Psalms - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 1 Lesson 10 - Lessons of the Past

Teachers Comments
Mar 02 - Mar 08

Key Texts: Psalm 78:3, 4

The holy Scriptures are not a book of philosophy filled with human conjecture regarding God’s attributes and teachings. The Bible is the Lord’s action in human history from the beginning of time. Through these events, we may learn who He is and what His plans are for humanity. Many critics of Scripture stumble on this biblical truth. They cannot accept the idea that God is working in human history. They reject the notion that the Creator is involved in human affairs. To acknowledge His involvement would be tantamount to admitting that He is the Ruler of the universe and the rightful Lord and Sovereign of every human being; and, as such, we must accept His kingship and His law. The last thing the selfish heart wishes to recognize is God’s claims upon his or her allegiance or divine authority over human life.

This week, we will consider how the psalmists acknowledged the work of Yahweh in the history of their nation.

Part II: Commentary

History as the Backbone of Scripture

As mentioned in the introduction, the Bible reflects the outworking of the Almighty’s purposes in human affairs from the beginning of time. “We behold, behind, above, and through all the play and counterplay of human interests and power and passions, the agencies of the all merciful One, silently, patiently working out the counsels of His own will.”—Ellen G. White, Education, p. 173.

From Genesis to Revelation, we see the story of Redemption. Everything the Lord has done has been for the purpose of saving lost souls. We see this purpose in the content of the Bible itself: it is a book of the history of salvation. While 21 books of the Bible are narrative in nature, or composed of stories, the remainder of the books—whether prophecy, poetry, wisdom, apocalyptic literature, pastoral, or personal epistle—also relate to, or contain, stories or history.

The Scriptures in their entirety are based on the understanding that their Author is alive and moving through, or intervening in, earthly events. The power of the Bible’s message resides in this fact. When we learn, for instance, that God controls the sea, the winds, the big fish, the vine, and the worm in Jonah’s story, we know that these four chapters are no mere novella of an obscure nature writer, scrawled thousands of centuries ago. If the Bible teaches us anything, it is that the Creator rules over natural forces, then and now. Remove the historicity from Scripture, and we will have religious tales without the power to impact our current lives. Unfortunately, this situation is just what we see transpiring in our society today. The Bible denounces such secular thinking and affirms that not only does the Lord work in history but He also has dynamic and salvific relationships with His creatures.

History Narrated in Poetry

An interesting feature of the Scriptures is that historical events are often narrated in the form of poetry as well as in prose. We usually have this preconceived idea—no doubt conditioned by the study of secular literature within our given culture—that history should be written only in a formal style of prose. In most societies today, poetry is reserved for the expression of emotions and is not considered the suitable domain of serious writing or for the subject matter of historians.

But the Holy Writ defies any such literary restriction or classification. Just compare Exodus 14 and 15. Both chapters talk about the miraculous parting of the Red Sea but use different literary forms to do so. The account in chapter 14 is rendered in prose while the account in chapter 15 is rendered in poetry. We find the same technique employed in Judges 4 and 5 in the record of the victory of Deborah and Barak over Jabin, king of Hazor, and his armies. Chapter 4 is written in prose while chapter 5 is rendered in poetry. The comparisons between the prose and poetic accounts of the same events are instructive; we should not dismiss historical events in the Psalms as less than “historical” or authentic simply because they are rendered through poetry. Poetry is a legitimate form of expression that the Bible writers used, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to appeal to and affirm the faith of the believer in God’s actions.

The Paradigmatic Importance of the Exodus in the Old Testament

There is an event in the book of Psalms, highlighted in six songs, to which we shall now turn our attention: the Exodus (Ps. 78:10–53, Ps. 80:8–11, Ps. 105:26–41, Ps. 106:7–33, Ps. 135:8–12, Ps. 136:10–22). The deliverance from Egypt is, for Israel, a symbol of God’s deliverance from sin. In Psalm 136, the Exodus is paralleled with the Creation as evidence of God’s power. The Exodus is the foundation of the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:2). The Passover, which is the remembrance of the Exodus event, is Israel’s independence day celebration. But far more than being a mere civil, political, or military celebration, the Passover is a spiritual festival that foresees a greater liberation by the Messiah. The Exodus is an important climax of Israel’s history and thus a fitting paradigm for God’s deliverance of the human family from sin. Furthermore, the overthrow of the oppressor from his invincible position in the world, the overwhelming predicament of hard servitude and bondage, the humbleness of a simple shepherd who is sent as deliverer, and the amazing miracles performed by the Almighty to save His people make this narrative an epic of unparalleled drama, as well.

The Exodus paradigm is repeated in the new exodus when the Jews came back from Babylon to Judea. Paul tells us that the most important lessons the Exodus can instill in us are faith in God’s deliverance of His people from this world of sin and hope in a new life in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 10:1–4). All the details of the Passover (Exodus 12, Lev. 23:4–8, Deut. 16:1–8) “are shadows of things to come” (see Col. 2:16, 17), revealing in types and symbols the passion and death of Jesus Christ. With this idea in mind, we can understand better why the focus on the Exodus in the Psalter extends in relevance beyond the Hebrew people and has a special significance to the believers in the time of the end.

Tell Your Children

The actions of God in history offer us another important lesson, as stated by the psalmist:

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.

We will not hide them from their children,

telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,

and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done (Ps. 78:2–4, NKJV).

In ancient Israel, parents educated their children by reciting to them the actions of the God of their forefathers. Time after time, the command is given to parents to repeat those deeds of salvation—the slaying of the firstborn males in Egypt (Exod. 13:14–16), the miracles of the Exodus (Deut. 6:20–25), and the crossing of the Jordan River (Josh. 4:20–24)—to their children. Such recitation involved more than simply memorizing statements and laws. Rather, implicit in this form of education is the idea that a strong grasp of history was the best way for the next generation to preserve their parents’ faith.

There is intentionality in the commands to teach our children. We should teach the events of salvation history to our kids in as many different, and interesting, ways as possible. Scripture and the testimonies of Jesus alike warn us that the enemy is doing his utmost to deceive minds, especially those of scholars, and to cause them to reject the historicity of the Scriptures. If Satan can convince us that the Bible is only tales, many believers will be dragged into unbelief and, by default, will turn aside to the all-absorbing pleasures of this world.

Don’t Forget Your Past

It oft has been said, “The people who forget their past are condemned to repeat it.” Likewise, the Spirit of Prophecy tells us, “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.”—Ellen G. White, Last Day Events, p. 72. Psalm 105:5 asserts, “Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth” (NKJV).

History was often expressed in song to facilitate its memorization and instill biblical truth in the minds of the people of ancient Israel. We can benefit from an application of this vital truth in our own lives. To repeat the miracles and providences of our Almighty God, as recorded in the Scriptures and from our own personal experience, is a source of inspiration, faith, and strength.

God Is Merciful to His People

For the psalmists, recalling “the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done” (Ps. 78:4, NKJV) was of paramount importance. God’s actions in the past are the assurance that He will save His people from present and future troubles (Ps. 80:7–11, 19). God is faithful in that He remembers His holy covenant to His people (Ps. 105:42, 43) to give them the Promised Land as a heritage (Ps. 105:44; Ps. 136:21, 22).

Our Lord is faithful. He is always ready to show His mercy to us and our children, despite our mistakes. Thus, we should always remember His love for us and for His church.

Praise and Sing to the Lord

Let us endeavor to bring a spirit of honoring our Creator into our personal worship and into our congregational adoration. Toward the accomplishment of that goal, we should reverently and thoughtfully select music to augment our worship.

A cursory glance at the topical index at the back of the hymnal will suffice to show us the wide array of hymns of praise that are available to us. Many churches are blessed with a myriad of instruments. We also may have at our disposal the latest technology for our worship service.

But what good do all these things do us if we lack the accompanying spirit of praise that we are exhorted to have, per Psalm 105:1–7, Psalm 106:1–3, and Psalm 135:1–7? These texts are not an invitation to be noisy but to be enthusiastic in our praise. They invite us to focus on God’s mercy and His deeds, which are countless. On that basis, we are enjoined to sing with enthusiasm in our hearts, our homes, and our church.

The Lord Judges His People

“For the Lord will judge His people” (Ps. 135:14, NKJV) is one of the most important themes of Psalm 135. In this song, the psalmist emphasizes God’s deliverance of His people from the bondage of Egypt (Ps. 135:8–14). However, the deliverance of God’s people is not only a judgment against Egypt but also results in the vindication of God’s people. We usually conceive of punishment as the result of judgment, but this psalm reminds us that God’s judgments bestow blessings and favor on His faithful people. The Exodus is the quintessential manifestation of this truth.

Part III: Life Application

Below is a summary of the important concepts of this week’s lesson. Share them with your class:

1. The Lord is a personal God. Additionally, the Lord of the Old Testament is intimately involved in the affairs of human beings.

2. God acts even today; if He acted on behalf of His people in the past, there’s no reason He cannot do the same for His people today. It’s our privilege to see His deeds in our daily life.

3. Every event of human existence—our personal experiences, the actions and decisions of our church, the government of our country—is in His hands. Everything is controlled and guided by Him.

Praise the Lord that our God is a real Person and our Friend!