Today, Wednesday July 26
“They Refused to Walk in His Law, And Forgot…”
Psalm 78:8-32 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. Marvelous things He did in the sight of their fathers, In the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan. He divided the sea and caused them to pass through; And He made the waters stand up like a heap. In the daytime also He led them with the cloud, And all the night with a light of fire. He split the rocks in the wilderness, And gave them drink in abundance like the depths. He also brought streams out of the rock, And caused waters to run down like rivers. But they sinned even more against Him By rebelling against the Most High in the wilderness. And they tested God in their heart By asking for the food of their fancy. Yes, they spoke against God: They said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? Behold, He struck the rock, So that the waters gushed out, And the streams overflowed. Can He give bread also? Can He provide meat for His people?" Therefore the LORD heard this and was furious; So a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also came up against Israel, Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation. Yet He had commanded the clouds above, And opened the doors of heaven, Had rained down manna on them to eat, And given them of the bread of heaven. Men ate angels' food; He sent them food to the full. He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens; And by His power He brought in the south wind. He also rained meat on them like the dust, Feathered fowl like the sand of the seas; And He let them fall in the midst of their camp, All around their dwellings. So they ate and were well filled, For He gave them their own desire. They were not deprived of their craving; But while their food was still in their mouths, The wrath of God came against them, And slew the stoutest of them, And struck down the choice men of Israel. In spite of this they still sinned, And did not believe in His wondrous works.
Psalm 78 is called a “History Psalm” that gives us the story of the failures of the nation of Israel over the centuries. Asaph is writing this Psalm during a dark and dismal time and he wants the new generations to remember their past, and “not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation”… “They refused to walk in His law, and forgot His works…”. He begins this history with the apostacy of Ephraim (vv. 9-11), and then recounts the nation’s sins in the wilderness (vv. 12-39).
In verses 9-11, Asaph refers to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. When the ten tribes broke away from Judah and Benjamin, they informally adopted the name of their strongest and largest tribe, Ephraim. Joseph's sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, were adopted and blessed by Jacob, who made Ephraim the firstborn (Gen. 48:8-20; see Deut. 33:13-17). This added to the tribe's prestige. Moses' successor, Joshua came from Ephraim (Num. 13:8) and so did Jeroboam, the founding king of Israel/Ephraim (1 Kings 11:26; 12:16ff).
Ephraim was a proud and militant tribe that created problems for both Joshua (Josh. 17:14-18) and Gideon (Judg. 8:1-3). The tabernacle was in Shiloh, which was located in Ephraim, and this also added to the honor of the tribe. Like a warrior fleeing from the battlefield, Israel turned back from following the Lord, disobeyed Him, and forgot what He had done for them. By opening this long historical section with a description of the apostasy of the Northern Kingdom, Asaph was warning Judah not to follow their example.
In verses 12-39, Asaph returned to the account of the sins of the whole nation, before the political division after Solomon's death. The Jews forgot what the Lord did for them in Egypt when He sent the plagues to Egypt and delivered the Jewish people at the Exodus. The people saw one miracle after another as the Lord exposed the futility of the Egyptian gods and goddesses (Ex. 12:12; Num. 33:4), but the memory soon faded.
God led the nation both day and night and miraculously provided water for all the people. In verses 15-16, he combined the water miracles of Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20:1-13. But the people would not trust the Lord but tempted Him by asking for food, "a table in the wilderness" (vv. 17-31). He sent manna, the "bread of heaven," as well as fowl to eat (Ex. 16; Num. 11), but He judged them for their insolence and fleshly appetite.
Sometimes God's greatest judgment is to give us what we want. It is so sad that it appears that we have gone down this same path often in our own spiritual journey and in our nation as a whole. May the Lord forgive and help us!