Psalm 78 is plentiful, and plenty for us, to eat today.
This morning. Psalm 78.1-8. In our saner moments we exercise humility rather than pride. That’s true not only for individuals, but for generations. For to age well in the Lord involves seeing your own sins, and those of your generation, more clearly and completely. Such vision should not drive us to denial, cover-up, despair, or silence. Rather, such can, when handled well, move us toward greater honesty, transparency, hopefulness, and teaching.
Or to put it another way … there are things we want our children/the next generation to remember, no matter what (vs. 4-6). And since we can learn from our own failings, quite often such instruction to those younger than ourselves either spring from, or boil down to, “Whatever you do, don’t do like I/we did!” Well, that is precisely what the meat of the Ps. 78 sandwich is all about (vs. 9-58). As summarized in the words of vs. 8, may the those who come after us: “… not be like their ancestors — a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him.”
Mid-day. Psalm 78.9-58. What specific ditches do you want your children/the next generation to avoid? Do this: take a moment to reflect and then compose a list of such things. Write those matters down. Then, having done so, read vs. 9-58. Do your read by paragraphs of thought, seven in number, pausing for a moment to mull over each one before reading the next: vs. 9-11 (cowardice), vs.12-17 (insensitivity), vs.18-22 (doubt), vs.23-32 (ingratitude), vs.33-39 (hypocrisy), vs.40-51 (stubbornness), and vs.52-58 (taking God for granted).*
This evening. Psalm 78.59-72. God knows all that’s going on with all of us, and he is not silent or uninvolved, whether it be in terms of discipline (vs.59-64) or deliverance (vs.65-72). And that is precisely why as we grow closer to the end of our days – as well as our ability to share things with the next generation, some of the ending notes of our life – we should become more and more hopeful and positive, not broken and negative, in all our attitudes, speech, and actions. Let us pray and move toward that end, for the sake of others as well as ourselves.
Note. Just as their five books/collections of psalms within what we call “The book of Psalms,” there are five specific psalms that are known as psalms of remembrance (aka: historical psalms). Ps. 78 is the first of these five to appear and it is the only one of the five that stands alone by itself (cf. Ps. 78,105,106,135,136). And, unlike the other five, this first psalm of remembrance has heavily flavored with traits we find in the wisdom psalms (e.g. – Ps. 1,37,73,etc.).
* I am deeply indebted to one from a generation before me, Dr. John T. Willis, for pointing out the focal points in each paragraphs to me and though it has been over thirty years since I heard him share them with me, I still vividly remember the moment he did so. Thank you, Dr. Willis!