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Dave Burnette's Commentary

Psalm Chapter 78

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: David, Asaph, Solomon, Heman, Ethan, Moses, and the Sons of Korah
Date Penned: (1440-586 BC)
Overview: Poetry for the Expression of Praise and Worship to God (c 1-150)
Theme: The Third Book of Psalms (c 73 - 89)
Message: A Lesson From History (v 1-72)

Psalms 78 Commentary

(78:1) Manipulating God - The people of Israel rebelled and were not faithful to God (78:8). They forgot about the miracles God had done (78:11-12) and put God to the test by making demands of him (78.18). They lied to him and tried to flatter him (78:36), and they continued to turn away from him even after he did great works on their behalf (78:42-56). God recorded the facts of these painful rebellions in his Word so that we can avoid the same errors. 

(78:5) Teaching Our Children - God commanded that the stories of his mighty acts in Israel's history and his laws be passed on from parents to children. This shows the purpose and importance of biblical education--to help each generation obey God and set their hope on him. The church cannot do all of it; parents and grandparents need to teach the Bible and lead children in prayer at home. Reading and discussing Bible stories will show the next generation how not to repeat the same mistakes as their ancestors. What are you doing to pass on the history of God's work to those who are younger than you are? 

(78:9-10) God Works Through Us - Ephraim was the most prominent tribe of Israel from the days of Moses to the time of Saul. The tabernacle was set up in its territory. There is no other biblical record of Ephraim's soldiers turning back from battle, so this is probably a metaphor referring to Ephraim's failure to provide strong leadership during those years. When David became king, the tribe of Judah gained prominence. Because of David's faith and obedience, God chose Jerusalem in Judah to be the place for the new temple and rejected Ephraim (78:67). This caused tension between the two tribes. This psalm may have been written because of that tension in order to demonstrate once again why God chose Judah. God works through those who are faithful to him. 

78:18 The people of Israel stubbornly tested God in their hearts by demanding certain foods that they had loved in Egypt (Numbers 11:4-6). They had manna that came to them fresh each morning, but they were not satisfied with what God was giving them. They wanted more. We should not follow their example and complain about what we do not have; this is a sin against God that leads to his judgment. Instead, we should thank God for the many blessings he has already showered on us. 

(78:36-37) Talk is cheap - Over and over the children of Israel claimed that they would follow God, but then they turned away from him. The problem was that they were making commitments to God with their mouths and not with their hearts; thus, their repentance was empty. Talk is cheap. God wants our conduct to back up our spiritual claims and promises. 

(78:38-39) Compassion and Judgment - When we compare the parts of the Old Testament about God's judgment with the parts of the New Testament about God's compassion, we can wonder whether we're talking about a completely different deity! But the whole chorus of God's Word shows us again and again that God loves us, forgives us, and realizes our weaknesses in every age. David affirmed God's tender mercies, compassion, and unfailing love (see 103:1-22). To receive this love and forgiveness, we need to open our hearts and minds to his plan to save us, confess our sins and repent of them, and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to following him. 

(78:38) Long-suffering - After the Israelites rebelled against God, Moses interceded for them, and God was merciful and forgave their sins (Numbers 14:18-20). God proclaimed himself to be "longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth (Exodus, 34:6). If we are honest with ourselves, we can see how God has been longsuffering (slow to anger) with us as well. We should praise him for being patient with us and thank him for his unfailing love. 

(78:58) A Jealous God - Can God be jealous? According to Scripture, yes (see Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; Nahum 12). Like everything else about God, his jealousy is perfect, not a defect. In this case, the offense caused by the ungratefulness and unfaithfulness of his people provoked a just and holy response from God. The shock conveyed in these verses comes not from God's jealousy but from the fact that God, though justified in passing absolute judgment, persistently seasons his responses with grace and patience. We want God to be jealous toward us because it demonstrates his great love for us. God's jealousy toward us represents an honor worthy of our deepest gratitude. 

(78:71-72) Shepherding - Although David was occupying the throne of Israel when this psalm was written, he is called a shepherd and not a king. Shepherding, a common profession in biblical times, was a highly responsible job. The flocks were completely dependent upon shepherds for guidance, provision, and protection. David had spent his early years as a shepherd (I Samuel 16:10-11). This was a training ground for the future responsibilities God had in store for him. When he was ready, God took him from caring for sheep to caring for Israel, God's people. Your present situation may be God's training ground for your future. If you have responsibility for others, develop both your heart for people and your leadership skills. Those without skill are ineffective. Those without high moral character lead people astray or become easily corrupted.

Dave Burnette's Life Application

Taking Another Path

Each day, we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter, making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today, we continue in the Book of Psalms with Chapter 78. In our text today, we see a theme of lessons learned through History that are recorded for us in the pages of the Bible. In making an application, as we learned yesterday, we see that the recorded past can encourage us to walk by faith in the present. Today, we see that by looking at the past, we can learn from the mistakes of our forefathers. A wise man learns from his mistakes, and with the Word of God, we can learn and avoid the poor decisions that led Israel astray. How about you? Do you learn from your mistakes? Let us learn from our Psalm and text today to remember the mistakes recorded for us in the Bible so we will not follow in those footsteps but rather take another path to victory.


Psalm 78

Psalm 78

 1Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline 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, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

 5For 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:

 6That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to 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 set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

 9The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.

 10They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in his law;

 11And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.

 12Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

 13He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.

 14In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.

 15He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.

 16He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.

 17And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.

 18And they tempted God in their heart by asking meat for their lust.

 19Yea, they spake against God; they said, Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?

 20Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?

 21Therefore the LORD heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;

 22Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation:

 23Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,

 24And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.

 25Man did eat angels' food: he sent them meat to the full.

 26He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.

 27He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea:

 28And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.

 29So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;

 30They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths,

 31The wrath of God came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.

 32For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.

 33Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.

 34When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after God.

 35And they remembered that God was their rock, and the high God their redeemer.

 36Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.

 37For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.

 38But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.

 39For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

 40How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!

 41Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

 42They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.

 43How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan.

 44And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink.

 45He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them.

 46He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust.

 47He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost.

 48He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.

 49He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.

 50He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;

 51And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:

 52But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.

 53And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.

 54And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.

 55He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.

 56Yet they tempted and provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies:

 57But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully 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 graven images.

 59When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:

 60So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men;

 61And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand.

 62He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance.

 63The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage.

 64Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.

 65Then the LORD awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.

 66And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach.

 67Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:

 68But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.

 69And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.

 70He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds:

 71From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.

 72So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.