Ep.177: Psalm 78: Learning from Others’ Mistakes.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Today we look at Psalm 78, the second longest psalm in the Bible. It is one of four historical psalms which teach lessons from Israel’s history. 

The poet explains that we should teach these lessons to our children: 

     So they will put their trust in God
        and not forget his deeds
        but keep his commands.
    Then they won’t be like their ancestors –
        a stubborn and rebellious generation,
    whose hearts were not loyal to God (vv. 7 – 9).

Yes, we want our children to learn their lessons from the history books, instead of the bitter trials of life where we learned them. May your children be so wise.

Psalm 78 covers three periods of history. 

The first period is when the children of Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years. This was a wonderful time in their history: God leading them with a cloud by day and fire by night, feeding them with manna and meat, making water flow from solid rock. Even though the Israelites had recently escaped slavery in Egypt, they brought their slavish attitudes into the desert, complaining of life’s burdens, complaining of hunger and thirst, complaining that God mistreated and oppressed them. They accused God of being as bad as the Egyptian slave owners. The poet says,
  In spite of all God’s wonders, they did not believe (v. 32b).
  How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
      and grieved him in the wasteland (v. 40). 

After that wilderness history lesson, the psalm flashes back  to the plagues God sent on Egypt, showing his power and love as he transferred ownership of the slaves from Pharaoh to himself. As their new owner. God gave the slaves many reasons to rejoice and to believe that he was powerful and loving. But they just kept complaining.

The psalm presents a third period of history, when the Israelites settled in the Promised Land. The poet says,
    Once again they were disloyal and faithless,
      and unreliable like a faulty bow.
    They angered God with their high places
      and aroused his jealousy with their idols (vv. 57-58).
The poet highlights a shocking story when the ark of the covenant, that special sign of God’s presence, was captured in war and desecrated by enemies, because God was angry at his people for their unfaithfulness. 

The poet’s history lesson concludes on a happy note. Despite Israel’s stubborn, rebellious, and uncomprehending ways, God didn’t abandon them. Instead, he sent the good king David to be a kindly shepherd, leading the people to a time of peace and plenty. 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, we are like the Israelites. You have delivered us from our slavery to sin and made us your children. But we cling to our old habits. Habits of unbelief, habits of complaining and gossiping. We hide behind a victim mentality, blaming you and others for the fault lines in our lives. We hoped that the freedom you offered us would let us easily conquer sin, would free us from trouble and conflict, would let us live in prosperity and ease. But life continues to be difficult, even with you as savior and teacher. Have we simply exchanged the slavemaster of sin for a slavemaster of salvation? 

Our father, today we take this psalm to heart. With the poet, we believe that your goodness in history proves that you are not just another slavemaster. You are the God of freedom, of love, of faithfulness, of hope. Change our desires, change our hearts until we grow beyond our slave mentality into the freedom of your sons and daughters, O God.


I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.