Psalm 78 - The Wonders of God and His People




[New International Version] Psalm 78 belongs to Book III of the Book of Psalms. It relates the past history with the greatness of God’s wonders.

The PS 78 belong to Book III of the Book of PS composed of a collection of texts 150 arranged by 5 poetry books. The Book of Psalms, for its wisdom and basic principles of human action , is considered the heart of the Old Testament. Book III encompasses Psalms 73 to 89 . The PS 78 is divided into 72 verses.

The Psalms are poems-prayers addressed to God, being the privileged way to address and speak to Him. These prayers represent human experiences and religious conscience . They portray the common man , with his faults, insecurities, fears and hopes and, even today, we can identify with the Psalmist and draw inspiration from these texts to pray and plead with God when we feel lost and anguished or to express our gratitude for any blessing received.

“There are enemies or friends, there is life or death, health or illness, pain or joy and, most of the time, there are no changes or gradations. Words are like stones and poetry like boulders carved by chisel”; “The Psalms are a bit like mountain paths, simple, especially when walking on snow, but they lead to the peaks; they are paths toward the peaks of meeting the Lord.” - Carlo Maria Martini, Cardinal of Milan

Psalm 78 - God and His People

1  Poem. Of Asaf.

Listen, my people, to my teaching.
Pay close attention to the words in my mouth.

2  I will open my mouth to proverbs
I will reveal the riddles of other times.

3  So we heard it and knew it,
and our forefathers told us.

4  We will not hide him from his children;
we will tell the coming generations everything.

It’s the Lord’s glories and His power,
and the wonderful things He’s done.

5  He established a standard in Jacob
and instituted a law in Israel:

he ordered our parents
to make it known to their children.

6  That future generations might know it,
and the children who were to be born
might rise up and tell their children;

7  that they might put their trust in God
and not forget the wonders of God,
but keep his commandments;

8  that they might not be like their fathers,
a rebellious and disobedient generation,

generation that is not steadfast in its heart
and whose spirit is not faithful to its God.

9  The sons of Ephraim, bow-lifting archers,
turned their backs on the day of combat.

10  They did not keep God’s covenant, they
refused to follow his law.

11 They  forgot their works,
the wonders He made them see.

12  Before his fathers God did wonders
in the land of Egypt, in the plains of Soan.

13  He divided the sea to make them pass,
contained the waters like a dike.

14  He led them by day by means of a cloud
and all night with a flash of fire.

15  He opened up rocks in the wilderness
and gave them water to drink as from the torrents of the bottomless pit.

16  God made streams to flow out of the stone,
and made the water flow like great rivers.

17  But they continued to sin against Him,
rebelling against the Most High in the barren steppe.

18 They  provoked God in their hearts,
demanding food according to their appetites.

19 They  murmured against God, saying,
“Is God able to prepare the table for us in the wilderness?”

20  And even when he hit the rock and the water gushed,
and the torrents ran abundantly, they said,

“Can God also give bread
and prepare meat for his people?”

21  Therefore the Lord heard and was angry;
and a fire was kindled against Jacob,
and his anger grew also against Israel.

22  For they had no faith in God,
and they did not trust in his salvation.

23  And from on high he gave orders to the clouds
and opened the floodgates of heaven.

24  He rained manna on them to eat,
and gave them wheat from heaven.

25  The men ate of the bread of the strong, he
sent them food until they were satisfied.

26  He made the east wind blow through the heavens,
and with his power he steered the south wind.

27  He rained meat upon them like clods
and birds as numerous as the sands of the sea.

28  He made them fall in the midst of his camp,
around his dwelling tents.

29 They  ate until they were well satiated,
and he gave them everything according to their wishes.

30  When they had barely satiated their appetite
and still had food in their mouths,

31  the wrath of God is upon them;
he sowed death among the strongest
and made the chosen of Israel bend.

32  Despite all this, they returned to sin once more
and did not believe in its wonders.

33  So He extinguished your days like a breath
and your years like a mirage.

34  When he smote them to death, then they sought him
and again turned to God.

35 They  remembered then that God was their rock
and the Most High their redeemer.

36  But while they flattered
Him with their mouth, their tongue spoke lies against Him.

37  Their heart was not steadfast to Him,
and they were not faithful to their covenant.

38  But He is merciful: He
forgave sin and did not destroy them.

He often contained his anger
and did not let all his fury be unleashed.

39  He remembered that they were beings of flesh,
a breath that goes and never comes back.

40  How many times have you provoked him in the desert
and caused him grief in the steppe!

41  Again and again they put God to the test,
to provoke the Holy One of Israel.

42  They did not remember that it was his hand
that one day delivered them from anguish,

43  when in Egypt he performed his wonders
and his wonders on the plains of Soan;

44  when he turned their rivers and canals into blood,
so that they would not have to drink.

45  He sent against them flies that harassed them,
and frogs that infested them.

46 He  gave his crops to insects
and the fruit of his efforts to locusts.

47 He  destroyed its vines with hail,
and its sycamore trees with frost.

48  He surrounded his cattle with hail
and his flocks with lightning.

49  He sent his wrath,
indignation, wrath, and affliction against them, an
embassy of messengers of disgrace.

50  He gave free rein to his anger;
he did not spare them from death,
but gave their lives to the plague.

51  He smote all the firstborn in Egypt,
the first fruits of his strength in the tents of Ham.

52  He led his people like sheep and led them like a flock in the wilderness.

53  He guided them to safety and they were not afraid,
while the sea covered their enemies.

54 He brought  them into his sacred territory,
that mountain which on his right he conquered.

55 He  dislodged peoples from his front,
distributed among them the inheritance by measure,
and installed the tribes of Israel in his tents.

56  But they put the Most High God to the test,
and rebelled; did not fulfill its precepts.

57  They turned away and betrayed like their fathers, they went
astray like a powerless bow.

58 They  irritated him in their high places,
they made him jealous with their idols.

59  God heard this and was indignant
and deeply repudiated Israel.

60  He left the sanctuary of Silo,
the tent He pitched among men.

61  He has placed his fortress in captivity
and his splendor in the hands of his enemies.

62  He surrounded his people with the sword, he was
angry with their inheritance.

63  Her young men, fire devoured them,
and her virgins had no wedding song.

64  His priests fell by the sword,
and his widows wept not at his death.

65  But the Lord awoke as from a sleep, like a
warrior asleep by wine.

66  He attacked and turned back his enemies;
covered them with ignominy forever.

67  So he repudiated the tent of Joseph,
and chose not the tribe of Ephraim.

68  Rather chose the tribe of Judah,
the mount of Zion that He loved.

69 He  built his sanctuary like the high heavens
and like the earth which He established forever.

70  He chose his servant David,
and went to fetch him in the middle of the fold.

71  He took him away from following the sheep,
to be shepherd of Jacob his people,
and of Israel his inheritance.

72  And he fed them with the uprightness of his heart,
and with the wisdom of his hands he led them.

Meaning and interpretation

The Psalm 78 is a Psalm history that extends the meaning of the past of Israel, according to the wisdom model . The invitation to pay close attention, made right from the start, is a clear sign of this sapiential taste. It tells the past history with the greatness of God’s wonders, marking the decisive stages of the people’s lives, and the low points of the behavior of the same people, who rebel and disobey the directives coming from God as the struggles and problems that occurred among the various tribes of the Hebrews, analyzing and synthesizing the history of Israel.

The territory of the promised land is identified as if it were a single mountain. The meaning of this identification is manifold: the Hebrews identified themselves above all with the mountainous part of Palestine; the mountain of Zion was symbolically the heart of the earth, and the mountain is always the preferred metaphor for God’s symbolic abode.

The Sapiential Psalms are books of Sacred Scripture ( Libri Sapientiales ) that contain, above all, moral sentences from ancient Israel - Proverbs, Job, Qohelet (Ecclesiastes), Sirach (Ecclesiasticus), Song of Songs, Wisdom. These prayers are filled with ancient inspiration and wisdom, life experiences and the history of peoples. They analyze human behavior , ethical choices and their consequences, and the search for the meaning of life and death for each one of us and as a society.

Various themes are addressed in these Psalms such as justice / injustice; sinful / righteous; wisdom/foolishness; bad / good; fidelity / infidelity; the honor or lack of it, the virtue that exists in prudence in speaking, in being fair, in knowing how to be rich. The existence of God is never questioned. He is Creator, Lord, Judge, Wise.

The Wisdom Psalms are also understood as a guide for everyone to meditate on the issues of their daily lives and the mysteries of life. The Psalmist uses his own and others’ experiences to discern the path to take based on correct moral principles. They are based on the assumption that what we do in this world, we pay in this life. The wisdom style appears in Psalm 1; 14; 34; 36; 37; 39; 49; 53; 73; 74.

The Book of Psalms

The Joy and Happiness of the Righteous in Communion with God

The Psalms are prayer-poems addressed to God, being the privileged way to address and speak with Him. Depicting the common man , with his failures, insecurities, fears and hopes, we can still identify with the Psalmist and be inspired today in Psalms to make prayers and supplications to God in times of trouble or express our gratitude for some blessing received.

The Psalms, despite being written in Antiquity, still move , sensitize , awaken feelings , inspire and enchant . In them, we can identify anguish and joy , deeply human feelings, praises, supplications, teachings of reflection on spiritual wisdom and prophetic words.

Written for different situations , some Psalms are intimate, revealing the author’s personal relationship with God; others provide guidelines and advice for life, others are compositions for specific liturgical events such as rituals and pilgrimages.

The Book of Psalms is composed of a collection of 150 poetic texts and is divided into five parts, called Psalm Books or Booklets. Each Book closes with short hymns of praise to God . The division into five parts was considered to correspond to the five books of Moses and it is assumed that each passage in the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible, called Torah by the Jews) was read in parallel with the corresponding Psalm. Its main forms are lamentation , supplication , praise, and gratitude .

The Power of Prayer in Dialogue with the Divine

The Psalms elevate our thoughts to the Divine and prayer is the power of the word . Prayer is the language of faith. Any thought, word or image addressed to God is called prayer . It is through it that we come into contact with our God within and, therefore, it is so powerful in transforming life . Prayer can produce miracles , turn dreams into reality, give us hope for change , harmony and peace with ourselves and the world.

Each Psalm has an intention that helps us meditate and walk with our God . For many theologians, the Book of Psalms has a prophetic or messianic tone as its verses refer to the coming of Christ into the world of men to guide them through the uncertainty and doubts of Human existence.

The prayer has the power to call the Spiritual Universe full mode, honest, sincere, conscious, for the purpose of spiritual self-protection, family protection and those who are dear to us, to have peace of mind, spiritual and physical, for prosperity and success, to protect health and relationships, to ward off negative energies and, above all, to connect us to something bigger than ourselves. From this peace , well-being, hope and goodness in front of everyone and everything result.

The faith can change our lives. It gives us tranquility and spiritual strength to face challenges. It helps us to meditate on our mission in life and to create a balanced and healthy environment for ourselves and those we love. When you pray, fill your heart with love and determination . The Psalms will guide you on a path of peace and communion with the higher energy.