Psa 77.1-20 teaches about the joy that believers experience when we realize that God saved in the past and he will save in the future. The heading reads, “For the Conductor, on Yedutan (decree) by Asaph, a song.” Every psalm that has “Yedutan” in the heading refers to evil and oppressive decrees levied on Israel by their enemies.
Psa 77.1-3 tells us that Asaph cried to God and he gave ear (heard). They cry to Yehovah alone, so that’s why this crying to God is repeated (v 1). In the day of his trouble (his affliction) he sought the Lord stretched out in the night and he does not stop his petitions (v 2). He turned his thoughts to Yehovah and was disturbed because he thought God had forsaken them. He was so upset he could not find peace (v 3).
Psa 77.4-6 says his eyebrows held his eyes open so he could not sleep and he was so troubled that he could not speak (v 4). He has considered the days of old and how God delivered in the past (v 5). He was so happy at times in the past he even praised God at night and he sought guidance and meditated in his heart (soul, spirit) as to what the causes were for his present distress (v 6).
In Psa 77.7-10 he wonders if God has rejected Israel forever. He wondered if God will ever be favorable to his people again (v 7)? Has his mercy disappeared and his word come to an end forever ( v 8)? Has Yehovah forgotten to show favor or is God holding in his mercy because of his anger or clenched fist (v 9)? Then Asaph said this grief was a part of God’s plan for him now and maybe this change in God’s “right hand” (also an idiom for mercy) is meant to intimidate him into earnestly praying more (v 10).
Psa 77.11-15 goes on to say that he will remember the deeds of Yehovah and all the miracles in the past (v 11). He will meditate (mutter out loud) on all his work and speak about his deeds (v 12). Thy way (Torah) is holy (has a kedusha) and given to Israel at Sinai (Psa 68.18) where Sinai is called “the sanctity” and what god (or power) is great like Yehovah as stated in Deut 4.7 (v 13). God is a God of miracles and he has made known this power among the peoples (v 14). He has redeemed his people like a kinsman redeemer in power, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Joseph is mentioned here because he was the cause of Jacob’s descent into Egypt and provided for them as the first-born (v 15).
Psa 77.16-20 says as Moses stretched out his hand (staff) over the waters they “saw thee, O God” and were in “anguish” being filled with fear before God (Exo 14.12; Psa 114.5) and the depths also trembled, meaning the bottom congealed so that Israel could walk as on dry ground as seen in Exo 15.8 (v 16). There was a thunder and lightning rainstorm on the Egyptians (v 17). The voice of God’s thunder was in the “whirlwind” (atmospheric air turbulence) and the light of the lightning “lit up the world” (v 18). God’s way in the sea and his paths were the road Israel walked on through the Red Sea (Yam Suf). Notice that the plural “paths” is used here (Psa 18.15). and his “footprints” remained unknown, meaning after the walls of the sea collapsed and Pharaoh and his army died, there was no evidence that anything had ever happened. The term “Ikvot Ha Mashiach” or “Footsteps of the Messiah” comes from this verse. This is a term used in Jewish eschatology. God was a shepherd who led his people like a flock of sheep, by the hand of Moses and Aaron. This assures us that Yehovah will lead us through this world and into the promises, too.
Psa 78.1-72 is a history of Israel from the bondage in Egypt to the time of david. It goes over the benefits that they received and their complaining and resistance. This is a warning for Israel not to act like that again, or God would discipline them again. Israel must obey the Torah and it should be their highest authority in faith and practice. The heading reads, “A Maskil (instruction) by Asaph (to gather).”
Psa 78.1-4 begins with, “Listen, O my people, to my instruction (Torah); incline your ears to the words of my mouth.” If one listens to the Torah they will gain valuable information and lessons from history (v 1). Asaph will speak in a parable (aggadah) to unlock complex and hidden truths about the inner meaning of history (v 2). We have heard the Torah history and have had them told to us by our fathers (v 3) and we will pass them on to our children, and to the generations to come the praises of Yehovah and what he has done. The word for “generation” here is “acharon” and alludes to the final generation (v 4).
Psa 78.5-8 talks about how he has established a “testimony” (“Edut” in Hebrew meaning “witness”) in Jacob, and appointed a Torah in Israel. The Scriptures were given to Israel (Rom 3.2, 9.4). He commanded that we teach the Torah to the children in Deut 4.9 (v 5); that the generation to come (“acharon” of final one) might know, even those unborn, so they can teach their children (v 6), that they may put their confidence (faith) in God, and not forget the works of God, but safeguard them. Faith is reinforced by hearing the Torah (Jam 2.17; John 6.29, 9.4, 10.17) and observing it (v 7), and not be like their fathers (in the wilderness) who were stubborn and did not dedicate their heart and whose spirit was not faithful. This verse shows a parallelism between “heart” and “spirit” (v 8).
Psa 78.9-16 teaches that the main theme of the psalm begins here. There is no particular incident involved, but the children of Ephraim had the status of the first-born (Joseph’s son) and the Ark was in their territory first. But they showed a tendancy early on to be a rival to Judah (2 Sam 19.41 to 20.22) even before Jereboam, so they are put here for all Israel, as in 2 Chr 25.7 (v 9). They turned back spiritually in battle because they did not keep the Torah (v 10). They forgot his deeds and miracles (v 11). He worked wonders for their fathers in Egypt in the fields of Zoan, which is Tanis, a city built by Hebrew slaves (v 12). He divided the Red Sea (Yam Suf) and caused them to pass through, making the water stand in a heap (v 13), The pillar of cloud led them during the day and at night there was a pillar of fire (v 14). He split the rocks (plural) on two occasions so Israel could drink (v 15) and he brought forth streams from the rock and water to run down like rivers (v 16).
Psa 78.17-20 says that Israel still continued in rebellion even after he showed them his great works (v 17). Their heart tested Yehovah by asking for meat instead of the manna (Num 11.4-6) and this angered Yehovah (v 18). Then they spoke against God by saying, “Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?” They tested him again by implying that the manna doesn’t prove anything, how about a real meal (v 19). Over and over Yehovah provided for them by giving them water from a rock, overflowing streams, bread and meat (v 20).
Psa 78.21-33 tells us about God’s anger when they tested him and grumbled about how God was providing for them. He heard their complaining and a “fire (wrath) was ignited in Jacob (v 21).” They did not believe the Lord and did not believe in the covenant he had made with them to take care of them and to bring them into the land he had promises (v 22). He opened the clouds of heaven above and the doors of heaven to give manna even after they tested him, and he kept doing it even after their sin (v 23-25). He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens (first heaven) and by his power he directed the south wind towards their camp (v 26). He rained meat (quail) upon them like the dust (Num 11.31), even winged fowl (v 27). Then he let them fall right in the middle of the camp. That is a miracle in itself. He guided their flight pattern so they landed in the middle of the camp, right around their tents and they did not fear man (v 28). The people ate and were filled (Num 11.20) and he gave them their craving (v 29).
Before they had satisfied their desire and while the food was still in their mouths (v 30) God’s anger rose against them and killed some of their elite (Num 11.33) and healthy ones (v 31). In spite of all this, they still sinned and continued to rebel and did not believe in his ability to bring them into the land. They complained ten times: crossing the Red Sea (Exo 14.11); when they came out of the sea (Exo 14.30); at Marah (Exo 15.23-24); at Rephidim (Exo 17.1-2; searching for manna on the Sabbath (Exo 25-27); left manna overnight (Exo 19-20); they complained about a lack of food and wanted the pots of Egypt (Exo 16.1-3); they complained about the manna nd wanted meat (Num 11.4-6); they made the Golden Calf (Exo 32) and in the wilderness of Paran they sent out the scouts in defiance of God and what he had said (Num 13-14). So he brought their days to an end in futility and their eyes in terror. All the hardships which they endured while leaving Egypt were in vain. Num 14.20-35 tells us that. Everyone twenty years and older died in the wilderness (v 32-33).
Psa 78.34-39 tells us that when Yehovah killed them, they sought him in an outward show of repentance, and returned and searched for the Lord (v 34); and remembered that God was their rock (Deut 32.15-37) and the only place where they could find redemption (v 35). But they deceived him with their words and lied to him, thinking that he did not know their hearts and thoughts (v 36). Their heart was not constant towards him and were not faithful to the Torah and betrayed what they promised at Sinai (v 37). But God was compassionate and forgave them their iniquity and restrained his anger and did not arouse all his wrath (inner and outer). This verse was read to one scourged along with Deut 28.58-59 and restored as a brother. In Hebrew there are 13 words, read three times for a total of 39, the standard number of stripes (v 38). God knew they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not return. God must be quick to forgive because our lives aren’t very long (v 39).
Psa 78. 40-53 talks about how from Egypt to the promised land Israel failed to bring to mind the power of Yehovah. They provoked him in the wilderness, and got discouraged and frustrated in a barren wasteland (v 40). They tested him over and over again and demanded “signs.” They questioned Yehovah and this “pained” him (v 41). They did not remember his hand (power) or how he delivered them with ten plagues (v 42) and when he performed his signs in Egypt, the most powerful nation in the world, and in Zoan, the capital city. He turned their rivers into blood (they worshiped the Nile) and could not drink from their streams because God struck at their gods and each plague punished them for a particular wrong they did to Israel ( 44). He sent insects and frogs that devoured and destroyed them ( v 45). He gave their crops to the “chasil” (locusts), which was the fruit of their labor (v 46). He destroyed their vines with hail stones and their “shikmah” (type of fig tree) trees with frost. Many types of vegetation was destroyed, but vines and “shikmah” are singled out because they made up the majority of the vegetation (v 47).
He gave their cattle to the hail stones and their herds (flocks) to lightning (v 48). He set among them burning anger (plagues) where even Pharaoh was intimidated (Exo 9.27), a delegation of destroying angels. every plague was a “messenger” sent by God to bring a message to the Egyptians (v 49). He “leveled a path for his anger” which means everything went forth without an obstacle, and did not waste any time when he gave their lives over to the plague (v 50). And he smote the first born (heir), the first issue of their vitality, even the foreigners who lived in Egypt were affected (v 51). But he led his people out of Egypt like a shepherd, and in the wilderness (v 52). He led them to safety so that they would have no reason to fear, and the Red Sea engulfed their enemies (v 53).
Psa 78.54-64 goes on to tell us how stubborn Issrael was in the land of Canaan. He brought them to Canaan and the the “mountain” (Zion) which his right hand (power) had gained (v 54). He drove out the seven nations and he divided the land by lot and they lived in the wellings of the nations that were driven out (v 55). Yet they tested and rebelled against Yehovah even after they were blessed with the land and did not observe the Torah (v 56). They turned back from the Torah (the path) just like their fathers, just like a deceitful bow (warped). The word “Torah” is an archery term that means to “hit the mark.” To “miss the mark” is “chata” which is the word for sin (v 57). They provoked him with their high places (altars) and aroused his jealousy with graven images (v 58).
When Israel served idols his anger overwhelmed the Lord and he abhorred Israel (v 59). So he abandoned the Mishkan at Shiloh, allowing the Ark to be taken by the Philistines. They were putting their faith in the Ark and not the Lord (v 60-61). He also delivered his people to the sword (1 Sam 4.10) and was filled with wrath at his inheritance (people) and fire (wars) devoured their young men and their maidens (brides) who were waiting to get married had no wedding songs (v 62-63). His priests fell by the sword when the Ark was taken, and Hofni and Pinchas were slain, along with other priests who were with the Ark. Their widows could not weep ( 1 Sam 4.19-22 because the normal mourning practices could not be observe due to war (v 64).
Psa 78.65-66 talks about God’s victory after Shiloh. It seemed that God was asleep as the Philitines took the Ark and enslaved Israel like a drunk warrior with no strength ( v 65). But he drove the Philistines back and put them to everlasting reproach in 1 Sam 5.6-12 (v 66).
Psa 78.67-72 tells us that God’s choice for the site of the Temple was going to be Judah, and Jerusalem and David was to be king. He rejected Joseph and Ephraim (a parallelism) as the tribe that the king would come from (v 67), but he chose Judah as the kingly tribe. Joseph and Ephraim preeminent for awhile with Joshua and Saul because God permitted it temporarily, but Judah was always going to be the kingly tribe (Gen 49.10). Mount Zion was the most important spot to Judah (v 68). As a result, the Temple was built there and it connected heaven and earth (Gen 28.10-19; John 1.51), and he chose David from the sheepfolds to be the king (v 69-70). His care for the ewes with suckling lambs prepared his heart to shepherd his people, so he shepherded them (was king) and served his people with skillful (understanding) palms, not with” hands” which implies power (v 71-72).