Reading: Psalms 78
This week we are considering only one psalm, Psalm 78, since it is longer than many of the other psalms. As we read, let us not do so in haste. Take time to read the Psalm at least three times: once to understand the content, once as a poem or song to feel the meaning, and once as a prayer to appropriate the Psalm into your life.
Psalm 78 is a creative retelling of Israel’s story. In the broadest sense, the purpose is to teach, but not simply in the sense of imparting information. Rather, the psalmist’s teaching is intended to inspire hope and obedience in the hearers and, indeed, in all subsequent generations (verses 6-8). This kind of history is as much or more concerned with the present and the future as it is with the past. One widely accepted outline has three parts: introduction, verses 1-11, recital one, verses 12-39, recital 2, verses 40-72. Each recital follows a similar pattern—description of God’s gracious activity, rebellion of the people, God’s anger and punishment, restoration of relationship by God.
In this psalm we see a sovereign God who lives in the tension between justice and mercy: gracious acts of God are followed by human disobedience, which in turn creates destructive consequences and necessitates God’s gracious forgiveness and restoration. For Christians, the cross demonstrates just how far God is willing to go to forgive and to reclaim sinful humanity. To recite Psalm 78 is to confess our own sinfulness and to profess our conviction that we are saved not by our merit or efforts but by the grace of God.
This is the Psalm in hymn form. Read or sing it through with melody to give the Psalm another dimension.
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