against them, killed some of their fattest, and struck down the young men of Israel. 32For all this they still sinned, and didn’t believe in His wondrous works. 33Therefore He consumed their days in vanity, and their years in terror. 34When He slew them, then they inquired after Him; they relented and sought God earnestly. 35They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer. 36But they flattered Him with their mouth, and lied to Him with their tongue. 37For their heart was not right with Him, neither were they faithful in His covenant. 38But He, being merciful, forgave iniquity, and didn’t destroy them. Yes, many times He turned His anger away, and didn’t stir up all His wrath. 39He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes away, and doesn’t come again. 40How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! 41They turned around and put God to the test, and provoked the Holy One of Israel. 42They didn’t remember His hand, nor the day when He redeemed them from the adversary; 43how He set His signs in Egypt, His wonders in the field of Zoan; 44 He turned their rivers and streams into blood so that they could not drink. 45He sent among them swarms of beetles, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them. 46He gave also their increase to the caterpillar, and their labour to the locust. 47He destroyed their vines with hail, their sycamore fig trees with frost. 48He gave over their livestock also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts. 49He threw on them the fierceness of His anger, wrath, indignation, trouble, and a band of angels of evil. 50He made a path for His anger, He didn’t spare their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence, 51and struck all the firstborn in Egypt, the chief of their strength in the tents of Ham. 52But He led forth His own people like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. 53He led them safely so that they weren’t afraid, but the sea overwhelmed their enemies. 54He brought them to the border of His sanctuary, to this mountain, which His right hand had purchased. 55He also drove out the nations before them, allotted them for an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents. 56Yet they put to the test and rebelled against the Most High God, and didn’t keep His testimonies, 57but turned back, and dealt treacherously like their fathers. They were turned aside like a deceitful bow. 58For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, and moved Him to jealousy with their engraved images. 59When God heard this, He was angry, and greatly abhorred Israel; 60so that He forsook the tent of Shiloh, the tent which He placed among men; 61and delivered His strength into captivity, His glory into the adversary’s hand. 62He also gave His people over to the sword, and was angry with His inheritance. 63Fire devoured their young men, their young women had no wedding song. 64Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows couldn’t weep. 65Then the Lord awakened as one out of sleep, like a mighty man who shouts by reason of wine. 66He struck His adversaries backward, He put them to a perpetual reproach. 67Moreover He rejected the tent of Joseph and didn’t choose the tribe of Ephraim, 68but chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which He loved. 69He built His sanctuary like the heights, like the earth which He has established forever. 70He also chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds; 71from following the ewes that have their young, He brought him to be the shepherd of Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance. 72So he was their shepherd according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.    


78:9,10 Israel turned back in the day of battle, they lost their confidence and nerve, because “they didn’t keep God’s covenant”. Keeping the covenant had an effect upon the crises of life. And keeping it was not a matter of mere outward obedience, it was rather a state of the heart. Thus “their heart was not right with him, neither were they faithful in His covenant” (:37). The covenants / promises made to Abraham and David above all take a grip upon the heart- and we have to keep remembering that those same covenants are made with all who are in Christ as they are the basis of the Gospel (Gal. 3:8).

78:18,19 Their attitudes to God in their hearts became verbalized in words. How we think about God is so important; we could say that spiritual mindedness is the essence of what Christianity is about.
78:22 They didn’t believe in God- Israel weren’t atheists; but by not trusting that He will ultimately save us, we are effectively atheistic. 
78:28 Around their dwelling places- We see here the sensitivity of God, not only giving them food but bringing it right to their door. That they and so many others should have become bitter with a God of such gentle grace and kindness is indeed tragic.
78:30 Like a parent giving in to the unwise requests of a child just because they love the child, so God gave Israel the food they craved. Yet giving in to lust or wrong desire doesn’t make it go away; Israel were given their desire (:29) but their craving remained. In our battles with temptation, let us never reason that if we give in, the lust will go away. It’s simply not true. The very experience of sin makes the next sin even easier and the voice of conscience yet weaker.
78:31 Killed some of their fattest- It was the fat ones who were complaining they were perishing from hunger and that God was somehow unreasonable to His children. God had obviously provided very well for them with the manna; but this wasn’t enough to satisfy their endless craving to tickle their taste buds and ever be titillating their fancy with something new.
78:49 Angels of evil- God’s Angels don’t sin (Lk. 20:35,36 cp. Rom. 6:23). They are alldoing His work (103:19-21; Heb. 1:14); there is no sin before God’s presence in Heaven (Hab. 1:13). The text here in 78:49 doesn’t speak of ‘sinful Angels’, but rather Angels responsible for bringing “evil” in the sense of calamity or disaster. We are often reminded that God brings the good and also creates “evil” in this sense (Is. 45:5-7). And He does it through His Angels. The reference in the context here is to the plagues God brought on Egypt; the work of the “Angels of evil” refers to the killing of the firstborn sons of Egypt by the Lord’s Angel.
78:54 Had purchased- It had as it were cost God something to give Israel the Kingdom or “mountain”. The same Hebrew word occurs in 74:2 and Gen. 14:22. The cost of our redemption, our place in the Kingdom, was the precious blood of Christ with which we were “bought” (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23; 1 Pet. 1:18,19). God who knows the future is outside of our kind of time, and so in a sense, Christ was as it were the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). His pain and sacrifice started right from the beginning, and when He offered Israel the forgiveness and Kingdom which He did, this offer was not without pain and immense cost to Him. Their rejection of it was therefore even more tragic and painful for Him.