Psalms 77-78

Good morning! We are over halfway through the book of Psalms now, and today only have two chapters to consider (Psalms 77-78). Both look backward to salvation history for encouragement and exhortation in the current moment.

When I was in high school, I had a variety of pious clichés posted on my bedroom wall. One read: “Don’t tell God how big your problems are. Tell your problems how big God is!” This is the spirit of Psalm 77, a good model for keeping faith despite troubled times. The writer feels unable to sleep, wondering if God’s love has finally reached its limit. The overwhelming nature of unnamed struggles call into question whether God has the power and will to save yet again. In the middle of the night, the psalmist finds encouragement by recalling the ways of salvation long ago. She or he calls to mind the Exodus from Egypt, where God made a path through mighty waters despite a terrible storm. This is an ancient form of the more recent Christian spiritual: “We’ve come this far by faith, leaning on our God. Trust and never doubt, Jesus will surely bring you out—he’s never failed us yet!”

Psalm 78 is longer, but it traces some of the same salvation history. This time though, it adds a critique of how despite constant deliverance, Israel forgets the ways it has been blessed. In the time of miraculous salvation from Egypt and water from rock in the wilderness, the people’s ingratitude led them to ask further for meat and bread. Despite God’s wrath, the divine response to them was quail and manna, meeting the people with what they needed. Ever after, the people turned to God in times of trial, but only with their mouths and not their hearts. Repeated idolatry led God to abandon the shrines of Israel (such as at Shiloh) and turn the people over to violent captivity. Then God arose from apparently drunken (!) slumber and intervened for the chosen remnant Judah, with its shrine in Jerusalem. The way this psalm ends gives us clues as to who wrote it (leaders in Judah) and when (before the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon). The forbearing nature of God’s mercy has been needed (and granted) even in all the centuries since this psalm’s composition. Happy reading!

Read Psalms 77-78.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Psalms 79-82. Thanks for reading!

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