Psalm 78

The Word Made Fresh

(A hymn of Asaph.)

1Listen, people, to my message.
Hear the words I speak.
2I will tell you a parable to reveal things
that have been taught to us for a long time –
3things that we have known since long ago,
passed down to us for generations.
4We must not keep these things from our children.
We will tell them the wonderful things of the LORD.
We will tell of God’s power and the miracles God has done.
5God made a decree to Jacob’s descendants that applies to all Israel.
It is a law God commanded our parents to teach to their children
6so that their children yet to be born will know about them
and tell their children in turn.
7Then they will learn to hope in God and not forget what God has done.
Then they will obey the commandments God has given us.
8They will not fail as their forerunners who were stubborn and rebellious,
for they were not faithful and turned against God.
9The Ephraimites, though well-armed, ran away from the battle.
10They failed to abide by God’s promise
and refused to be obedient to God’s law.
11They forgot all about the things God has done for us.
They forgot the miracles God displayed before their eyes.
12In full view of their forefathers God performed miracles
in the fields of Zoan in the land of Egypt.
13God made the waters of the sea stand apart like walls
so that they could pass through on dry ground.
14During the day God led them by a cloud
and at night with a glowing fire.
15God split rocks apart in the wilderness
and gave them all the water they could drink.
16Water gushed from the rock
and flowed down like a river.
17But they disobeyed God even more than ever
and rebelled against the Most High in the desert.
18They put God to the test,
demanding that God provide the food they longed for.
19They railed against God. They said,
“Can God provide a buffet out here?
20Oh, water poured gushing out of the rock,
but can God give us bread? Can God provide meat for us?”
21The LORD was filled with anger when they said those things.
God’s anger was hot against Jacob and burned against Israel
22because they had no faith.
They did not trust in God to provide for them.
23Even so, God commanded the clouds above
to open the doors of the sky
24and rain down manna to eat.
God gave them the grain of heaven,
25and they dined on the bread of angels.
They had more food than they dreamed of.
26Then God made the east wind to blow
and brought up the south wind
27and rained meat on them like it was a dust storm,
and they dined on the birds
that were as numerous as sand on the beach.
28God made them alight within the people’s campsites,
and all around their tents.
29They ate and ate until they could burst
because God had provided what they had craved.
30But before they had eaten their fill,
while the meat was still in their mouths
31God’s anger rose against them
and the heartiest among them died,
the young ones, the future of Israel.
32In spite of all these things they still disobeyed.
They refused to believe in the wonders God had performed.
33So, God made their days slip away,
and they lived in fear the rest of their lives.
34When God began to put them to death
they turned from their errors and earnestly sought God.
35They remembered that God was their defender,
and that the Most High God was their savior.
36But though they tried to flatter God with their tongues
they were lying through their words.
37Their hearts were not faithful to God.
They were not true to God’s covenant.
38But God forgave their sins because God is compassionate.
They were not destroyed, for God’s anger and wrath were restrained.
39God remembered that they were merely flesh,
like a wind that blows through and does not return.
40How many times did they rebel against God
with their disappointing behavior in the desert?
41They tested God over and over,
and made the Holy One of Israel angry.
42They forgot how powerful God is.
They forgot how God had rescued them from their enemy.
43They forgot how God had shown them signs in Egypt
and had performed miracles in the land of Zoan.
44God had turned their enemy’s river into blood
so that they could not drink the water.
45God sent swarms of flies among them to pester them
and frogs to disgust them.
46God gave their fields to caterpillars
and all their labors were consumed by locusts.
47God destroyed their grape vines with hail
and sent ice through their groves.
48The hail God sent killed their cattle as well
and thunderbolts took their flocks.
49God’s terrible anger swept over them
and God’s wrath was like an army of destroying angels.
50God’s anger was channeled against them
and they were not spared from death.
Their lives were overtaken by a plague.
51God struck down all the firstborn sons of Egypt,
the firstborn of their posterity in the tents of Ham.
52Then God’s people were led out like sheep
and were guided through the wilderness like a flock.
53God led them safely and they had no need to be afraid,
but their enemy was swept away in the sea.
54They were led to God’s sacred hill,
the mountain God’s own right hand had won.
55God drove out before them the people who were settled there,
and gave it as a possession for the tribes of Israel.
56But after all that they still rebelled and put the Most High God to the test.
They disobeyed God’s laws,
57and turned away, as faithless as their ancestors,
twisted like a crooked bow.
58Their hilltop shrines made God angry
and God resented their idols.
59When God saw what was going on,
Israel was completely rejected by their LORD.
60God abandoned the shrine at Shiloh
where the tent had been erected as a sacred dwelling place,
61and passed on divine power into the hands of Israel’s enemies
and allowed them to be taken into captivity.
62The people were given over to the sword of their enemy
and divine wrath swept over them.
63Fire consumed their young men.
Young girls had no marriage songs to sing.
64Their priests were killed by the sword
and their widows did not grieve.
65Then the LORD awoke as if asleep,
like a soldier awakened from a drunken stupor.
66God’s enemies were routed
and permanently disgraced.
67The families of Joseph were rejected.
The tribe of Ephraim was swept aside.
68The tribe of Judah was chosen
at the place God loves – Mt. Zion.
69God had a sanctuary built, as high as the heavens,
as steady as the earth which God has established forever.
70God’s servant David was selected from shepherding a flock.
71God brought him from tending the ewes nursing their young
and brought him to be the shepherd of Jacob, his family Israel.
72And David tended God’s flock with an upright heart
and led them with great ability.


Superscription: the 7th of Asaph’s psalms (see the note at Psalm 73); the 10th of the 13 “maskils,” or hymns (see the note at Psalm 32).

1-4: The psalm is introduced as a teaching about the “glorious deeds of the Lord” that is to be passed on to the children of that generation.

5-8: God gave their ancestors commandments that were to be passed down through the generations. But their ancestors were not faithful; and the psalm is offered as an attempt to revive the obedience of the coming generation.

9-11: The event referred to here is one of the plagues that God sent to afflict the Egyptians and is offered as an example of how the people of Israel have forgotten what God has done.

12-16: The remainder of the psalm is a recitation of Israel’s history from the exodus to the time of David. The reference to Zoan is obscure: it has sometimes been identified with Rameses where the Hebrews toiled as slaves. After passing through the sea, they were led by the pillars of cloud and fire, and the well-known story of God providing water from the rock in the wilderness is recalled (see Exodus 17:1-7).

17-20: Even though God provided water from the rock the people still griped about the bread and lack of meat.

21-31: So, God gave them flocks of quails for meat (Exodus 16:13) and manna for bread (Exodus 16:15); but God’s anger also burned against them and many of them died by a plague apparently brought in by the birds (Numbers 11:31-33).

32-41: A litany of the people’s faithlessness and God’s compassion.

42-54: Returning to their days of slavery in Egypt, the psalm recites the story of the plagues that God sent to secure their freedom and their establishment in the Promised Land.

55-66: As verses 32-41 recalled their obstinacy in the wilderness, these verses recite their faithlessness after they had settled the land. The reference to the abandonment of Shiloh is the story of the capture of the ark (1 Samuel 4:1-11) by the Philistines. Other disasters are listed as well, brought about because of the people’s faithlessness. But once again God’s compassion comes to bear on the situation and God helps them defeat their enemies.

67-72: Finally, the psalmist reminds us that God cut off all the northern tribes and chose Judah. Mount Zion in Jerusalem was established as God’s throne, and David the shepherd boy was chosen by God to “tend God’s flock,” that is, the people of Israel. Their entire history from Egypt to Jerusalem is a history of the people’s faithlessness and God’s faithfulness.


It is important to not just remember how God has been with us, but to pass on the history of God’s blessings in our families to the children who are coming after us. How essential it is to introduce our children to the worship of God and teach them the stories of God’s faithfulness! Otherwise, the coming generations will fall away from the faith and be consumed by the worship of other gods that are no gods – fame, fortune, power, selfish pleasures – and the list goes on.