A maskil of Asaph. 1 My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— 3 things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. 4 We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. 8 They would not be like their ancestors— a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him. 9 The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle; 10 they did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his law. 11 They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them. 12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan. 13 He divided the sea and led them through; he made the water stand up like a wall. 14 He guided them with the cloud by day and with light from the fire all night. 15 He split the rocks in the wilderness and gave them water as abundant as the seas; 16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like rivers. 17 But they continued to sin against him, rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High. 18 They willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. 19 They spoke against God; they said, “Can God really spread a table in the wilderness? 20 True, he struck the rock, and water gushed out, streams flowed abundantly, but can he also give us bread? Can he supply meat for his people?” 21 When the Lord heard them, he was furious; his fire broke out against Jacob, and his wrath rose against Israel, 22 for they did not believe in God or trust in his deliverance. 23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above and opened the doors of the heavens; 24 he rained down manna for the people to eat, he gave them the grain of heaven. 25 Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat. 26 He let loose the east wind from the heavens and by his power made the south wind blow. 27 He rained meat down on them like dust, birds like sand on the seashore. 28 He made them come down inside their camp, all around their tents. 29 They ate till they were gorged— he had given them what they craved. 30 But before they turned from what they craved, even while the food was still in their mouths, 31 God’s anger rose against them; he put to death the sturdiest among them, cutting down the young men of Israel. 32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning; in spite of his wonders, they did not believe. 33 So he ended their days in futility and their years in terror. 34 Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again. 35 They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. 36 But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues; 37 their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant. 38 Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. 39 He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return. 40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the wasteland! 41 Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel. 42 They did not remember his power— the day he redeemed them from the oppressor, 43 the day he displayed his signs in Egypt, his wonders in the region of Zoan. 44 He turned their river into blood; they could not drink from their streams. 45 He sent swarms of flies that devoured them, and frogs that devastated them. 46 He gave their crops to the grasshopper, their produce to the locust. 47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamore-figs with sleet. 48 He gave over their cattle to the hail, their livestock to bolts of lightning. 49 He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility— a band of destroying angels. 50 He prepared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death but gave them over to the plague. 51 He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt, the first fruits of manhood in the tents of Ham. 52 But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the wilderness. 53 He guided them safely, so they were unafraid; but the sea engulfed their enemies. 54 And so he brought them to the border of his holy land, to the hill country his right hand had taken. 55 He drove out nations before them and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance; he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes. 56 But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; they did not keep his statutes. 57 Like their ancestors they were disloyal and faithless, as unreliable as a faulty bow. 58 They angered him with their high places; they aroused his jealousy with their idols. 59 When God heard them, he was furious; he rejected Israel completely. 60 He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent he had set up among humans. 61 He sent the ark of his might into captivity, his splendor into the hands of the enemy. 62 He gave his people over to the sword; he was furious with his inheritance. 63 Fire consumed their young men, and their young women had no wedding songs; 64 their priests were put to the sword, and their widows could not weep. 65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, as a warrior wakes from the stupor of wine. 66 He beat back his enemies; he put them to everlasting shame. 67 Then he rejected the tents of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim; 68 but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved. 69 He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever. 70 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; 71 from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. 72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
Sit back, it’s story time.
In this passage, the psalmist begins by explaining that this is going to be a parable, a selection of stories, with big lessons to learn. And what stories does he share? A selection of the many times God came through for Israel, in spite of their faithlessness, complaining, doubt, fear, laziness and sinfulness.
I think we find it easy to judge Israel in passages like these – as if their character flaws are so unbelievable and shocking. But it only takes a brief ‘story time’ look at our own lives, to see that we are not so different to them. How often has God worked miracles for us, answered our prayers, been faithful when we’re faithless, loved us in spite of our sin and error? And I think this is the point of the Psalm – that each of us would look back and remember the amazing things God has done, and share them with the generations to come after us (v5-7);
8 “Then they will not be like their ancestors—
stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful,
refusing to give their hearts to God.”
Lord, thank You for the absolutely incredible things You have done in my life. As I stop and think, it takes less than a moment for all the amazing works You have done for me to come to mind. Help me to always remember Your goodness and faithfulness, and to share stories of Your goodness with the next generation; that together we may remain faithful to You.
Written by Matt Samperi