Lessons from History
Asaph’s poetic song of instruction
1Beloved ones, listen to this instruction.
Open your heart to the revelation
of this mystery that I share with you.
2A parable and a proverb are hidden in what I say—
an intriguing riddle # 78:2 The Hebrew word for “riddle” (chidoth) comes from the verb meaning “to tie a knot.” It is something that must be untied and unraveled by the Spirit of God. One of these riddles or wordplays is the name of Jesus hidden in plain sight (see v. 22 and footnote). from the past.
3-4We’ve heard true stories from our fathers about our rich heritage.
We will continue to tell our children
and not hide from the rising generation
the great marvels of our God—
his miracles and power that have brought us all this far.
5The story of Israel is a lesson in God’s ways.
He established decrees for Jacob and established the law in Israel,
and he commanded our forefathers to teach them to their children.
6For perpetuity God’s ways will be passed down
from one generation to the next, even to those not yet born.
7In this way, every generation will set its hope in God
and not forget his wonderful works but keep his commandments.
8By following his ways they will break the past bondage
of their fickle fathers, who were a stubborn, rebellious generation
and whose spirits strayed from the eternal God.
They refused to love him with all their hearts.
9Take, for example, the sons of Ephraim.
Though they were all equipped warriors, each with weapons,
when the battle began they retreated and ran away in fear.
10They didn’t really believe the promises of God;
they refused to trust him and move forward in faith.
11They forgot his wonderful works and the miracles of the past,
12even their exodus from Egypt, the epic miracle of his might.
They forgot the glories of his power at the place of passing over. # 78:12 Or “the fields of Zoan.” Zoan means “crossing place” or “place of departure.” (See v. 43.)
13God split the sea wide open, and
the waters stood at attention on either side
as the people passed on through!
14By day the moving glory-cloud led them forward.
And all through the night the fire-cloud stood as a sentry of light.
15-16In the days of desert dryness, he split open the mighty rock,
and the waters flowed like a river before their very eyes.
He gave them all they wanted to drink from his living springs.
17Yet they kept their rebellion alive against God Most High,
and their sins against God continued to be counted.
18In their hearts they tested God just to get what they wanted,
asking for the food their hearts craved.
19-20Like spoiled children they grumbled against God,
demanding he prove his love by saying,
“Can’t God provide for us in this barren wilderness?
Will he give us food, or will he only give us water?
Where’s our meal?”
21Then God heard all their complaining and was furious!
His anger flared up against his people.
22For they turned away from faith and walked away in fear;
they failed to trust in his power to save # 78:22 The word for “save” looks and sounds like Yeshua (Jesus). them when he was near.
23-24Still he spoke on their behalf, and the skies opened up;
the windows of heaven poured out food,
the mercy bread-manna.
The grain of grace fell from the clouds.
25Humans ate angels’ food—the meal of the mighty ones. # 78:25 The word for “angels” is ‘abirim which means “brave,” “noble,” or “strong.” The psalmist was saying that God gave them the best, most delicious food imaginable, a meal eaten by the mighty ones, and yet the people grew tired of it and began to complain and demanded some variety.
His grace gave them more than enough!
26-27The heavenly winds of miracle power blew in their favor,
and food rained down upon them;
succulent quail quieted their hunger as they ate all they wanted.
28Food fell from the skies, thick as clouds;
their provision floated down right in front of their eyes!
29He gave them all they desired, and they ate to their fill.
30-31But before they had even finished,
even with their food still in their mouths,
God’s fiery anger arose against them,
killing the finest of their mighty men.
32Yet in spite of all this, they kept right on sinning.
Even when they saw God’s marvels,
they refused to believe God could care for them.
33So God cut their lives short with sudden disaster,
with nothing to show for their lives but fear and failure.
34When he cared for them they ignored him,
but when he began to kill them, ending their lives in a moment,
they came running back to God, pleading for mercy.
35They remembered that God, the Mighty One,
was their strong protector,
the Hero-God who would come to their rescue.
36-37But their repentance lasted only as long as they were in danger;
they lied through their teeth to the true God of the Covenant.
So quickly they wandered away from his promises,
following God with their words and not their hearts!
Their worship was only flattery.
38But amazingly, God—so full of compassion—still forgave them.
He covered over their sins with his love,
refusing to destroy them all.
Over and over he held back his anger,
restraining wrath to show them mercy.
39He knew that they were made from mere dust—
frail, fragile, and short-lived, here today and gone tomorrow.
40How many times they rebelled in their desert days!
How they grieved him with their grumblings.
41Again and again they limited God, preventing him from blessing them.
Continually they turned back from him
and provoked # 78:41 The Hebrew verb for “provoked” is a hapax legomenon and comes from a root word for “marked.” It is as though Israel’s behavior wounded the heart of God. the Holy One of Israel!
42They forgot his great love, how he took them by his hand,
and with redemption’s kiss he delivered them from their enemies.
43They disregarded all the epic signs and marvels they saw
when they escaped from Egypt’s bondage.
They forgot the judgment of the plagues that set them free.
44God turned their rivers into blood, leaving the people thirsty.
45He sent them vast swarms of filthy flies that sucked their blood.
He sent hordes of frogs, ruining their lives.
46Grasshoppers consumed all their crops.
47Every garden and every orchard
was flattened with blasts of hailstones,
their fruit trees ruined by a killing frost.
48Even their cattle fell prey, pounded by the falling hail;
their livestock were struck with bolts of lightning.
49Finally, he unleashed upon them the fierceness of his anger.
He sent them sorrow and devastating trouble
by his mighty band of destroying angels;
messengers of death were dispatched against them.
50-51He lifted his mercy and let loose his fearful anger
and did not spare their lives.
He released the judgment-plagues to rage through their land.
God struck down in death all the firstborn sons of Egypt—
the pride and joy of each family.
52Then, like a shepherd leading his sheep, God led his people
out of tyranny, guiding them through the wilderness like a flock.
53Safely and carefully God led them out, with nothing to fear.
But their enemies he led into the sea.
He took care of them there once and for all!
54Eventually God brought his people to the Holy Land,
to a land of hills that he had prepared for them. # 78:54 The Aramaic reads “He brought them to the border of his holiness, the mountain possessed by his right hand.”
55He drove out and scattered all the peoples occupying the land,
staking out an inheritance, a portion for each of Israel’s tribes.
56Yet for all of this, they still rebelled and refused to follow his ways,
provoking to anger the God Most High.
57-58Like traitors turning back, they forsook him.
They were even worse than their fathers!
They became treacherous deceivers, crooked and corrupt,
and worshiped false gods in the high places,
bringing low the name of God with every idol they erected.
No wonder he was filled with jealousy and furious with anger!
59Enraged with anger, God turned his wrath on them,
and he rejected his people with disgust.
60God walked away from them and left his dwelling place at Shiloh,
abandoning the place where he had lived among them,
61allowing his emblem of strength, his glory-ark, to be captured.
Enemies stole the very source of Israel’s power.
62God vented his rage, allowing his people to be butchered
when they went out to battle,
for his anger was intense against his very own.
63Their young men fell on the battlefield and never came back.
Their daughters never heard their wedding songs,
since there was no one left to marry!
64Their priests were slaughtered and their widows were killed
before they had time to weep.
65Then all at once the Almighty awakened
as though he had been asleep.
Like a mighty man he arose, roaring into action!
66He blasted into battle, driving back every foe,
defeating them and disgracing them for time and eternity.
67He rejected Joseph’s family, the tribe of Ephraim.
68He chose instead the tribe of Judah # 78:68 The place of God’s dwelling was moved from the land of Ephraim (Shiloh) to the land of Judah (Jerusalem).
and Mount Zion, which he loves.
69There he built his towering temple,
strong and enduring as the earth itself.
70God also chose his beloved one, David.
He promoted him from caring for sheep
and made him his prophetic servant.
71-72God prepared David and took this gentle shepherd-king
and presented him before the people
as the one who would love and care for them
with integrity, a pure heart, and the anointing
to lead Israel, his holy inheritance.