August 6

Pastor’s Note

We receive a helpful biblical history lesson today in our reading of Psalm 78. In the New Testament we see a dramatic and frustrating depiction of the internal conflict that shows us the futility of attempting to please God without the regenerative and indwelling enablement of the Holy Spirit. Remember, when you read Romans 7 that Romans 8 is soon to follow in Paul’s argument. Perhaps a review of my take on this passage will help you to keep this experience in perspective (see sermon #10-08 on the Focal Point website).

— Pastor Mike

Psalm 78

Tell the Coming Generation

A Maskil [1] of Asaph.

78:1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
 incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
I will open my mouth in a parable;
 I will utter dark sayings from of old,
things that we have heard and known,
 that our fathers have told us.
We will not hide them from their children,
 but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
 and the wonders that he has done.

He established a testimony in Jacob
 and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
 to teach to their children,
that the next generation might know them,
 the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
 but keep his commandments;
and that they should not be like their fathers,
 a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
 whose spirit was not faithful to God.

The Ephraimites, armed with [2] the bow,
 turned back on the day of battle.
10 They did not keep God’s covenant,
 but refused to walk according to his law.
11 They forgot his works
 and the wonders that he had shown them.
12 In the sight of their fathers he performed wonders
 in the land of Egypt, in the fields of Zoan.
13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it,
 and made the waters stand like a heap.
14 In the daytime he led them with a cloud,
 and all the night with a fiery light.
15 He split rocks in the wilderness
 and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.
16 He made streams come out of the rock
 and caused waters to flow down like rivers.

17 Yet they sinned still more against him,
 rebelling against the Most High in the desert.
18 They tested God in their heart
 by demanding the food they craved.
19 They spoke against God, saying,
 “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?
20 He struck the rock so that water gushed out
 and streams overflowed.
Can he also give bread
 or provide meat for his people?”

21 Therefore, when the Lord heard, he was full of wrath;
 a fire was kindled against Jacob;
 his anger rose against Israel,
22 because they did not believe in God
 and did not trust his saving power.
23 Yet he commanded the skies above
 and opened the doors of heaven,
24 and he rained down on them manna to eat
 and gave them the grain of heaven.
25 Man ate of the bread of the angels;
 he sent them food in abundance.
26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens,
 and by his power he led out the south wind;
27 he rained meat on them like dust,
 winged birds like the sand of the seas;
28 he let them fall in the midst of their camp,
 all around their dwellings.
29 And they ate and were well filled,
 for he gave them what they craved.
30 But before they had satisfied their craving,
 while the food was still in their mouths,
31 the anger of God rose against them,
 and he killed the strongest of them
 and laid low the young men of Israel.

32 In spite of all this, they still sinned;
 despite his wonders, they did not believe.
33 So he made their days vanish like [3] a breath, [4]
 and their years in terror.
34 When he killed them, they sought him;
 they repented and sought God earnestly.
35 They remembered that God was their rock,
 the Most High God their redeemer.
36 But they flattered him with their mouths;
 they lied to him with their tongues.
37 Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
 they were not faithful to his covenant.
38 Yet he, being compassionate,
 atoned for their iniquity
 and did not destroy them;
he restrained his anger often
 and did not stir up all his wrath.
39 He remembered that they were but flesh,
 a wind that passes and comes not again.
40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness
 and grieved him in the desert!
41 They tested God again and again
 and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
42 They did not remember his power [5]
 or the day when he redeemed them from the foe,
43 when he performed his signs in Egypt
 and his marvels in the fields of Zoan.
44 He turned their rivers to blood,
 so that they could not drink of their streams.
45 He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them,
 and frogs, which destroyed them.
46 He gave their crops to the destroying locust
 and the fruit of their labor to the locust.
47 He destroyed their vines with hail
 and their sycamores with frost.
48 He gave over their cattle to the hail
 and their flocks to thunderbolts.
49 He let loose on them his burning anger,
 wrath, indignation, and distress,
 a company of destroying angels.
50 He made a path for his anger;
 he did not spare them from death,
 but gave their lives over to the plague.
51 He struck down every firstborn in Egypt,
 the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham.
52 Then he led out his people like sheep
 and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53 He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid,
 but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54 And he brought them to his holy land,
 to the mountain which his right hand had won.
55 He drove out nations before them;
 he apportioned them for a possession
 and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.

56 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God
 and did not keep his testimonies,
57 but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers;
 they twisted like a deceitful bow.
58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places;
 they moved him to jealousy with their idols.
59 When God heard, he was full of wrath,
 and he utterly rejected Israel.
60 He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh,
 the tent where he dwelt among mankind,
61 and delivered his power to captivity,
 his glory to the hand of the foe.
62 He gave his people over to the sword
 and vented his wrath on his heritage.
63 Fire devoured their young men,
 and their young women had no marriage song.
64 Their priests fell by the sword,
 and their widows made no lamentation.
65 Then the Lord awoke as from sleep,
 like a strong man shouting because of wine.
66 And he put his adversaries to rout;
 he put them to everlasting shame.

67 He rejected the tent of Joseph;
 he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim,
68 but he chose the tribe of Judah,
 Mount Zion, which he loves.
69 He built his sanctuary like the high heavens,
 like the earth, which he has founded forever.
70 He chose David his servant
 and took him from the sheepfolds;
71 from following the nursing ewes he brought him
 to shepherd Jacob his people,
 Israel his inheritance.
72 With upright heart he shepherded them
 and guided them with his skillful hand.

Romans 7

Released from the Law

7:1 Or do you not know, brothers [6]—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. [7] Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. [8]

The Law and Sin

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

Footnotes

[1] 78:1 Probably a musical or liturgical term
[2] 78:9 Hebrew armed and shooting
[3] 78:33 Hebrew in
[4] 78:33 Or vapor
[5] 78:42 Hebrew hand
[6] 7:1 Or brothers and sisters; also verse 4
[7] 7:2 Greek law concerning the husband
[8] 7:6 Greek of the letter

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