Heartbeat Psalms (Psalm 78)

MOTIVATE

Last week I was with our students at #rccfuge21. Some quick highlights

  • We survived the drive. Few things provide a bonding experience and display personality like a road trip.
  • Ridgecrest scenery beautiful, landscape uphill both ways and “rec hill”
  • Adult fellowship and thankful volunteers.
  • Worship was powerful: music, messages, and high expectancy for Holy Spirit moving.
    • 3 students made a public faith decision… baptisms upcoming in our churches.
  • Church Group debrief with high/low/God-sightings were rich, steps toward vulnerability, and growth.
  • Added bonus of Nibble Nook (pictures)

When it comes to choosing ice cream, there are so many good flavors. There is no need to judge others for the flavor they choose. While some prefer chocolate chip cookie dough, others might prefer wild berry sorbet. The feature of ice cream is that most all the flavors are wonderfully delicious.

Today we start a message series in the book of Psalms. Psalms has 150 chapters and each one has such variety and appeal among many. While this series of message is not exploring “favorite” psalms, we will reflect upon some popular and passionate heartbeat psalms for the Christian life. We start with Psalm 78.

EXAMINE          

Psalm 78 starts with in inscription: “A Maskil of Asaph”

  • Maskil is an uncertain phrase, but common among 13 other Psalms.[1] The word comes from a verb meaning “to make wise, or imparting understanding.”[2] Music and songs have a way of inspiring and instructing us with deep emotion and spiritual reflection. So, this psalm is meant for us to spend time meditating on its meaning and living what we learn.
  • Asaph was a Levite (priestly tribe) and chief music leader during the time of King David (cf. 1 Chron 15:16-19; 16:4-5). Asaph’s sons continued ministry a couple hundred years later under King Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 20:14-19), and another hundred years later continued serving under King Hezekiah (2 Chron 29:30). The person of Asaph and this psalm from Asaph is a reminder of the importance for growing godly generations.
  • Psalm 78 covers 500 years of Israel history.The biblical record is an example for us to learn the difference between right and wrong (cf 1 Cor 10:6). The adage rings true, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Unfortunately, today’s culture is seeking to erase history rather than educate from it. If we do not learn from our past we will loathe our future. This psalm is meant to help us learn history’s greatest lesson of having faith in God.

Psalm 78 is long with seventy-two verses. The aerial view of the psalm shows God’s faithfulness despite Israel’s flaws. God is fiercely faithful to His own glory. Those two words – fierce and faithful – seem an odd combination, but are an accurate description for God.

  • Many think God is only love, so they expect positive circumstances and are unglued when negative circumstances strike. While God is faithful, He is also fierce. God values His own glory more than our luxury.
    • Case study: “Reckless Love” but God’s love is zealous.[3]
    • Psalm 78 repeats God’s fierce faithfulness, showing He will prune strategically and punish necessarily.
      • V.21) God is full of wrath and a fire kindled against Jacob, his anger against Israel
      • V.31) God’s anger destroyed the strongest men.
      • V.33) God’s punishing wrath made their days vanish like breath and their years in terror.
      • V.38) God restrained his anger often and did not stir up all His wrath. {saying there was more!}
      • V.44-51) God turned rivers into blood; sent swarms of flies and frogs, gave crops to locust, devastated vines with hail, and destroyed their flocks and herds. He did not spare death of children.
      • V.60) God forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, where He dwelled among humanity.
      • V.62) God gave His people over to sword and vented wrath on His heritage.
      • V.63) God allowed consequences of grief and tragedy to occur among families.
      • V.67-71) God rejected the religious but selected the unlikely.

God’s pruning love and punishing wrath was not reckless but zealous to preserve His glory.

  • V.7) Israel forgot the works of God.
    • V.8) Israel was stubborn and disloyal.
    • V.9) Israel retreated when they should have persevered.
    • V.10) Israel refused to obey.
    • V.22) “they did not believe in God and did not trust His saving power.” {trusted in self}
    • V.32-37) Israel kept sinning. They faked repentance and flattered God with empty words and worship.
    • V.40-41) Israel grieved and repeatedly tested God, provoking and mocking God’s holiness.
    • V.56-58) Israel was unfaithful and treacherous, like a deceitful, adulterous lover.

God’s fierce faithfulness throughout history should result in two actions:

#1 Remember God’s testimony.

The target audience of this psalm is God’s people (v.1). They are exhorted to “give ear” – or literally: stretch out your ears. The imagery is God pulling on our ears and cupping hand around His mouth to speak convincingly and compassionately to us.

There are 5 items we are to give ear

  • teaching (torah/instruction)
  • words from God’s mouth (prophecy)
  • parables (wise and ethical saying; a proverb)
  • dark sayings from of old (perplexing words/circumstances needing interpretation)
  • things we have heard and known that our fathers* have told us (experience).
    • Eleanor Roosevelt “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

For believers, the sum of these items are God’s established testimony. The history of redemptive history is revealed to us from the testimony of God’s working and written records. The Scriptures are filled with commands to remember God’s testimony.

  • Deut 6:12 “take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of slavery.”
  • Isa 46:9 “Remember the former things of old; for I am God and there is no other”
  • Lk 22:19 “eat the bread and drink from the cup – do this in remembrance of me.”
  • Rev 2:5 “Remember from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
  • Ps 77:6 “Let me remember my song in the night…”
  • Remembering God’s testimony keeps our faith fresh. Our faith is active and not static. We should never allow our faith to become stale or roam distant.
    • Imagine if all our food was someone else’s leftovers from last week/month… how we treat church.
  • Remembering God’s testimony keeps our faith focused. We are tempted toward spiritual amnesia and discipleship drift. If we do not keep God’s testimony in focus then we will miss out on God’s purposes and blessings.
    • Imagine a road trip that wandered and ignored directions for intended destination. If you aim at nothing, you will get nowhere.  
  • Remembering God’s testimony keeps our faith hopeful. It is easy to allow the present moment overshadow God’s big perspective. When we set our mind on things above and remember our citizenship is in heaven, then we can persevere no matter what comes our way. We know God is faithful and can trust God is working all things – even problems and pains – for our good and greater development, and for His glory. God has never once abandoned me/you/us, and today (or any day) will not be the first!
  • Don’t point, unless it’s in mirror. It’s too easy to look at OT Israel and forget they are me/we. Stay humble and minimize the comparison game. There is only one we are measured against, and all fall short.
  • Relate to God based on gospel not religion (insecurity based on did I do enough or dodge enough).   
  • Read Psalm 78 at least 1x each week rest of summer. Ultimately, spend daily time in God’s word!

#2 Reproduce God’s legacy.

The heartbeat of this psalm is vv. 4-7. There are several urgent exhortations for the people of God:

  • We must not hide faith.
    • We hide spiritual truth because we have a surface level faith or a simulated faith.
      • Surface level faith is shallow and doesn’t take time work its way down to roots. It’s continuously blown by wind and busy with worldly happenings.
        • SPBC has been and continues to provide environments for you establish roots, cultivate community (it’s developed not discovered), and produce seed-bearing fruit through groups and service opportunities.
      • Simulated faith is imitation; a deceived reality that shapes attitudes and actions but misses the greater existence.
        • Universal Studios with many rides as simulations of movies. They mesmerize mind and body but if you don’t remember you’re just on a thrill ride, then fear overcomes faith that you will survive. My friends, don’t simulate the faith of someone else because when the twists and turns of life come, you need a sure foundation.
  • We hide spiritual truth by replacing essential priorities with extracurricular activities.
    • When we stand before God, He will not ask about your child’s little league batting average, on point dance recitals, creative and competitive cheer routines, amount of points scored or goals defended, number of college recruitment letters, nor even proficiency in academics. While team sports can develop character, discipline, and social outlet, we must be careful to not allow extracurricular to overshadow essential and eternal education.
    • The mindset of “I don’t want to force religion on my children” is not consistent with other topics such as school, eating well, health practices such as medicine/substance abuse, and a host of other issues. Don’t hide what is holy and eternally helpful.
  • *Note in v.3 the unique role of biological dads and spiritual fathers to pass on what they possess. Parents/G-Parents, there is a lot of information and passions that we will leave behind for the next generation, but none more important than our faith.  
  • We must tell truth.
    • The glorious deeds of the Lord. Where do you see God at work each day?
    • The might and wonders God does. God’s power is in creation (last nights thunder & lightning) and in circumstances.  
    • For the purpose of: “the next generation knowing and setting their hope in God and not forgetting his works, but keeping his commandments” (v.6-7).
  • Starts in the home (Deuteronomy 6). Church has about 2-5 hours per week influence, while school has 35-40+ hours and the home another 40+; the rest is sleeping or other routine tasks.
  • 4 Generation impact: “our fathers [1] passed to us [2]… tell a coming generation… a [3] next generation – children yet unborn might arise… and [4] tell their children.”

  • Tell & teach in both formal & informal ways. Think of milestones/checkpoints & ongoing rites of passage:
    • Child Dedications & Blessings                                                                     
    • Family Devotions & Biblical Catechism                                                       Spiritual Disciplines
    • Children Treasuring Christ                                                                            Authentic Faith
    • Boundary lines with relationships & culture                   Moral Boundaries & Meaningful Friendships
    • Stewardship of time, talent, treasure (vocational pursuits)                     Wise Choices
    • Missional experiences and lifestyle                                                             Others First
    • Launching arrows with graduations and growing independence                        Ultimate Authority

  • Tell your salvation & faith testimony with family / Christian friend / unbelieving friend (#whosyour1).

APPLY/THINK

  • SPBC we need tenacious teamwork and persevering partnership between home and church.
    • We want to be family in prayer and support for all happening in your life.
      • A practical step is to invite pastor/deacon to your home in near future. Shows the relationship is a two-way street not a one lane dead end road.
    • We want to be co-laborers in ministry. This calls for a get to vs have to mindset; ministry is an investment of time, talent, and treasure.
      • Children’s Groups on Sunday AM: Nursery / Pre K / Elementary
      • Youth on Sunday AM
      • TL/AHG has significant potential as Christ-centered training of boys and girls.
  • This psalm reminds God’s past power is available today to save & sustain.
    Ps 78:38, 52 “God, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity… Then he led his people like sheep and guided them in the wilderness like a flock. He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid”
  • This psalm also reminds us God isn’t afraid to prune what is hindering faith, hope, and love.
    Ps 78:60 “God forsook his dwelling among humanity… and gave them over…”
  • Ultimately, this psalm invites us to put our hope in the Davidic Shepherd – Jesus Christ – who has an upright heart and skillful hand. He is the Good Shepherd and Faithful God to extend scandalous grace for our sinful flaws. Jesus is a Savior like no other.


[1] Psalm 32, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, 142.

[2] Kidner, D. (1973). Psalms 1–72: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 15, p. 53). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2018/05/07/is-gods-love-reckless/

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