Psalm 78

Psalm 78  •  5 min. read  •  grade level: 7
This Psalm exhibits the failure of all testimonial agency in deliverances, and blessings on the people as such, and the transfer into, or rather accomplishment of blessing in the raising up of David, the Prince in whom blessing and security was secured. Further, I notice the teaching of children in it, as the order of blessing; compare Gen. 18:1919For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. (Genesis 18:19) and Psa. 22, at the end; Deut. 4:9, 109Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life: but teach them thy sons, and thy sons' sons; 10Specially the day that thou stoodest before the Lord thy God in Horeb, when the Lord said unto me, Gather me the people together, and I will make them hear my words, that they may learn to fear me all the days that they shall live upon the earth, and that they may teach their children. (Deuteronomy 4:9‑10); chap. 6: 7 and chap. 11:19. It is a specific character of the dispensation, and of ordered blessing-attention can well see many instances of it in the history of Israel, closing, in Solomon, in Proverbs. There is great reckoning upon God in it, nor is it passed by in Christianity, see Eph. 6
There are two things in the Psalm—deliverance and ease, and blessings in the wilderness. The arm of the Lord—provocations here, and limiting the Holy One of Israel when He was their (only) portion, foolishness—judgments on their oppressors, enemies, and giving them their inheritance-their turning to false gods, when they were at ease, in spite of this distinctive salvation; compare all the Prophets, and Isa. 43:1212I have declared, and have saved, and I have showed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. (Isaiah 43:12). Hence judgment on the people (so God known) but David raised up in grace, and the vindication of His people, see Deut. 32:3636For the Lord shall judge his people, and repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left. (Deuteronomy 32:36).
It is a most comprehensive Psalm; maschil (causing to understand) as to the hopes, and the whole order of the hopes of Israel—their failure—the order of them—practical faithfulness—and the security (raising up) of David; compare Isa. 55:33Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David. (Isaiah 55:3) and Acts 13, and so Peter, also Acts 2. Also this is a specific portion of prophecy, compare its quotation in Matt. 13, and notes on that.
The language of this Psalm is remarkable. It begins with the right of Jehovah, "Give ear, 0 my people." But it is in the love of the same interests "which we have heard and known, which our fathers have told us." Who makes this mighty link? The Spirit of Christ who is Jehovah, speaking in the Remnant who recognize His truth in the midst of the people, the nation. Accordingly their history is gone through, but not merely to characterize them, but to characterize Him—to afford that, in grace, which was their only security, for David was a king given in grace. Therefore there is no mention of Saul, but of perfect failure under all circumstances, and the favor of the Lord interposing in strength. The Lord awakes by His own gracious view of the desolation of His people—His pity awoke-an encouragement of grace for the latter days, in their trouble.
"Thou leddest thy people"—there was the great principle of favor, but there was much more that God had to reveal for their thoughts in detail. Under this leading, in the midst of all favors, they had walked in rebellion, disbelief and lust, i.e., in the wilderness with God, when He was teaching them Himself. Then, as to all the judgments God had exercised in Egypt, and on the Canaanites in their favor—forgetfulness, and giving themselves up to do the like. Then God gives them up as He had chastened them for their lust in the wilderness "He forsook Shiloh"; to this, Jeremiah refers. Also, “He gave his people over "; these latter day trials were not the first time—it was an old history. But their misery, as ever (so in Egypt) awoke the Lord and He smote their enemies, and raised up the Beloved for their deliverer. This was the lesson, a pregnant lesson for them.
These parables and proverbs of old prove that it was not merely for David's time, that He who taught Asaph, taught this Psalm. Their business, as in Psa. 22, was to teach their children.
There are some other points in this history. First, the rejection of Ephraim, when strength and prosperity was among His own people, and therefore their early sin is mentioned, for, though God is supreme, there is always consistency of character, if supremacy in grace, though He had endured with great longsuffering. Further, the supreme choice of Zion, and Judah which He loved-the exaltation of His house. Shiloh was, I believe, in Ephraim. The rejection of Ephraim, and choice of Judah, is strongly presented in the Psalm. The Psalm is a parable really.
49. “The fierceness of his anger." Za-am is indignation, punitive anger against evil; see Hab. 3:1212Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. (Habakkuk 3:12). Aph, anger, wrath. Ke-tzeph, the breaking forth of wrath; from cutting, breaking. Kharah (he kindled) heat of anger. Kharon, wrath, in Lam. 1:1212Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger. (Lamentations 1:12); in chapter 2: 6, we have za-am aph (b'za-am-ap-po, in the punitive anger of His wrath). Aph (anger) is very common, and so is karate (kindled). In Psa. 102:1111My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass. (Psalm 102:11), we have ke-tzeph, wrath. In Lam. 2:22The Lord hath swallowed up all the habitations of Jacob, and hath not pitied: he hath thrown down in his wrath the strong holds of the daughter of Judah; he hath brought them down to the ground: he hath polluted the kingdom and the princes thereof. (Lamentations 2:2), ev'rah, arrogance or wrath, seemingly one who passes beyond the bounds of self-restraint. In Hab. 3:88Was the Lord displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation? (Habakkuk 3:8), also it is kharah (kindled) and aph (wrath). In Lam. 2:44He hath bent his bow like an enemy: he stood with his right hand as an adversary, and slew all that were pleasant to the eye in the tabernacle of the daughter of Zion: he poured out his fury like fire. (Lamentations 2:4), khemah, warmth, heat of anger; in Dan. 11:4444But tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him: therefore he shall go forth with great fury to destroy, and utterly to make away many. (Daniel 11:44), it is khema, fury.
We have za-am (punitive anger) in Psa. 38:4; 69:24; 78:49; 102:114For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. (Psalm 38:4)
24Pour out thine indignation upon them, and let thy wrathful anger take hold of them. (Psalm 69:24)
49He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them. (Psalm 78:49)
11My days are like a shadow that declineth; and I am withered like grass. (Psalm 102:11)
; Isaiah 10:5, 255O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation. (Isaiah 10:5)
25For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction. (Isaiah 10:25)
; chap. 13: 5; chap. 26: 20; chap. 30: 27; this last is judgment on the Gentiles. Jeremiah 10:1010But the Lord is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king: at his wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation. (Jeremiah 10:10); chap. 15: 17; chap. 50: 25 (Gentiles). Ezekiel 21: 36; chap. 22: 24, 31; he uses aph (anger), and ev'rah (wrath)—noise with it. Aph is common—Dan. 8:1919And he said, Behold, I will make thee know what shall be in the last end of the indignation: for at the time appointed the end shall be. (Daniel 8:19) (Israel), chap. 11: 36 (Israel); Hos. 7:1616They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt. (Hosea 7:16) (unusual of men, princes); Nah. 1:66Who can stand before his indignation? and who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him. (Nahum 1:6); Hab. 3:1212Thou didst march through the land in indignation, thou didst thresh the heathen in anger. (Habakkuk 3:12); Zeph. 3:88Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. (Zephaniah 3:8); here also with kha-ron appi (my fierce anger). Its sense is clear. Hos. 7:1616They return, but not to the most High: they are like a deceitful bow: their princes shall fall by the sword for the rage of their tongue: this shall be their derision in the land of Egypt. (Hosea 7:16) is the only exception.
There is also another word za-aph (displeasure), but not so strong as za-am (punitive anger). Ra-gaz (he moved with a violent commotion) is more the excitement of anger—ragehe shook with rage. Ka-as (vexation) is ill humors.