That they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments; and may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.Psalm 78:7-8
The remnants of Israel described by the contemplation of Asaph in Psalm 78, is one of the finest biblical portrayal of the consequences of disobeying God, His mercy regardless and hidden steps showing us what must be done to alleviate in the midst of complications arising from God’s anger.
The blunt truth is this; God’s way is the only way. There’s no second or third option. No matter what a leader does to steer the flock from trouble, as long as the underlying blunders are not addressed with determination, wrath and punishment will remain until the acrimony of God’s fury is salved.
Psalm 78 starts with the call to give ear to His laws and to pay attention to the words by God. These sayings of old, is nothing new under the sun and have been told to generations before us. We are further instructed not to hide the truth from our children and told to come before Him with honesty and upright hearts.
The encouraging calls of Wisdom to heed God’s laws also contains subtle, monitorial warnings against falling back to the ways of the fathers, described as a stubborn and rebellious generation, a people that did not set their hearts right before God and whose spirit is neither faithful to God.
However the chapter of Psalm 78 does not provide any chronological steps either for the believer to follow. Instead it talks about the same from a negative perspective; an indication that the Lord is equally prioritizing us to pay attention to His displeasure, with the highlights of the wrongful deeds of Israel when they were in the desert, after their escape from Egypt.
But it is not necessarily so for us to hit the brickwall as well. By understanding God’s displeasure, we then see the things, our deeds and the sins that need to be avoided. And unless we embolden ourselves to study what makes God unhappy, we will never be able to grasp the gravity of our deeds that are contrary to His laws. Hence the popular notion often shared by many; how are we to understand God’s love if we do not understand what He hates.
Sin, wickedness, rebellion and testing God seems to be the central theme of Psalm 78. Even by asking for fancy food (Psalm 78:18) appears to be wrong. It is not that having good food on the table is a bad thing. But the heart, in its pursuit to question God’s all-power ability to provide and using this line of reasoning to induce favors from God, is what draws us into conflict with God, the unessential testing of God without reasonable cause (Matthew 4:4). It is also a calling to become disciplined and to be contented with what is given us and not resort to coveting (Exodus 20:17).
And despite God’s patience, the Israelites still continue to sin and did not believe in His works. And as a result their remaining days as the remnants of Israel (or the spotted sheep), their days were conducted in futility and of doings that bring no benefit to themselves. Worse, they continue living in fear for many years.
The bright side of Psalm 78 is that these remnants were not without mercy completely. God did not forget His covenant with their forefathers and His promise to deliver them from captivity and into the Promised Land. But the drama remains, as we read how God rejected leadership from one group among them, He neither chose another but instead selected the tribe of Judah, which He loved (Psalm 78:67-68).
This is similarly the strive that many churches are experiencing today, the endless discord among members, is not a hitch that men alone could solve. What is forgotten by them, is the fact that nobody seeks God’s opinion over what or who is favorable to Him. And unless God’s way and God’s choices take precedence in the things we do and how we conduct ourselves, the clutter and chaos will likely be here to stay until God takes over.
Psalm 78 is the longest of the historical psalms. It is lesson that history must not repeat itself, that the people must never again be unbelieving in the true authority and power of God.