Something none of us ever wants to hear after being caught for some misdemeanor are the words “you are without excuse!” i.e. the rules were clear and you were aware of them, but you showed contempt for them and still went your own way and disobeyed.
Paul in his letter to the Romans uses this phrase concerning “mankind” when he says:
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, SO THAT PEOPLE ARE WITHOUT EXCUSE. (Romans 1:18-20)
Psalm 78 is the story of a people “without excuse”. Firstly, a brief introduction.
Entitled “A maskilof Asaph”, Wilcock calls it, “a fine and thought-provoking contribution to the Asaph group” (# 5), andconsisting of72 verses, Longman says, it “is one of the longest psalms in the book, as well as one of the most interesting.” (# 30)
Kidner gives a helpful summary as follows:
“This could be sub-titled, in view of verse 12 and 68, From Zoan to Zion, for it reviews the turbulent adolescence of Israel from its time of slavery in Egypt to the reign of David. Like the parting song of Moses (Dt. 32) it is meant to search the conscience; it is a history that must not repeat itself. At the same time, it is meant to warm the heart, for it tells of great miracles, of a grace that persists through all judgements, and of the promise that displays its tokens in the chosen city and chosen king.” ( # 29)
The beginning sounds very much like Wisdom Literature (e.g. Proverbs) as the psalmist speaks of his “teaching”, telling his “parable” (although based on a true story), concerning “hidden things, things from of old” and most importantly, things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.” So, he writes:
My people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
3 things we have heard and known,
things our ancestors have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their descendants;
we will tell the next generation
And just what was the main thing he wanted them to note? It was:
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach their children,
He then follows this with the reason why he is writing these things down, which is:
6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
8 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.
I wonder how we in the 21st Century are going when it comes to the “next generation”? Are we teaching them by our words and lifestyle of the “praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done”? Are we inspiring them to “put their trust in God” and “not to forget his deeds” and to “keep his commands”?
Which for us means even more than the psalmist understood. It includes telling them of the wonders of Christ’s incarnation, teaching, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection and imminent return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And of obeying what Jesus called “the greatest commandments”, i.e. to
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…And Love your neighbour as yourself. (Matthew 22:37, 39)
Although God knows that we are “made from mere dust – frail, fragile, and short lived” (verse 39 TPT), in the end, if we fail to walk in the ways of God according to his Word, teaching the next generation God’s truth, as Paul says, we will be without excuse!
Father, thank you for again being reminded of your greatness, Forgive us for our short memories. Teach us your ways so that we can teach others to walk in your ways. Amen.