So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, And guided them with his skillful hands.Psalm 78:72(NASB)
Like many of the Psalms, Psalm 78 is an important chronicle from Israel's past history, but it is also a parable that encourages us to learn from bygone times so that we are not doomed to repeat the same mistakes again.
It is a song that contains lessons from days of old which are designed to help us to learn from the past, to encourage us to make the right choices in the present, and to live as God has ordained that we should live.
Throughout the psalm, there is the sad recollection of the rebellious, disobedient, and ungrateful nation of Israel who forgot the goodness of God and disregarded His loving-kindness to their ancestors.
He split the rock and provided streams in the desert for His thirsty people. He opened the doors of heaven and fed them with manna in the barren wilderness. He rained down quantities of quails to satisfy their hunger for meat... and yet they murmured relentlessly against the Lord and were openly hostile to His chosen prophet, Moses.
The Psalm outlines Israel's glorious salvation from centuries of slavery in Egypt. It describes the incredible wonders and miracles that God performed, in order to set His people free from the iron yoke of Egyptian bondage. It even reminds them of the final plague, where the firstborn of Egypt were struck down while the angel of death passed over the bloodied lintels of the Israelites homes, on that first Passover night.
It also retells how later in their history, the Lord was obligated to punish His errant people by abandoning the tabernacle of Shiloh and using their enemies to punish His inheritance.
It further records how they grieved the Holy One of Israel and how soon they forgot His power to save. From beginning to end, we read the unembellished history of God's rebellious, disloyal, and faithless people - and yet we read in this final verse that He did not forsake them forever, nor did He break His covenanted promises.
Indeed, the Lord chose David, the shepherd-boy of Israel, to be His servant. He took him from the sheepfold and raised him up to shepherd Jacob, His people, and Israel, His inheritance. And of David, who is a beautiful type of Jesus - the true Shepherd of Israel - we read: "He shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them with his skilful hands."
As we reflect on Israel's fractured history, their rebellious past, and God's long-suffering grace, we are brought face to face with the truth that our words and deeds are recorded in God's book. Praise God that He continues to be long suffering and of great goodness towards all His children - but surely, as we think back over Israel's faithlessness and ingratitude, there is much for us to learn from the lessons of their past failure.
By God's grace, may we seek to live our lives according to His Word and for His greater praise and glory as we reflect on His tender mercies and gracious patience - for He is our heavenly Shepherd, and He is our eternal King Who has promised to guide us in the way of righteousness and to uphold us with His gracious hand.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the many lessons that we may learn from Israel's past history and Your long-suffering grace towards them. I pray that I may learn all that You would teach me from their past failures so that I may not repeat the mistakes of the past - but I pray, O Lord, that I may walk in integrity of heart and humility of spirit all the days of my life - for Your greater praise and glory. This I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.