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78. Psalm 78

Give 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.

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Verses 1–8

These are called dark and deep sayings, because they are carefully to be looked into. The law of God was given with a particular charge to teach it diligently to their children, that the church may abide for ever. Also, that the providences of God, both in mercy and in judgment, might encourage them to conform to the will of God. The works of God much strengthen our resolution to keep his commandments. Hypocrisy is the high road to apostacy; those that do not set their hearts right, will not be stedfast with God. Many parents, by negligence and wickedness, become murderers of their children. But young persons, though they are bound to submit in all things lawful, must not obey sinful orders, or copy sinful examples.

Verses 9–39

Sin dispirits men, and takes away the heart. Forgetfulness of God's works is the cause of disobedience to his laws. This narrative relates a struggle between God's goodness and man's badness. The Lord hears all our murmurings and distrusts, and is much displeased. Those that will not believe the power of God's mercy, shall feel the fire of his indignation. Those cannot be said to trust in God's salvation as their happiness at last, who can not trust his providence in the way to it. To all that by faith and prayer, ask, seek, and knock, these doors of heaven shall at any time be opened; and our distrust of God is a great aggravation of our sins. He expressed his resentment of their provocation; not in denying what they sinfully lusted after, but in granting it to them. Lust is contented with nothing. Those that indulge their lust, will never be estranged from it. Those hearts are hard indeed, that will neither be melted by the mercies of the Lord, nor broken by his judgments. Those that sin still, must expect to be in trouble still. And the reason why we live with so little comfort, and to so little purpose, is, because we do not live by faith. Under these rebukes they professed repentance, but they were not sincere, for they were not constant. In Israel's history we have a picture of our own hearts and lives. God's patience, and warnings, and mercies, imbolden them to harden their hearts against his word. And the history of kingdoms is much the same. Judgments and mercies have been little attended to, until the measure of their sins has been full. And higher advantages have not kept churches from declining from the commandments of God. Even true believers recollect, that for many a year they abused the kindness of Providence. When they come to heaven, how will they admire the Lord's patience and mercy in bringing them to his kingdom!

Verses 40–55

Let not those that receive mercy from God, be thereby made bold to sin, for the mercies they receive will hasten its punishment; yet let not those who are under Divine rebukes for sin, be discouraged from repentance. The Holy One of Israel will do what is most for his own glory, and what is most for their good. Their forgetting former favours, led them to limit God for the future. God made his own people to go forth like sheep; and guided them in the wilderness, as a shepherd his flock, with all care and tenderness. Thus the true Joshua, even Jesus, brings his church out of the wilderness; but no earthly Canaan, no worldly advantages, should make us forget that the church is in the wilderness while in this world, and that there remaineth a far more glorious rest for the people of God.

Verses 56–72

After the Israelites were settled in Canaan, the children were like their fathers. God gave them his testimonies, but they turned back. Presumptuous sins render even Israelites hateful to God's holiness, and exposed to his justice. Those whom the Lord forsakes become an easy prey to the destroyer. And sooner or later, God will disgrace his enemies. He set a good government over his people; a monarch after his own heart. With good reason does the psalmist make this finishing, crowning instance of God's favour to Israel; for David was a type of Christ, the great and good Shepherd, who was humbled first, and then exalted; and of whom it was foretold, that he should be filled with the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. On the uprightness of his heart, and the skilfulness of his hands, all his subjects may rely; and of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. Every trial of human nature hitherto, confirms the testimony of Scripture, that the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, and nothing but being created anew by the Holy Ghost can cure the ungodliness of any.




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