PSALM 78 - DARK SAYINGS Print E-mail
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
August 18, 2020
Pastor Carolyn Sissom

Psa. 78: 1-3: (Maschil of Asaph). Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old: Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.

Asaph is saying to us that he is going to preach and prophesy wisdom through proverbs of the ancients.  Wisdom literature is characterized as "dark sayings."

 The purpose of Proverbs (Book of Wisdom) is declared in chapter one.

Pro. 1:6 - To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

Psa. 49:3-4:  My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.  I will incline my ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.

Psalm 78: 1-4 T.P.T.: Beloved ones, listen to this instruction.  Open your heart to the revelation of this mystery that I share with you.  A parable and a proverb are hidden in what I say---an intriguing riddle from the past.  We have heard true stories from our fathers about our rich heritage.   We will continue to tell our children and not hide from the rising generation the great marvels of our God---his miracles and power that have brought us all this far.

Asaph is not teaching a history lesson.  Instead he pleads for hindsight to become prophetic foresight as he traces God’s hand concerning mysteries from the past.  At first glance, he has nothing new to say, only a reminder of the old, old story of God and His acts of wonder-working power.  He is reminding them of their heritage of both Grace and Law.  The Law stood four-square on Grace.  He preaching to them to not make the same old mistakes as their ancestors made, but he is also declaring God’s sovereignty over past, present and future.

1 Co. 10: 5-11:  With many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.  Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.  Neither be idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, “the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents.  Neither murmur, as some of them murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.

Examples of dark sayings:

 “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
“Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before” (Edgar Allan Poe).
“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness” (Anne Frank).

In verses 5-8, Asaph begins to prophesy of the eternal redemptive power to all generations of God’s words and His ways:

Psa. 78: 5-8 T.P.T.:   The story of Israel is a lesson in God’s ways.  He gave Moses his laws then commanded us to keep them, and to make them known to all our children.  For perpetuity God’s ways will be passed down from one generation to the next, even to those not yet born.  In this way, every generation will have living faith in the laws of life and will never forget the faithful ways of God.  By following his way, they will break the past bondage of their fickle fathers who were a stubborn, rebellious generation and whose spirits strayed from the Eternal God.  They refused to love him with all their hearts.

Today our nation is being judged for our sins, unfaithfulness, fickleness, lusts, greed, and compromise with the world systems.  We the church, like Israel, have the responsibility to continually tell the story of God’s ways, His words, and His miracles.  We must never tire of rehearsing his miracles, his supernatural provision, His greatness, His judgments, and His great power.  

In verses 9-11, the psalmist gives an illustration of Ephraim’s disobedience and the grim consequences of their fall.  For a long time, Ephraim was Israel’s leading tribe, but they “turned tail when the time came to fight” fine archers though they were.  Why did God not bless them with victory?  Because they had deliberately disregarded God’s grace made so plain long ago, and they failed to live in harmony with his will as revealed in the Law.  So, theirs was the covenant curse of military defeat.

Deut. 28:25:  The LORD shall cause you to be smitten before your enemies: you shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shall be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.

Lev. 26:17: I will set my face against you, and you shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and you shall flee when none pursues you.

United States of America, rioting, looting, burning and murder is in the streets of your cities.  The spirit of antichrist manifesting in lawlessnessz has purposed to take over your nation.  How can this be?  I tell you why!  It is because of your sins.  The Church must preach righteousness and obedience to God.  Like Israel, many cannot tell the difference between the Church and the world system.  Just as God judged Israel, He will also judge the church.  
Heb. 2: 1-5:  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.  God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.

In Hebrews 2: 6-9, the writer states that God has placed man over the works of his hands and put all things in subjection under is feet…He left nothing that is not under him, but now we do not yet see all things put under him (man), But we see Jesus for all things are under the Lord Jesus Christ.  Just as the glory moved from Ephraim to Judah, the glory of God moved from the temple in Jerusalem to the temple of Christ within us.  

What was this grace Israel spurned?  What is this grace that the church and nation of the 21st Century has spurned?  

78:11-16 T.P.T.:  They forgot his wonderful works and the miracles of the past…They forgot the glories of his power at the place of passing over.  God split the sea wide open, and the waters stood at attention on either side as the people passed on through.  By day the moving glory-cloud led them forward.  All through the night the fire-cloud stood as a sentry of light.  In the days of desert dryness, he split open the mighty rock, and the waters flowed like a river before their very eyes.  He gave them all they wanted to drink from his living springs.

After supernatural provision, their ungrateful hearts dared to defy the Most-High.  They deliberately challenged God.  They put God to the test.  They unbelievingly and defiantly demanded from God instead of trustfully waiting and praying.  They were skeptical of His power to save by providing food despite His provision of water.

  I stand amazed today at Christians who defy God, even after He has spoken clearly His revealed will.  Just like the Israelites, people still refuse to believe and take seriously God’s claims upon them.  That generation was destroyed as unusable and unworthy of His promise.   We the separated church cry out to God to save our nation, our children, our liberties, our prosperity, and our churches, but many even the Spirit-filled are defying God for their own self-will and lusts.  Repentance means that we turn from our sin.  

The sports industry is in judgment.  They have sown to the wind and reaped the whirlwind.  They have created their own judgment by their actions.  New York City is in judgment.  Chicago is in judgment.  Unless the Church prays and turns from our wicked ways, this whole nation will look like those cities.

78:22-25b T.P.T: They turned away from faith and walked away in fear.  They failed to trust in his power to help them when he was near.  Still he spoke on their behalf and the skies opened up; the windows of heaven poured out food, the mercy bread-manna.  The grain of grace fell from the clouds.  Humans ate angels’ food—the meal of the mighty ones.  His grace gave them more than enough. The heavenly winds of miracle power blew in their favor… 32-34: Yet in spite of all this, they kept right on sinning.  Even when they saw God’s marvels, they refused to believe God could care for them.  So, God cut their lives short with sudden disaster, with nothing to show for their lives but fear and failure.

There was a temporary repentance.  The survivors came sniveling back to Him.  But it meant little.  It was lip-service only.  Repentance came easily to their lips, but were belied by their infidelity.  Yet God went on caring for His covenant people despite their failure to keep their side of the covenant.  Mercifully, He forgave.  We the church must cry out for that mercy.  

78:36-37 T.P.T.:  Their repentance lasted only as long as they were in danger; they lied through their teeth to the True God of Covenant.  So quickly they wandered away from his promises, following God with their words and not their hearts!  Their worship was only flattery.  But amazingly, God---so full of compassion---still forgave them.  He covered over their sins with his love, refusing to destroy them all.

78:41 T.P.T.:  Again, and again they limited God, preventing him from blessing them.  Continually they turned back from him and wounded the Holy One!

78:50-51:  He lifted his mercy and let loose his fearful anger and did not spare their lives.  He released the judgment-plagues to rage through their land.

78:51-56: Then like a Shepherd leading his sheep, God led his people out of tyranny, guiding them toward the Land of Promise.  Safely and carefully God led them out with nothing to fear.  But their enemies he led into the sea.  He took care of them there once and for all!  Eventually God brought his people to the Holy Land, to a land of hills that he prepared for them.  

Church in the midst of this judgment on the earth of the wicked, the LORD is leading his people out of tyranny and guiding us into safe pasture, our promised land, a place of supernatural provision.  Yes, there will still be giants and demonic kings to remove, but the Captain of Heaven’s armies is fighting for His covenant people.

But Israel’s early history in Canaan was the wilderness pattern.   All over again, like fathers like sons, they had rebellion in their blood.  They were even worse than their fathers.  We can see the destroying demons in our cities are worse than their fathers.  How illogical and perverse in view of God’s mercies, which was and is conditional on total obedience.  Then the obligation of covenant law was blatantly ignored during the Judges period.  Conforming themselves to the Canaanite world, they put other gods before the Most-High and resorted to heathen places of worship.  They entered the darkness of the covenant moving out of the light of God’s favor.

78:60-64 T.P.T.:  God walked away from them and left his dwelling place at Shiloh, abandoning the place where he had lived among them.  He allowed his emblem of strength, his glory-ark to be captured.  Enemies stole the very source of Israel’s power.  God vented his rage, allowing his people to be butchered when they went out to battle, for his anger was intense against his very own! Their young men fell on the battlefield and never came back.  Their daughters never heard their wedding songs since there was no one left to marry! There priests were slaughtered and their widows were killed before they had time to weep.

As we walk through these days of overturning and judgment, we have this great story. From the ruins and ashes of the judgment and overturning of the nation, rose a phoenix-like new society under God.  It was God who took the initiative.  The psalmist describes him as a warrior who awakes and is master of his fighting facilities once more.  The Philistines were overthrown, the ark came back, yet not to the sanctuary of Shiloh.  Ephraim lost its old supremacy.  Instead the ark went to a new home, Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Judah became honored to host the Ark.  

Psalm 78 could be title from Zoan (Egypt) to Zion.  God’s patience is determined and persistent.

78:64-69 T.P.T.: He rejected Joseph’s family, the tribe of Ephraim.  But he chose instead the tribe of Judah and Mount Zion, which he loves.  There he built his towering temple, strong and enduring as the earth itself.

As we walk through these times of judgment and overturning of the nations of the earth, the LORD will visit His glory and power on a people who will carry His glory in Holiness.  Only a Holy and separated people can carry the glory of the Lord.  Through the millenniums, there have been Holy men/women of God who could carry the Glory; but many fell because of their lusts.  Only Jesus Christ has been found worthy to carry the glory for our salvation and deliverance.   Yet, the Lord will arise and through His power again grace a generation to carry His glory.

Paul faced this conundrum or can we say “dark saying” or "challenging riddle?"
In Romans 9-11, he contemplated the reversed roles of Jew and Gentile in God’s economy.  The Lord removed the Jewish race as the carrier of His glory and gave it to the Gentiles.  At the time of the end of the Gentiles, the glory will again return to the Jew.

The Psalmist Asaph is not giving us a history lesson.  He is speaking a riddle to us that just as Israel sinned, was exiled in Egypt, and the glory fell on Joseph to keep them; then the glory fell on Moses to deliver them.  They sinned in the wilderness; then the glory fell on Joshua and Caleb to deliver them into the promised land.  They sinned in Caanaan, was exiled in Babylon.  The glory fell on Cyrus to deliver them. They sinned under the rule of the Judges; the Lord raised up King David.   They rejected their Messiah, Jesus Christ,  and the glory moved from the Jews to the Gentiles.    

Hebrews 2: 6-10 gives us the “key to the mystery,”  “a riddle,” “a dark saying” of the Lord’s restoration of his glory to mankind through His Son, Jesus Christ, the greater Son of David.  God has never given up on mankind.  At every turn, God confronted His people, whether as Savior or as Judge.  

You have put all things in subjection under his (man’s) feet.”
For in that He put all in subjection under him (man), He left nothing that is not put under him (man). But now we do not yet see all things put under him (man). But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,

Psalm 78: 70-72:  God also chose his beloved one, David.  He promoted him from caring for sheep and made him his prophetic servant. God prepared David and took this gentle shepherd-king and presented him before the people as the one who would love and care for them with integrity, a pure heart, and the anointing to lead Israel, his holy inheritance.

The Davidic Messiah is forevermore the catalyst of human destiny.  Continue in his kindness, otherwise we too will be cut off is Paul’s word of caution to presumptuous Gentile Christians.  At the time of the "fullness of the Gentiles"  the glory will return to Israel.  

After this overturning, a great glory, a great restoration and hopefully a great harvest will be released on the earth.  Those who carry it, will not be those Christians who have been unfaithful and disobedient in the gospel glory of our great salvation.  Christ will again choose a people who He has prepared to “carry His glory.”  Let us be found with our weapons of warfare ready for battle and willing to fight the good fight of faith that we will not be like Ephraim and be set aside from carrying the glory.  

This is a “dark saying.”  

Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
Scripture from K.J.V. and T.P.T. I entered into the labors of F. F. Bible Commentary, Leslie C. Allen.  Comments and conclusions are my own and does not reflect the views of Dr. Allen
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