PURPOSEFUL REMEMBERING

Opening Prayer

Holy Spirit, help me to apply the teachings of Scripture to my life today, that they would impact my prayer life, as well as how I live as a Christian.

Read PSALM 78:1–39

Psalm 78

maskil[a] of Asaph.

My people, hear my teaching;
    listen to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
    I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
things we have heard and known,
    things our ancestors have told us.
We will not hide them from their descendants;
    we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
    his power, and the wonders he has done.
He decreed statutes for Jacob
    and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
    to teach their children,
so the next generation would know them,
    even the children yet to be born,
    and they in turn would tell their children.
Then they would put their trust in God
    and would not forget his deeds
    but would keep his commands.
They would not be like their ancestors—
    a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
    whose spirits were not faithful to him.

The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
    turned back on the day of battle;
10 they did not keep God’s covenant
    and refused to live by his law.
11 They forgot what he had done,
    the wonders he had shown them.
12 He did miracles in the sight of their ancestors
    in the land of Egypt, in the region of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and led them through;
    he made the water stand up like a wall.
14 He guided them with the cloud by day
    and with light from the fire all night.
15 He split the rocks in the wilderness
    and gave them water as abundant as the seas;
16 he brought streams out of a rocky crag
    and made water flow down like rivers.

17 But they continued to sin against him,
    rebelling in the wilderness against the Most High.
18 They willfully put God to the test
    by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God;
    they said, “Can God really
    spread a table in the wilderness?
20 True, he struck the rock,
    and water gushed out,
    streams flowed abundantly,
but can he also give us bread?
    Can he supply meat for his people?”
21 When the Lord heard them, he was furious;
    his fire broke out against Jacob,
    and his wrath rose against Israel,
22 for they did not believe in God
    or trust in his deliverance.
23 Yet he gave a command to the skies above
    and opened the doors of the heavens;
24 he rained down manna for the people to eat,
    he gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Human beings ate the bread of angels;
    he sent them all the food they could eat.
26 He let loose the east wind from the heavens
    and by his power made the south wind blow.
27 He rained meat down on them like dust,
    birds like sand on the seashore.
28 He made them come down inside their camp,
    all around their tents.
29 They ate till they were gorged—
    he had given them what they craved.
30 But before they turned from what they craved,
    even while the food was still in their mouths,
31 God’s anger rose against them;
    he put to death the sturdiest among them,
    cutting down the young men of Israel.

32 In spite of all this, they kept on sinning;
    in spite of his wonders, they did not believe.
33 So he ended their days in futility
    and their years in terror.
34 Whenever God slew them, they would seek him;
    they eagerly turned to him again.
35 They remembered that God was their Rock,
    that God Most High was their Redeemer.
36 But then they would flatter him with their mouths,
    lying to him with their tongues;
37 their hearts were not loyal to him,
    they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 Yet he was merciful;
    he forgave their iniquities
    and did not destroy them.
Time after time he restrained his anger
    and did not stir up his full wrath.
39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
    a passing breeze that does not return.

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Footnotes

  1. Psalm 78:1 Title: Probably a literary or musical term

New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Meditate

Paul tells us to present our requests to God with thanksgiving.1 Are your prayers filled with thanksgiving?

Think Further

Split over two Sundays, this psalm is unusual because, though written for public performance (vv. 1, 2), it is neither prayer nor praise. Its purpose is to instruct one generation so that it can pass on its faith to the next (vv. 3–6). Of course, each of us has had the story of faith handed down to us by others, but here the purpose goes beyond learning to warning: to help future generations not just remember past mistakes but to learn from them. Yes, future generations need to know ‘the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done’ (v. 4), but they also need to learn not to become ‘like their ancestors—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God’ (v. 8). The psalmist wrote to help God’s people break this repeating pattern (v. 1).

During the national days of prayer called in the UK at the height of the Dunkirk crisis and the Battle of Britain, churches across the nation were full as people prayed for deliverance.2 The six days after the first day of prayer saw unusually calm seas and 334,000 troops were rescued while Hitler unaccountably hesitated. I was ashamed that I knew nothing of this remarkable move of prayer and its results. After a pandemic in which the church initially locked its doors in the UK and in which our nation has not significantly turned to intercession, I feel rebuked that we have not learned from the past. The ‘riddle’ (v. 2)3 is: why do we behave as we do, knowing God to be as he is? And why does God behave as he does, knowing his people to be persistent in going their own way? Still, he abounds in love and has to be driven to anger.

Apply

As your own purposeful remembering, record the past times and seasons when you’ve been particularly conscious of God’s presence and his power at work.

Closing prayer

Almighty God, thank you that you are always present with me, offering grace and mercy—whether or not I sense you, or even acknowledge you. Thank you for your boundless love—help me to share it with others, especially with this next generation.

Last Updated on January 14, 2024 by kingstar

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