Today, Monday July 24
“And Our Fathers Have Told Us…”
A Contemplation (Maschil) of Asaph.
“Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, Which we have heard and known, And our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. 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; That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
The children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, Turned back in the day of battle. They did not keep the covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law, And forgot His works And His wonders that He had shown them.
Psalm 78 has 72 verses and is the second longest Psalm in the book of Psalms, with Psalm 119 being the longest with 176 verses. Psalm 78 is called a “History Psalm” along with Psalms 105, 106, 114, 135, and 136. The German philosopher Hegel said that the one thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history. If you study the Bible and church history, you discover that God's people make that same mistake. As Asaph reviewed the history of his people, he saw a sad record of forgetfulness, faithlessness, foolishness, and failure, and he sought to understand what it all meant.
Remember there are eleven Psalms (73-83), that are grouped together written by a man named Asaph. As we have already learned, not all these men were the same person. We know there was an Asaph in David’s time, one in Isaiah and King Hezekiah’s time, and one that was later in the prophet Jeremiah’s time. Many Bible scholars believe that there is strong indication from the passage the Asaph who wrote Psalm 78 lived and wrote in Isaiah and Hezekiah’s time.
"Ephraim" in verse 9 probably refers, not to the tribe, but to the Northern Kingdom (Israel) that had split from Judah and Benjamin when Rehoboam became king (1 Kings 12). The leaders of Israel abandoned the faith of their fathers and established a religion of their own making, while the people of Judah sought to be faithful to the Lord.
In this Psalm, it is also possible that Asaph wanted to convey a message to the Northern Kingdom, an invitation, perhaps, for them to come to Jerusalem and reunite again with Judah. It appears that Asaph made a careful avoidance of events after the days of the judges and David, events which would only irritate the people whose loyalty he was seeking to win. No reference is made either to Saul because the kingdom had been taken away from him, or to Solomon, because it was his oppression which had driven the northerners to rebellion in the first place. Asaph finds his illustrations in the earlier history of Israel before the division of the kingdom.
In this Psalm, Asaph warned the people of Judah not to imitate their faithless ancestors or their idolatrous neighbors and disobey the Lord. He admonished them to know the Scriptures and teach them to their children. Judah had the temple on Mt. Zion, the covenants, the priesthood, and the Davidic dynasty, and all this could be lost in one generation (see Judg. 2). Since Israel is a covenant nation, she has the responsibility of obeying and honoring the Lord, and this Psalm presents three responsibilities God expected His people to fulfill.
The title tells us that this is a “Maschil” Psalm, written for instruction, its great purpose being to hammer home to the conscience of the people of God the lessons of the past. The message of this Psalm is crystal clear. It speaks with authority and has a relevant message to the people of God. We ignore the voice and testimony of history at our peril. God has always involved Himself in human history, and He always will. The past is the great interpreter of the present and the great safeguard of the future.
Today, we must remember that these “History Psalms” were written for us! In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul recounts the history of the failures of Israel under Moses’ leadership. Then he says to us: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
May the Lord help us to be careful and remain faithful in these last days of the church age!