Listen, O my people, to my law [teaching];
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth [and be willing to learn]... tell to the generation to come the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, And [tell of] His great might and power and the wonderful works that He has done...
And not be like their fathers—A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not prepare its heart to know and follow God, And whose spirit was not faithful to God...
Nevertheless they flattered Him with their mouths
And lied to Him with their tongues...
For they provoked Him to [righteous] anger with their high places [devoted to idol worship]
And moved Him to jealousy with their carved images [by denying Him the love, worship, and obedience that is rightfully and uniquely His]...
A couple Sundays ago, my husband and I attended a new Sunday School class at a new church a few miles from our home. We weren't interested in joining a church or necessarily wanting to hear a sermon, but we are always interested in meeting with new groups of Christians who are desiring to gain more knowledge about the God we serve through deep dives into the Bible. So, we thought we'd see if we could add another group to our growing circle of committed Christians.
This group was beginning a new year-long commitment to studying the entire Bible in depth and were just beginning Exodus, so we thought maybe we could integrate easily into the discussion. The first week went great; there were members of the class who, like us, are interested in knowing more about the Hebrew roots of our faith, and were open to new and diverse opinions on Scripture, as long as we all stayed aligned with God's Truth.
I say everything went fine until the second week we attended. The teacher brought in Jonathan Cahn's presentation on The Harbingers: Isaiah 9:10, admitting that it might be controversial to some in the class, but he felt it was worthy of discussion. The class was attentive, and when the film finished, we began our discussion. Naturally, coincidences were noted between what the prophet Isaiah foretold about the decline/judgment of ancient Israel [due to their arrogance] and what has befallen this country after 9/11 and our leaders speaking the very same arrogant words.
One class member boldly and angrily denounced not only the film, but our interest in anything that had to do with Israel. He exclaimed, "We are not Israel! The Church and Israel have nothing in common, and we should not be concerned with Israel or the Old Testament!" Of course, being a Peace-Loving Warrior (which is the literal meaning of his name), my husband gently, but firmly, disagreed with the gentleman. He pointed out that we are not only grafted into Israel, but our futures are inextricably tied together, as anyone who has read Romans, Chapters 9-11 will understand.
But the gentleman refused to listen, becoming ever more angry. I recount this incident to you because it came to mind as I began reading the next section of my own walk through the Bible. I am now in the middle of Psalms, and as I read Psalm 78, my heart was saddened to realize that this man from the Sunday School class would probably never read this prophetic Scripture: and therefore never consider how it speaks to us, the Church, and the nation today.
I have chosen just a few verses out of the 72 verses of Psalm 78, and I would highly recommend that you read the entire rendition of this important psalm. In it, you will see the heart and character of God. It is both a historic depiction of Israel's relationship with YHWH, but also a great testimony of God's continued guidance in spite of unbelief --- something that gives me hope in the midst of our own national sins.
It speaks of the works of God: His protection during the crossing of the Red Sea; His leadership in the wilderness by cloud and pillar of fire; His provision of life-saving water and the giving of manna, the bread of life; He cast out the pagans before them in the Promised Land and gave them the land as their inheritance; His choice of the tribe of Judah to be pre-eminent, and Jerusalem as His Holy city and sanctuary.
But Psalm 78 also speaks of the disobedience and unbelief of His chosen people and the consequences of their sins: they were stubborn and rebellious, and their spirits were not steadfast with God; they forgot His works and the wonders He had shown them; they did not forsake their lust for foreign idols and gods; they were unfaithful to the God of their fathers and built altars to these foreign gods. So God delivered His people into captivity, and yielded His glory into the enemy's hand.
But the Psalm does not record the destruction of Israel. It also speaks of God's integrity and character, and how He always provides a path for His people to return. How I pray He will show us the path back to Him!
So, I have to ask ... how can anyone read this entire Psalm and not see that it speaks to both ancient Israel and to us today? How can anyone discount the Old Testament, which is God's covenant with the roots of our faith? Besides, Jesus appears on every page of the first half of the Bible -- not just in the New Testament!
Psalm 78 speaks of so many things: God's mercy and the unfaithfulness of Israel; God's provision and the Israelite's ungratefulness; God's anger and Israel's redemption; God's Sovereignty and His discipline. In 72 short verses we see His wonders and miracles on behalf of His people; His strength and glory; His ability to send them into captivity, and His power to deliver them from the hand's of the enemy. We see His ultimate redemption through the tribe of Judah and the establishment of His sanctuary on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem. And like I said, the presence of Yeshua, the Messiah, runs throughout this amazing Psalm!
So, I would say this to the angry gentleman in the Sunday School class: I think it is important for us to study ancient Israel and to acknowledge their importance to our Christian faith. It is through their history, and how God deals with them, that we get a real good picture of who He is --- His character; His righteousness; His Sovereignty; and His Truth. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. So don't you think we can learn something from how God and Israel [with whom we are grafted in] interacted?
Because, you see, I sorrow over how my nation has followed the same path as Israel, and forgotten the ways of the Lord. He has every right to discipline us as He did His chosen people. But I trust in Him, and have hope that we may yet turn from our wicked ways and embrace Him once more. Oh, how I pray that He will have mercy on us, and yet deliver us, and redeem us!