Psalm 78 - Divine History, parable, and mystery
This Psalm was written by Asaph, not David. That's important to know right up front.
Why A "Parable"?
The amazing thing about Psalm 78 is that it appears to be a very "straight forward" account of divine history - the history of Israel. One would expect it to begin like Psalm 77 ended - as a simple appeal to celebrate the great things God has done.
But instead it is called a "riddle", "parable" or "mystery". The same hebrew word is used as in the book of Proverbs. A "proverb" is a "riddle" - a wonderful mystery given to us to explore and enjoy.
So we can do two things:
1. Look at the mysteries the Psalmist sees revealed in history.
2. Look at how Jesus is revealed, in all of this, to us TODAY.
This entire history revolves around a major theme: How faithful God is in the face of continual unfaithfulness on the part of His people. This all leads up to God's powerful answer: The Messianic dynasty of David. All through this history His people just keep messing up. But this leads to God's solution - something we'll explore as we dive deeper.
You need to know what the Psalmist is refering to when he speaks of "Ephraim". There were two kingdoms: The southern kingdom of Judah - ruled by the sons of David - and the northern kingdom of Israel - ruled by many different dynasties as one dynasty slaughtered the previous one. But the tribe of Ephraim was the driving force behind the kingdom of Israel.
It was the jelousy of the tribe of Ephraim against David's tribe - the tribe of Judah - which caused the civil war and the division into two kingdoms after Solomon died. Ephraim was large, wealthy and powerful Judah was chosen by God to lead God's people with the dynasty of David and the temple in Jerusalem.
Historical Note: This clearly shows how ancient these Psalms are. In 721 BC the northern kingdom of Israel was permanently destroyed. So this was a non-issue after that time.
This means there's a big connection between the "mystery" or "riddle" that the Psalmist desires to reveal and "The Mystery Of Christ" - which we desire to explore today.
Jesus, mystically referred to as "David" in scripture - is the Divine King, the Messiah, who saves us.
First of all, the Passover events - especially passing through the Red Sea - correspond directly to Jesus' death and resurrection. This is God's great victory in the Old Testament. Even to the ancient Hebrews, the oceans and water stood for death. That picture carries right through the bible. In the New Creation - the New Heaven and New Earth - there will be no ocean for that very reason. Death will be no more.
So the Israelites passed through death into a new life - as God's own special people. The mighty Egyptian army - the most powerful in the world at that time - was drowned and destroyed. This event became common knowledge in the region and was celebrated, not as a story, but as a fact of history.
Our defining event is the death and resurrection of Jesus. The eyewitness testimony of the apostles gives this historical credibility. Paul states that there were about 500 witnesses in total - most of whom were alive at the time. Peter and others were available to the Greeks for cross examination. The Greeks, as skeptics of a bodily resurrection, and the most focussed on scholarly inquiry and objective history in the world, are the perfect gift to modern man.
We have the miraculous mosaic of prophesy. We have the precise timing of the book of Daniel - pinpointing Jesus' generation. There's evidence from the Jews themselves - sometimes unwittingly confirming Jesus' miracles by the fact that rather than denying the miracles, they attribute them to demonic power. This unwitting "evidence from a hostile source" is strong.
All of mankind now recognizes Jesus' life, death and resurrection as the pivotal point of history - whether they want to our not - since we date everything as being either "BC - before Christ" or "AD - 'in the year of our Lord'". The comical attempt to change this has been futile. The main reason is that Jesus DID change the world - like no one else who ever lived.
His death and resurrection truly is the pivotal point in history.
But the "Mystery Of Christ" goes much deeper. (read the next blog to explore this)