Today, Friday July 28
Deliverance, Disobedience and Discipline
How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, And grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, And limited the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power: The day when He redeemed them from the enemy, When He worked His signs in Egypt, And His wonders in the field of Zoan; Turned their rivers into blood, And their streams, that they could not drink. He sent swarms of flies among them, which devoured them, And frogs, which destroyed them. He also gave their crops to the caterpillar, And their labor to the locust. He destroyed their vines with hail, And their sycamore trees with frost. He also gave up their cattle to the hail, And their flocks to fiery lightning. He cast on them the fierceness of His anger, Wrath, indignation, and trouble, By sending angels of destruction among them. He made a path for His anger; He did not spare their soul from death, But gave their life over to the plague, And destroyed all the firstborn in Egypt, The first of their strength in the tents of Ham. But He made His own people go forth like sheep, And guided them in the wilderness like a flock; And He led them on safely, so that they did not fear; But the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
And He brought them to His holy border, This mountain which His right hand had acquired. He also drove out the nations before them, Allotted them an inheritance by survey, And made the tribes of Israel dwell in their tents. Yet they tested and provoked the Most High God, And did not keep His testimonies, But turned back and acted unfaithfully like their fathers; They were turned aside like a deceitful bow. For they provoked Him to anger with their high places, And moved Him to jealousy with their carved images. When God heard this, He was furious, And greatly abhorred Israel, So that He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, The tent He had placed among men, And delivered His strength into captivity, And His glory into the enemy's hand. He also gave His people over to the sword, And was furious with His inheritance. The fire consumed their young men, And their maidens were not given in marriage. Their priests fell by the sword, And their widows made no lamentation.
Three words sum up Psalms 78, Deliverance, Disobedience and Discipline! Asaph is teaching a history lesson to the nation of Israel during a dark time when Hezekiah was king, and the Babylonians were attacking Jerusalem. He is asking them to remember the failures of their forefathers in the past even though God had shown Himself so powerful in so many ways to deliver them from the oppression of their enemies. He started with the most recent history of Ephraim, the northern tribes and their idolatry (vv. 9-11). Then reminds them how God provided for them in the wilderness, but they still disobeyed and rebelled against the Most High (vv. 12-39).
Today, our verses cover the history of the time when God redeemed them from the Egyptians by sending the 10 plagues (vv. 40-53). He mentions specifically six of the ten plagues. After this great display of divine power, the people should have been able to trust the Lord in any situation, knowing that He was in control, but they grieved Him, provoked Him, and tempted Him to display His anger against them! Human nature has not changed. Spurgeon said that we are too prone to engrave our trials in the marble and write our blessings in the sand. They opposed and “limited the Holy One of Israel” (v. 41), and He disciplined them time after time.
In verses 54-64, Asaph now goes back to their time in Canaan. After caring for the nation in the wilderness for thirty-eight years, the Lord brought them again to Kadesh Barnea (Deut. 1:1-2). There he reviewed their history and taught them God's Law as he prepared the new generation to enter the land and conquer the enemy. Often in his farewell speech (which we call Deuteronomy—"second law"), Moses exhorted them to remember and not forget what the Lord had said to them and done for them (Deut. 8). They were a new generation, making a new beginning with a new leader (Joshua) and a new opportunity to trust God.
Under Joshua's able leadership, they conquered the land and claimed their inheritance, and for two generations obeyed the Lord. But the third generation repeated the sins of their ancestors and forgot what the Lord had said and done (vv. 56-57; Josh. 2:7-10). Instead of destroying the altars and idols, the Jewish people mingled with the people of the land and learned their evil ways, and God had to discipline His people by turning them over to their enemies (v. 59). The book of Judges records how seven different nations invaded the nation of Israel and how God raised up judges to deliver Israel when the people repented and turned to Him for help.
It has well been said that a change in circumstances does not overcome a flaw in character, and the history of the Jewish nation illustrates the truth of that statement. Whether living in Egypt, journeying in the wilderness, or dwelling in their own land, the people of Israel were prone to want their own way and rebel against the Lord. When chastened, they feigned repentance, experienced God's help, and were forgiven, but before long, they were back in trouble again. We are so often guilty of this same thing!
Today, God stills delivers and blesses His people. But if we disobey, because of His love, He disciplines and chastens us to bring us back to Him. (Hebrews 12:5-15).