Posts Tagged ‘Psalm 78’
For an extensive study of the wonderful Psalm 78, check this out.
“O my people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old — what we have heard and known, what our fathers have told us.” Psalm 78:1-3
I love love love Psalm 78, which is why I began the Bible study, Learning God’s Story of Grace with an entire chapter based on it. It is a narrative historical poem about the ridiculosity of forgetful sinners — the equal hilarity of a prodigally merciful God. Who knew history could be so compelling?
It begins with a call to to hear “parables” and “hidden lessons.” The words in the Hebrew, mashal and chiydah suggest lessons, puzzles, enigmas, riddles. It turns out that the history of God’s chosen people, like the history of a redeemed sinner, is indeed puzzling.
The conundrum goes something like this, “Listen to this history. Then explain to me why people would repeatedly reject a God who not only performs such signs, wonders, and miracles but who bothers to retrieve this stubborn, disobedient people. What kind of sense does it make for us to be so faithless and fickle in the light of the Lord’s unfailing love and kindness? And what kind of sense does it make for God to be so faithful and loving in the light of the Israelites’ faithlessness and forgetfulness?”
For reflection: Read Psalm 78. What wonders of God in your own life have you forgotten? Tell one story today of God’s miraculous work in your life.
Learning God's Story of Grace is coming May 27
What do you know?
5-8 He planted a witness in Jacob,
set his Word firmly in Israel,
Then commanded our parents
to teach it to their children
So the next generation would know,
and all the generations to come—
Know the truth and tell the stories
so their children can trust in God,
Never forget the works of God
but keep his commands to the letter. Psalm 78:5-8, The Message Translation
Learning leads to living — I know that because “the Bible tells me so”:
We need to learn God’s story of grace in order to live it. Learning doesn’t mean simply studying hard or pounding information into our minds. Learning means knowing. When the Bible speaks of knowing, it refers to a deep connection involving heart and mind. To know God is to be intimately connected with him. As we consider both the big story God has written in Scripture and the particular stories he is writing in our lives, we come to know God more deeply and love him more fully.” Learning God’s Story of Grace
How about you? What struggles do you have with knowing something and living it? How do you think the gospel addresses that struggle for Christians?
Learning God’s Story of Grace, available May 27, will take you and your community into a deeper conversation about questions like these.
The following is an excerpt from my Living Story Bible study series. Read Psalm 78, in which the Psalmist invites the people to listen to a rather puzzling history. I think he is saying something like, “Listen to this history. Then explain to me why people would repeatedly reject a God who not only performs such signs, wonders, and miracles, but who bothers to retrieve this stubborn, disobedient people. What kind of sense does it make to be so faithless and fickle in the light of the Lord’s unfailing love and kindness? And what kind of sense does it make for God to be so faithful and loving in the light of the Israelites’ faithlessness and forgetfulness?”
It is in this last question that we see the beauty of atonement: God had to make a way to satisfy the demands of His holiness. Lowering His standards was not an option, because then He would not be a holy God. The Israelites weren’t getting it on their own, despite remarkable provision. Psalm 78:38 tells us how God addressed the problem with the Israelites and offers a preview of how God addressed it finally and fully in Jesus:
Psalm 78 reveals the problem of the human condition. Ever since the Fall (see Chapter Two), we are bound to sin. We have no ability not to sin, left to our own devices. God is holy and perfectly just, so he can’t just pretend that sin is okay or look the other way. He is legitimately angry at sin, because it is a heart attitude to trust in gods other than God for a sense of life. The Bible tells us that God solved our problem in a highly unusual way: he sent his Son, fully God and fully human, to satisfy his own wrath against sin. Jesus, as the only sinless human, provided the only acceptable sacrifice.
Verse 38 enters the story at its lowest point, when it is clear that the Israelites have no way out of their sinful cycle, and proclaims GREAT NEWS. “God, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath.” (Psalm 78:38, ESV). Though the ultimate propitiation came in the New Testament, when Jesus died as the substitute for our sins and satisfied God’s wrath, Psalm 78 gives us a preview of that story.
To ponder: What do you think of the story Psalm 78 tells? How do you respond to the wrath of God described? In what way is Psalm 78:38 good news to you?
- 27th August 2009
- Filed under: story
1 O my people, listen to my teaching.
Open your ears to what I am saying,
2 for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
3 stories we have heard and known,
stories our ancestors handed down to us.
4 We will not hide these truths from our children
but will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord.
We will tell of his power and the mighty miracles he did. Psalm 78:1-4
The Bible is a story, and it is full of stories. Psalm 78 gives us the command to tell our stories – the stories of the glorious deeds of the Lord. The Hebrew words used for story here and in other places in the Old Testament, mashal and chiydah, suggest puzzles, hard questions, riddles. Indeed, the story of the Bible and many Bible stories are, like our own stories, quite puzzling. What sense does it make that a sinless God would love a sinful people so much that He would send His sinless son to die for us? That sentence summarizes the gospel story, and it simply doesn’t make much rational sense.
When you think of the beloved Bible stories, a lot of them are puzzling – God tells Noah to build an ark for a flood that has not yet occurred; David commits adultery with Bathsheba but is presented under the title: A Man after God’s Own Heart; a man who stoned Christians is struck blind and when he regains sight he decides to spend the rest of his life suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ (the apostle Paul). Yes, biblical stories are full of paradox, seemingly opposite realities, and that should tell us that the same is true of our stories.
Another thing that the words mashal and chiydah suggest about our stories is that they can be both simple and profound. Psalm 78 suggests that stories contain two levels. On one level, the story relates events that occurred in space and time. Too often we stop telling stories at the surface level: we tell the story of how truly rotten our day (or our life) was, but we don’t pause to reflect on the second level. When we remember that our stories are authored by God, we pay attention to sign-ificant realities of our stories.
As Brent Curtis and John Eldredge point out in The Sacred Romance, God is not merely the author of the story but the central character: “Just what if we saw God not as Author, the cosmic mastermind behind all human experience, but as the central character in the larger story? What could we learn about his heart? The story that is the Sacred Romance begins not with God alone, the Author at his desk, but God in relationship, intimacy beyond our wildest imagination, heroic intimacy. The Trinity is at the center of the universe; perfect relationship is the heart of all reality.” If God is the author of our stories and also the central character, then our stories are signs pointing to God, showing us and the world something about who God is. As we study our stories, we begin to see that God is a hero who came to save, perhaps not in the time and the way we would have wanted. We also come to see ourselves as the beloved He has come to save. Behind the simplicity of every story is the profound reality of God.