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Monday, May 2, 2016

PSALM 78

 
This Psalm is telling us somewhat to play the parlor game of Telephone, where a message is whispered from one ear to another until at the end of the line, it is distorted, hardly the same as the original.  This was the case of the Israelites.  The Psalmist charges his readers to pass it down to a named five generations and beyond.  Yet, in spite of all its twists and turns, look at us.  We have a better understanding, have heard the message, we who have believed, and are now instructed to  pass it down to our children, our children's children and so on.


 
"I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings of old,
Which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us.
We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done...
For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should teach them to their children,
That the generation to come might know,
even the children yet to be born,
That they may arise and tell them to their children,
That they should put their confidence in God,
and not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments."
(verses 2-7)  

 
 
Sometimes dancing on your father's toes
might trip you up.
  
  I've told the story before of a trip through New Mexico, I think it was, when my dad pulled the car over in the middle of nowhere, took us for a walk, sat us down, and told us his story.  His father had been a violent alcoholic, one who had threatened to kill them all several times.  As the youngest, his mother always tried to protect him.  He told how she had become a Christian as well as his oldest brother and his sister.  Someone was willing to cross the tracks to the poor part of town to invite an impoverished family to church.  He gave his heart then to God as well.  My father hated the sin of alcohol abuse and how it had caused grief in his family.  My grandmother died after being hit by a car as she was running away from another beating by my grandfather.  My father had a hard time ever forgiving his father for this.  Still, we had a good father, so removed from his past that he was able to pass down a Christian heritage to us.  The pain of his childhood still left its mark on him, however, yet he gave us a godly example.  In our human frailty, we are not free from the consequences of sin, the mark of sin of the father passed down onto the son.  Our father was never free from all the pain inflicted upon his psyche.  Yet we never doubted our father loved God, loved our mother and loved us.  His personality quirks became difficult however as dementia moved in robbing him of rational thought.  Nevertheless, he remained a child of God.


 
When God tells a story, however, it is not edited to leave out the gory details.  It tells it all.  Thus they can be truly called, ""dark sayings of old." We are to warn our children to "not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart, And whose spirit was not faithful to God." (verses 8) 



 This Psalm can be summed up in Deuteronomy 6: 4ff...
 
"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your might.
And these words, which I am commanding you today,
shall be on your heart;
and you shall teach them diligently to your sons
and talk of them when you sit in your house
and when you walk by the way
and when you lie down
and when you rise up...
And you shall write them on the doorposts
of your house and on your gates...



 
When your son asks you in times to come, saying,
'What do the testimonies and the statutes and the judgments mean
which the Lord our God commanded you?'
then you shall say to your son,
'We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt;
and the Lord brought us from Egypt with a mighty hand.
Moreover, the Lord showed great and distressing signs and wonders
before our eyes against Egypt, Pharaoh and all his household...
So the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes,
to fear the Lord our God for our good always and for our survival,
as it is today.  And it will be righteousness for us if we are careful
to observe all this commandment before the Lord our God,
just as He commanded us."
(Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 20-25)



 
The Psalm tells of the "struggle between God's goodness and man's badness, and mercy."
" Our forgetfulness of God's works is at the bottom of our disobedience to his laws."
"Those hearts are hard indeed that will neither be melted by the mercies of God
nor be broken by His judgments."
(Matthew Henry)
 
In spite of it all God exclaims as in Hosea 11:8-9,
"How can I give you up, O Ephraim?
How can I surrender you, O Israel?
My heart is turned over within Me,
All My compassions are kindled.
I will not execute My fierce anger;
I will not destroy Ephraim again.
For I am God and not man,
the Holy One in your midst."

My oldest uncle finally told my father how he had prayed
with my grandfather in his last days, and how he repented of his sins.
It did not erase from memory all the cruelty,
but it erased his sin in the book of heaven.
Somehow, God refused to give him up.

 
How beautifully the Psalm concludes...
 
"He chose David His servant,
And took him from the sheepholds;
From the care of the ewes with suckling lambs
He brought him,
To shepherd Jacob His people,
And Israel His inheritance.
So he shepherded them
according to the integrity of his heart,
And guided them with his skillful hands."
(verses 70-72)

 
"He chose David his servant out of all the thousands of Israel,
and put the scepter into his hand,
from whom Christ was to come,
and who was to be a type of Him,
a type of Christ the great and good Shepherd
for God delights to put honour upon the humble
'Is not this the carpenter?'...
He was taken from the sheepfolds,
as Moses was...
'from following the ewes,
especially those great with young,'
which intimated that of all the good properties of a shepherd,
he was most remarkable for his tenderness and compassion
to those that most needed his care."
(Matthew Henry)

 
My great-graddy Uncle Bud used to say,
"There's not a spud in the bunch,"
and he vowed to pray for the ones
yet to be born, the generations to come
for their salvation.  How grateful I am.
 
Now tell that to your children and any and all of your tribe.
You never know who God might call to become a leader of His people
for the next generation.
 
 
 


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