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Bible Commentaries

G. Campbell Morgan's Exposition on the Whole Bible

Psalms 78



Verses 1-72

The supreme quantity of this psalm is that throughout all its measures, over against the repeated failure of His people God's persistent patience is set forth in bold relief. The purpose of the psalm, however, is to warn God's people against unfaithfulness by the story of past failure. After announcing his determination the first eight verses declare the purpose of the singer. Things of the past are to be recounted for the sake of the children. Notice very carefully the statement of the latter part of this introduction. It announces the institution in Israel of a method for dealing with the children. The words "testimony" and "law" (verse Psalms 78:5) do not here refer to the Mosaic economy, but to a specific arrangement for transmission of that law. This arrangement was to instruct the children. The value of such instruction was that the new generation would be safeguarded in its hope, its memory, its conduct.

The singer then proceeded with the work of "telling . . . the praises of the Lord." This section recites the disloyalty of the people in spite of the goodness of God, and thus explains the reason of the divine chastisement. The prophetic writings (especially Hosea) show that Ephraim became the leader in the rebellion and disloyalty which cursed the nation, and so, figuratively, and as standing for the rest, Ephraim is here addressed. The description is figurative. The people armed and equipped, were guilty of cowardice. They turned back because they forgot God. Then follows a poetic description of the way in which God delivered them from Egypt and led them in the wilderness. These facts of the guidance of God make their cowardice sinful. This goodness is further traced in His dealing with them step by step.

The fickleness of their obedience is especially set forth. "They believed not . . . He dew them . . . they inquired after Him . . . they lied to Him." Yet God's patience was always manifest. With infinite tenderness He bore with them, and waited for them; forgave them and pitied them. In spite of all, they continued to rebel, and the reason was that they did not remember His hand. The singer then sang anew of the things they had forgotten, of God's signs in Egypt, of His leading them out, and of His bringing them into possession. It would seem almost past belief to us as we read that a people so led could forget. Yet is not this sin of forgetfulness with us perpetually? In some day of danger and perplexity we become so occupied with the immediate peril as utterly to fail to think of past deliverances. Such forgetfulness is of the nature of unbelief in its worst form. It wrongs God, and paralyzes our own prayer.

Even when, in spite of their infidelity, God brought them into possession, they tempted and provoked Him. Then came His seven dealings with them which are described. These dealings are also systematic, and as He refused and chose, it was ever with purposes of blessings in His heart. It is indeed a great song of God's patience, and there is no story more fruitful if men will but learn it. It is questionable whether any of us could escape the charges made here against the people of God; and it is certain that we might all survey our lives, and sing just such a song of God's determined patience and persistence.


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Bibliography Information
Morgan, G. Campbell. "Commentary on Psalms 78:4". "G. Campbell Morgan Exposition on the Bible". 1857-84.

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