Tuesday, January 31, 2023

2023.01.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 78:32–48

Read Psalm 78:32–48

Questions from the Scripture text: Despite all of the wonders, blessings, and warnings, how did Israel continue to respond (Psalm 78:32a)? In what most fundamental way (verse 32b)? With what two things did the Lord respond by filling their lives (Psalm 78:33)? How did they seem (cf. Psalm 78:36a) to respond to His slaying them (Psalm 78:34)? What did they seem to remember (Psalm 78:35)? But what was the problem with this response (Psalm 78:36)? Why weren’t their words to God true (Psalm 78:37)? But what is He full of (Psalm 78:38a)? So that He did what? What didn’t He do (verse 38b)? How often (verse 38c)? How do verse 38c–d describe this forgiveness? Why did He forgive them (Psalm 78:39)? What about them did He remember? What did they do to Him, where, and how often (Psalm 78:40-41)? To Whom did they do this (Psalm 78:41)? Though He remembered their weakness (Psalm 78:39), what reality (Psalm 78:42a) and event (verse 42b) didn’t they remember? What had He done, where (Psalm 78:43)? What specific actions do Psalm 78:44-48 specifically describe? What effect should the vividness of these have had upon their memory and their response? 

Why are we so needy of God’s means? Psalm 78:32–48 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seventeen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we are needy of God’s means because our self-deceiving hardness of heart has no remedy other than converting grace. 

Why we need God’s means/grace: self-deception. God has given to His church His own testimony and law (Psalm 78:5). He uses the teaching of these from one generation to the next (Psalm 78:5-6) to bring future generations to hope in God (Psalm 78:7a) and not forget His works (verse 7b) but keep His commandments (verse 7c). Today’s portion of the Psalm underlines why this is so necessary: the hardness and deceitfulness of our hearts. Even after God’s blessing them with manna (Psalm 78:23-25) and striking them by plague with the quail (Psalm 78:26-31), still they sinned (Psalm 78:32a). They still did not hope in His salvation (verse 32b, cf. Psalm 78:22b). 

Alarmingly, however, they thought that they had repented (Psalm 78:34-35). They thought that their repentance was earnest (Psalm 78:34b). They thought that they remembered God as their Rock and Redeemer (Psalm 78:35), but it was all ideas and feelings to them, and not an act of the will to put their trust in Him. For, Psalm 78:42 states plainly that they did not, in fact, remember His power.

The more that we know our capacity for self-deception, the less weight we will give to moments in which we thought that we had earnestly sought and remembered God. We will know that the final analysis of such moments may well be that of Psalm 78:36-37: that all of that religious fervor and zeal was ultimately mere flattery and lying that would not stand fast unto faithfulness.

God’s remembering is better hope than ours. If our seeming to remember God cannot be a good basis of hope, what can? God’s remembering us! His remembering in Psalm 78:39 is set over-against their “ remembering” in Psalm 78:35Psalm 78:42. We may not remember His strength, but He remembers our weakness. Praise be to God Who is full of compassion (Psalm 78:38a)! Here is a lesson for those who struggle with whether they have been sincere with God: look away from yourself and to Him! Whatever repenting we have is only by His grace, and it is muddled with much insincerity and self-deception that comes from our flesh. But His power is sure, and His compassion is great, and His knowledge of us is perfect. 

Wonders can’t melt hard hearts, but God has given His Word to do so. What does the Lord know about us? He knows exactly what He puts on Abraham’s lips in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. If we do not listen to Moses and the prophets, then neither will we be persuaded if someone rises from the dead (cf. Luke 16:31). So hard is the sinfulness of the heart that wonders will not melt it. But God has given His Word for that very purpose! The abundant mercy which spared Israel corporately and covenantally has also given the preaching of His testimony and law as a means by which the sinner may be given a heart of flesh, born again unto a living hope (cf. 1 Peter 1:3). Only the power of God can melt the heart and bring us at last into His rest (cf. 1 Peter 1:5), and it is especially through His Word that He exercises this power (Psalm 78:5, cf. 1 Peter 3:10–14).

If ever we thought that there could be a demonstration of God’s works that would be enough to eliminate our unbelief, that idea dies at the feet of Psalm 78:43-48 (and indeed Psalm 78:49-51 from the next portion). As the poetry uses words to paint pictures, we remember the events of Exodus 7–12 and realize just how great and vivid the experience of these wonders must have been. There is no amount or intensity of evidence that can bring a dead heart to faith!

What might you feel is keeping you from believing? What is really keeping you from faith or stronger faith? What is the only power that can overcome this? What is the primary means by which He does it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for the many, marvelous displays of Your power. Forgive us for how deceitful and hard our hearts are. In Your great compassion, remember our weakness! Truly, there is no wonder so great as the death and resurrection of Christ. But, left to ourselves we will not benefit from our intellectually recollecting what You have done. Give us to attend upon the preaching of Your Word, and attend our hearing of it by the ministry of Your Spirit, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP78F “They’d Turn and Seek God Eagerly” or TPH78 “O My People, Hear My Teaching”

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