God pillar of fire from Egypt

Psalm 78: Looking Back at What God Did for Israel Up to King David

Before humans developed a written language using clay tablets, papyrus, then scrolls, later books, people told the stories of their ancestors through verbal storytelling. They were in the form folk songs and ballads. In the Old Testament, many of the Psalms are stories. As is Psalm 78. Before we continue with King David’s reign, let’s take a look at where the Israelites started and how God led them, miracle after miracle, to the point of a United Israel under a shepherd.

If we forget the lessons of history, we are doomed to repeat them. Think about that for a moment — especially reflecting on what’s been happening in the world recently. History is a teacher as long as history is remembered. We must learn not just from our successes and failures, but those of others as well.

Then, we’ll see how this ties to Jesus, the Messiah and Savior of the World.

This psalm is written by Asaph, King David’s chief musician. Let’s dig in…

Psalm 78

O my people, listen to my instructions.
    Open your ears to what I am saying,
    for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
    stories we have heard and known,
    stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
    we will tell the next generation
about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
    about his power and his mighty wonders.
For he issued his laws to Jacob;
    he gave his instructions to Israel.
He commanded our ancestors
    to teach them to their children,
so the next generation might know them—
    even the children not yet born—
    and they in turn will teach their own children.
So each generation should set its hope anew on God,
    not forgetting his glorious miracles
    and obeying his commands.
Then they will not be like their ancestors—
    stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful,
    refusing to give their hearts to God.

The warriors of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
    turned their backs and fled on the day of battle.
10 They did not keep God’s covenant
    and refused to live by his instructions.
11 They forgot what he had done—
    the great wonders he had shown them,
12 the miracles he did for their ancestors
    on the plain of Zoan in the land of Egypt.
13 For he divided the sea and led them through,
    making the water stand up like walls!
14 In the daytime he led them by a cloud,
    and all night by a pillar of fire.
15 He split open the rocks in the wilderness
    to give them water, as from a gushing spring.
16 He made streams pour from the rock,
    making the waters flow down like a river!

17 Yet they kept on sinning against him,
    rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They stubbornly tested God in their hearts,
    demanding the foods they craved.
19 They even spoke against God himself, saying,
    “God can’t give us food in the wilderness.
20 Yes, he can strike a rock so water gushes out,
    but he can’t give his people bread and meat.”
21 When the Lord heard them, he was furious.
    The fire of his wrath burned against Jacob.
    Yes, his anger rose against Israel,
22 for they did not believe God
    or trust him to care for them.
23 But he commanded the skies to open;
    he opened the doors of heaven.
24 He rained down manna for them to eat;
    he gave them bread from heaven.
25 They ate the food of angels!
    God gave them all they could hold.
26 He released the east wind in the heavens
    and guided the south wind by his mighty power.
27 He rained down meat as thick as dust—
    birds as plentiful as the sand on the seashore!
28 He caused the birds to fall within their camp
    and all around their tents.
29 The people ate their fill.
    He gave them what they craved.
30 But before they satisfied their craving,
    while the meat was yet in their mouths,
31 the anger of God rose against them,
    and he killed their strongest men.
    He struck down the finest of Israel’s young men.

32 But in spite of this, the people kept sinning.
    Despite his wonders, they refused to trust him.
33 So he ended their lives in failure,
    their years in terror.
34 When God began killing them,
    they finally sought him.
    They repented and took God seriously.
35 Then they remembered that God was their rock,
    that God Most High was their redeemer.
36 But all they gave him was lip service;
    they lied to him with their tongues.
37 Their hearts were not loyal to him.
    They did not keep his covenant.
38 Yet he was merciful and forgave their sins
    and did not destroy them all.
Many times he held back his anger
    and did not unleash his fury!
39 For he remembered that they were merely mortal,
    gone like a breath of wind that never returns.

40 Oh, how often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
    and grieved his heart in that dry wasteland.
41 Again and again they tested God’s patience
    and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power
    and how he rescued them from their enemies.
43 They did not remember his miraculous signs in Egypt,
    his wonders on the plain of Zoan.
44 For he turned their rivers into blood,
    so no one could drink from the streams.
45 He sent vast swarms of flies to consume them
    and hordes of frogs to ruin them.
46 He gave their crops to caterpillars;
    their harvest was consumed by locusts.
47 He destroyed their grapevines with hail
    and shattered their sycamore-figs with sleet.
48 He abandoned their cattle to the hail,
    their livestock to bolts of lightning.

49 He loosed on them his fierce anger—
    all his fury, rage, and hostility.
He dispatched against them
    a band of destroying angels.
50 He turned his anger against them;
    he did not spare the Egyptians’ lives
    but ravaged them with the plague.
51 He killed the oldest son in each Egyptian family,
    the flower of youth throughout the land of Egypt.

52 But he led his own people like a flock of sheep,
    guiding them safely through the wilderness.
53 He kept them safe so they were not afraid;
    but the sea covered their enemies.
54 He brought them to the border of his holy land,
    to this land of hills he had won for them.

55 He drove out the nations before them;
    he gave them their inheritance by lot.
    He settled the tribes of Israel into their homes.

56 But they kept testing and rebelling against God Most High.
    They did not obey his laws.
57 They turned back and were as faithless as their parents.
    They were as undependable as a crooked bow.
58 They angered God by building shrines to other gods;
    they made him jealous with their idols.
59 When God heard them, he was very angry,
    and he completely rejected Israel.

60 Then he abandoned his dwelling at Shiloh,
    the Tabernacle where he had lived among the people.
61 He allowed the Ark of his might to be captured;
    he surrendered his glory into enemy hands.

62 He gave his people over to be butchered by the sword,
    because he was so angry with his own people—his special possession.
63 Their young men were killed by fire;
    their young women died before singing their wedding songs.
64 Their priests were slaughtered,
    and their widows could not mourn their deaths.

65 Then the Lord rose up as though waking from sleep,
    like a warrior aroused from a drunken stupor.
66 He routed his enemies
    and sent them to eternal shame.
67 But he rejected Joseph’s descendants;
    he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim.
68 He chose instead the tribe of Judah,
    and Mount Zion, which he loved.
69 There he built his sanctuary as high as the heavens,
    as solid and enduring as the earth.
70 He chose his servant David,
    calling him from the sheep pens.

71 He took David from tending the ewes and lambs
    and made him the shepherd of Jacob’s descendants—
    God’s own people, Israel.
72 He cared for them with a true heart
    and led them with skillful hands.

Psalm 78 NLT

Where Does Jesus Fit In?

God still loves humans, so much so, He’s included the Gentiles, too! God knew that we humans could never be good enough to stand in His Glorious Presence. So, He sent Jesus, His One and Only Son, to sacrifice His Life instead of us. On the cross, He took on ALL of our sin — past, present and future — and once and for all, cleansed us so we can enter Heaven, when our earthly lives are over. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, born of the lineage of King David as was written in the Old Testament.

Jesus quoted Psalm 78:2 when He spoke in parables…

34 Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables. 35 This fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet:

“I will speak to you in parables.
    I will explain things hidden since the creation of the world.

Matthew 13:34-35 NLT

Just as David was a shepherd taking care of his father’s sheep, so is Jesus…

Jesus the Good Shepherd
Jesus, the Good Shepherd

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

17 “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”

John 10:11-18 NLT

We are His Father’s sheep! And we have strayed away, much like the Israelites did!…

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
    We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
    the sins of us all.

Isaiah 53:6 NLT

Jesus also said…

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 NLT

Salvation is only THROUGH JESUS!

If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, this is what you have to do…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 in your life and surrender your life to Him.
  • Be Baptized — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift and Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

In Christ Alone



Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

Top image by Sweet Publishing from FreeBibleImages.org, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

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