TELL THE NEXT GENERATION —
Asaph wants future generations not to make the same mistakes their fathers did — their hearts not steadfast, their spirit not faithful to God. They were stubborn and rebellious. Asaph wants the children (the next generation) to set their hope in God and not forget His works but rather keep His commandments! I pray this with him! I pray it for the next generation, and I pray it for my 5 grandsons!
Asaph speaks his parable almost like a warning….. so they will remember! Poetically said… the good, the bad, the ugly!
v.1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! v.2 I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, v.3 things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. v.4 We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and His might, and the wonders He has done. v.5 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children, v.6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, v.7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; v.8 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.
O Lord, I pray for the young ones rising up in our world today……. in some cases the fathers have given them nothing to remember — they’ve cared little for You themselves and have set no examples. For these children, I pray that Your Holy Spirit would rise up and call them to Yourself. And I pray for this younger generation to lead their fathers! Draw all of us, Lord, to Yourself, in surrendered love and obedience.
THE FATHERS REFUSED and FORGOT……
As Asaph tells “future generations” the “good” of who God is, he also shares the “bad and ugly” of who Israel had been — in particular the Ephraimites are named (Ephraim was one of Joseph’s sons who had been grafted into the 12 tribes along with Manasseh. Ephraim received the elder’s blessing from Jacob, even though he was younger.) How sad to think of the blessings the Ephraimites started off with — their lineage, their root system — and yet they did not remain faithful to a faithful God. (Sidenote….Tim Keller says “Epharaimites” is actually representative of more than just that one tribe, but is indicative of all the northern tribes.)
v.9 The Ephraimites, armed with the bow, turned back on the day of battle. v.10 They did not keep God’s covenant, but refused to walk according to His law. v.11 They forgot His works and the wonders that He had shown them. v.12 In the sight of their fathers He performed wonders in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan. v.13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap. v.14 In the daytime He led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light. v.15 He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. v.16 He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.
I sometimes pray big prayers — asking God for mighty miracles in somebody’s life, so that they might “believe”, ……I’m thinking that if God just showed up in a “big enough way”, surely they’d recognize Him and run toward Him in faith! But in the bad and ugly of Ephraim, much was seen, as Asaph has shared. And the generations following — some saw it themselves, others grew up hearing it from those who had experienced it first hand, but somewhere in the passing of time and the hardening of hearts “REFUSE” and “FORGOT” crept in. Perhaps it was slow coming, but it arrived and the bottom line is, they became a people who turned back on the day of battle. They did not stay the course, they refused to walk according to God’s law and they forgot His works and wonders He had shown them. True faith comes from a heart that loves God. It’s my love for Him that stirs me to “REMEMBER” and brings me to “KEEP” His laws. Thank You, Lord, for Jesus and for His laws now written on my heart. Draw people to see You and to love You!
Ephraim didn’t keep God’s covenant, they refused to walk according to God’s law, and they forgot His works — even when there was so much they could’ve remembered….. so MANY wonders God had shown them! Asaph continues…… yet they sinned still more —
v.17 Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. v.18 They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. v.19 They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? v.20 He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can He also give bread or provide meat for His people?”
Speaking against God — it can be happening, even subtly, in our lives. And the thing is, we can know fairly easily whether or not we’re “speaking against God” — it will look like “DOUBT”! We can be thinking “Yes, You did that previously — You came thru for me before, but what about now? Can You now?” God doesn’t look kindly or favorably on doubt!
v.21 Therefore, when the Lord heard, He was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob; His anger rose against Israel, v.22 because they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power. V.23 Yet He commanded the skies above and opened the doors of Heaven, v.24 and He rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. V.25 Man ate the bread of the angels; He sent them food in abundance.
Lord, I read about Israel’s doubt and lack of remembrance and am pricked in my own heart of the times I haven’t remembered. How quickly, once the crisis has passed, we can forget Your deliverance; and then when the next crisis comes — we fear, we worry, we question, we doubt! We know You are “able”….. but will You come thru again? Perhaps, given the state of our hearts and how we so often keep a firm foot in the “world”, we know we don’t deserve it! But what faulty thinking that is — we never deserved it — ever! It’s always GRACE! Lord, help me to just walk out every single day in faith believing, trusting You love me and You do all things well. Help me learn from Your “discipline” and rejoice in that You’re trying to get me back on track! Help me be grateful when (or if) deliverance comes. May You always be my source of rejoicing — not my “deliverance” experience!
Getting what you crave…….
Pitching a spiritual fit — be careful!! You might just get it! Asaph recounts the story from the wilderness when the nation of Israel pitched a fit, lamenting the leeks (Numbers 11)….. they wept over manna, remembering the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, garlic, and fish. They cried for meat — and God sent them meat …..quail coming out their nose, so to speak,….. along with a judging plague straight from God Himself!
v.26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens, and by His power He led out the south wind; v.27 He rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; v.28 He let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. v.29 And they ate and were well filled, for He gave them what they craved. v.30 But before they had satisfied their craving, while the food was still in their mouths, v.31 the anger of God rose against them, and He killed the strongest of them and laid low the young men of Israel.
I’ve always thought this a very dramatic story from Israel’s history — one that surely would’ve been very impactful — forever turning them back to God in faithfulness. But did they learn? Do I? v.32 says ….. “in spite of this, they still sinned.” Lord, I pray for a heart that wants what You want for me, and a mind that truly perceives it as “best”. Help me not to receive what You choose to give and pitch a spiritual fit!
Grace – Sin – Discipline – Repent (sorta….?)
v.32 In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite His wonders, they did not believe. v.33 So He made their days vanish like a breath, and their years in terror.
And thus seemed to be the cycle for the Israelites — Grace – Sin – Discipline – Repent
v. 34 When He killed them, they sought Him; they repented and sought God earnestly. v.35 They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer.
Grace – Sin – Discipline – Repent – BUT
v.36 But they flattered Him with their mouths; they lied to Him with their tongues. v.37 Their heart was not steadfast toward Him; they were not faithful to His covenant.
What is all this? Was it really true repentance? Or did they just want their “lives back” — did they just want the pain to end? Were they ever really of faith? I guess only God knows the heart — certainly He isn’t fooled by our self-orientation that has “repentance with an agenda”.
Lord, I thank You for Your GRACE that is so huge — You are so loving and long-suffering. You know we are a mess and You do continue to be compassionate….. (to a point anyway!)
God “remembers” because we don’t …………. Grace upon Grace!
Israel sinned — over and over again — and yet God continued to strive with them, because He had a plan. Atonement! His plan was always His Son Jesus — and the plan was for Jesus to come thru the lineage of this messy bunch! And why? ……well for one thing, because we are all such a mess! We need Him. I have often wondered, Lord, at Your patience and how long-suffering You are as You bear with us. Asaph said You “remembered that they were but flesh.” Not that You ever forget — but remembered as in bearing with, knowing, and having patience, taking action to bring us what we must have — atonement. Only Your Son Jesus could assume the messiness of our sin and give us what we must have….His righteousness. Thank You, Lord, for remembering and atoning — even when “flesh” was a mess. Thank You for Your compassion when we fail to remember You.
v.38 Yet He, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; He restrained His anger often and did not stir up His wrath. v.39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. v.40 How often they rebelled against Him in the wilderness and grieved Him in the desert! v.41 They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel. v.42 They did not remember His power or the day when He redeemed them from the foe, v.43 when He performed His signs in Egypt and His marvels in the field of Zoan.
You remember us because You are compassionate and in Your grace You atone. We don’t remember You because we are such a mess — so in need of atonement. Thank You for Jesus. Help me remember.
God judges His enemy …… but leads to safety His flock
Asaph reminds Israel of how God had judged the enemy (Egypt), sending the plagues down upon them so that He might deliver His flock! Deliverance is everything when the threat looms. But once safe, how easily we forget…
v.44 He turned their rivers to blood, so that they could not drink of their streams. v.45 He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them, and frogs, which destroyed them. v.46 He gave their crops to the destroying locust and the fruit of their labor to the locust. v.47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamores with frost. v.48 He gave over their cattle to the hail and their flocks to thunder bolts. v.49 He let loose on them His burning anger, wrath, indignation, and distress, a company of destroying angels. v.50 He made a path for His anger; but He did not spare them from death, but gave their lives over to the plague. v.51 He struck down every firstborn in Egypt, the first fruits of their strength in the tents of Ham. v.52 Then He led them in the wilderness like a flock. v.53 He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid, but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
God did all this in judgement against Egypt, so that He could lead His people Israel like a flock to safety. They have a history of God’s faithfulness. And so do I. Help me to trust You. Help me to remain faithful, knowing that You lead to safety.
God is faithful……. man continues to test and rebel
The “Exodus” generation of Israelites that God rescued from Egypt, these who saw all the great wonders He performed, they didn’t get to come into the Promised Land to receive what God had for them — instead, they wandered the wilderness 40 years. Why? Their DOUBT. Their FEAR. They saw the “giants” in the land and suddenly, they didn’t believe God! Their children — the next generation, became the ones in line to receive the promised land. And they did receive it! Why? Because they believed God and thus they went where He sent them, when He sent them, how He sent them. And He made them victorious. He drove out the nations before them and settled them in their tents. And “YET”—- oh, the shame of our “YETs” of life.
Lord help me to learn from all of these who have gone before us….. You have given us their story in Your Word……. “Yet they tested You and rebelled…..” Lord, help me to be faithful and believe and obey. May I not choose the gods of the land, building my own high places; but instead, may I totally and surrendered-ly follow You!
v.54 And He brought them to His holy land, to the mountain which His right hand had won. v.55 He drove out nations before them; He apportioned them for a possession and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents. v.56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep His testimonies, v.57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow. v.58 For they provoked Him to anger with their high places; they moved Him to jealousy with their idols.
Lord, we exchange Most High God for mere high places…… high places of our own making. Why do we take our eyes off of You and become impressed with the lessor of life? I marvel, as I read Your scripture and as I see how You pointedly address sin,…. I marvel that we are even still allowed space on earth. And I shudder because I know You know, You see, and You WILL address. We are not ruling ourselves and our world. You are. Lord, turn our hearts and our attention towards You now…. while we can still repent…. while there is still time.
We’re responsible for our choices —- and will walk out the consequences of said choices
Israel’s cycle of sin/judgement/repentance/grace continues on. That next generation that came forth out of the wilderness days enjoyed the sweet victory of God, as He allowed them to begin claiming the land of Canaan. The tabernacle was set up in Shiloh, which was the land of Ephraim. But in their testing and rebellion, God began allowing their enemies to have victory over them and He forsook His dwelling at Shiloh!
v.59 When God heard, He was full of wrath, and He utterly rejected Israel. v.60 He forsook His dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where He dwelt among mankind, v.61 and delivered His power to captivity, His glory to the hand of the foe. v.62 He gave His people over to the sword and vented His wrath on His heritage. v.63 Fire devoured their young men, and their young women had no marriage song. v.64 Their priests fell by the sword, and their widows made no lamentation.
What a sad time in the nation of Israel. As I read Asaph’s poetic recounting of Israel’s history, there almost seems to be no lapse in time,….. it can be “read” very quickly! But it was actually many years in the making, as God’s “chosen” transitioned from Egypt, to the wilderness, to finally taking over the land, to their disobedience along the way, to the decline in the Priesthood with Eli’s sons, to the days of Samuel, to the choosing of a King…..which at some point was all taking place in Jerusalem, since Shiloh had been rejected. A lot of history. A lot of “living life”. And God continually, sovereignly, orchestrating His plan in spite of them all. As I read of this dark season where widows don’t even lament that their husbands fell by the sword, I ponder how our decisions affect our lives and our level of peace, but they don’t affect God’s outcome. I remember a Tim Keller sermon where he said: “Your plans are yours; you’re responsible for them. But what happens in history is totally controlled and fixed/set by God.”
Lord, You had a plan in place for Israel……Your Son would be born from the tribe of Judah. Had Israel been faithful to You down through the generations, how different their lives would’ve looked. But either way….. Your plan was going forth — the plan you had for Jesus! Only Jesus is the permanent solution to man’s inability to be faithful……..which brings me to ponder my life and the times in which I live…. this side of Bethlehem and Calvary. I’m knowing that You do still have plans in place — plans for Jesus’ 2nd coming. And You have so graciously given us Your Word, which is such a roadmap, guiding us in faithfulness and obedience. Lord, I choose it; I choose to read it, understand it as best I can by Your Holy Spirit’s leading; and I ask You to help me obey it — obey it all. I know Your plan will happen, regardless, but I don’t want to be found working against You.
God’s plan, in accordance with God’s clock
Asaph words it poetically as he says:
v.65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, like a strong man shouting because of wine.
God had never been asleep…… Psalm 121:3-4 says He does not slumber, behold, He who keeps Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps! But poetically speaking, God had seemingly been asleep because when He had given idolatrous Israel over to their enemies, it seemed as though He was not awake to their plight. Oh, He was awake alright — orchestrating every defeat, working to bring Israel to turn back to Him! God’s clock and theirs (and mine) …… they aren’t alike. But in God’s time,…… He acts. He was “at work” the whole time, moving His tabernacle away from Shiloh, choosing instead the tribe of Judah and Mount Zion (Jerusalem) as the place where His temple would be! He acted….. choosing David — the little shepherd boy……… as king to shepherd His people!
v.66 And He put His adversaries to rout; He put them to everlasting shame. v.67 He rejected the tent of Joseph; He did not choose the tribe of Ephraim, v.68 but He chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which He loves, v.69 He built His sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which He has founded forever.v.70 He chose David His servant and took him from the sheep folds; v.71 from following the nursing ewes He brought him to shepherd Jacob His people, Israel His inheritance. v.72 With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.
David, called out by God —- David with upright heart and skillful hands. David’s time of reign played a key part in Israel’s history….. preparing the nation, enlarging their borders, their treasuries, their reputation — God’s reputation. And upon David’s death, Solomon would continue the plan of God — playing his part in the building of God’s temple. Lord, I pray to fulfill Your purpose for me within my timeframe, within Your plan. Make my heart upright and make my hands skillful so they may be used of You for Your purpose, in my spot of “time”. I am not the story (nor was Israel)…. it has always been YOUR STORY and YOUR PLAN. We’re all like puzzle pieces….. we have a part to play. But the picture is YOU…… to You be the Glory as You continue Your story.
2 thoughts on “Just pondering Psalm 78……”
You could certainly write a book!
This prayer you wrote certainly spoke to me:
“Lord, I pray for a heart that wants what You want for me, and a mind that truly perceives it as “best”. Help me not to receive what You choose to give and pitch a spiritual fit”
You have encouraged me to pray that prayer!!!
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So well written; I do pray for our next generation and that we are sharing enough for them to know and remember; I fear our nation is in the -“sin-discipline“ cycle and know His Grace is sufficient but like the Israelites we have much to repent for.
Thank you so much for sharing this