The message of Asaph’s parable seems clear: if we will not remember, then we are bound to rebel. If we will not reflect often on our history, inevitably we will revert back to our folly. To fail to focus continually on God’s mighty deeds is to fallback repeatedly to relying on our own wisdom and power. And so he begins his song with this lyric:
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us. (Psalm 78:1-3 ESV)
Asaph would have God’s people reflect on “things we have heard and known.”
Psalm 78 is a retelling, and a re-retelling, of Israel’s story of great deliverance, their grievous grumbling, their undeserved restoration, and their repeated rebellion. Three times Asaph declares this indictment against them: “They tested God in their heart” (78:18). Again and again they sought to prove whether or not God was a God to be bowed to “and provoked the Holy One of Israel” (78:41). Though they had known great deliverance, “yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies” (78:56).
Despite the mighty works done in Egypt by “the Most High God their redeemer”; despite His great provision of water and “the bread of angels” in the desert; despite His continued compassion as He “atoned for their iniquity” and “restrained His anger often”; they tested God again and again.
How come? Because they failed to remember. Busy with the present, they forgot the past. Though abundantly blessed, they wouldn’t make time to bow. Consumed by satisfying their own sensual desires, they neglected pursuing their high and holy calling. Enamored with the world, they lost sight of the way. Settling for being people of the flesh, they became less and less a people of faith.
. . . because they did not believe in God
and did not trust His saving power. (Psalm 78:22 ESV)
And far from judging these ancient people of God, I know I am looking in a mirror.
“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love. . . ”
(Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson)
How I need to remind myself often of my deliverance. How I need to rehearse frequently the love of God shown on the cross, and the power of God displayed through the empty tomb. How I need to recall, again and again, that though I was once dead in trespass and sin and separated from Christ and a stranger to the promises, God, being rich in mercy, made me alive together with Christ (this would be a good time to read Ephesians 2).
He opened my ears to the Word. He opened my eyes to the cross. He opened my heart to receive conviction of sin. And He opened the way of faith–to know a righteousness declared and imparted, which I could never deserve nor manufacture.
If Asaph’s parable says anything, it says, “Remember!”
Remember purposefully, remember deeply, remember often. Lest you wander . . .
How I need to be in His word continually. How I need to be with His people regularly. How I need to take of His table thoughtfully.
How I need to abide always in the shadow of the cross.
. . . but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might,
and the wonders that He has done. (Psalm 78:4 ESV)
By His grace. For His glory.