A Psalm for Christmas

December 8, 2009 at 11:04 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts | Leave a comment

            This weekend I read Psalm 78, the second longest psalm and second longest chapter in the Bible.  It occurred to me that this psalm is a great Christmas reminder.  There are three sections I noticed, and each has a nice holiday teaching.  Verses 1-8 talk about passing the faith on to the next generation.  Examples include verse 4 “We will not conceal them from their children, but tell to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.”   The purposes for passing on the faith are these: “That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, that they may arise and tell them to their children, that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation.”   What better time is there than the holidays and the traditions we build around them, to teach the great Christian truths to our children and grandchildren.  Let’s make sure the traditions we emphasize and those we build anew are ones that teach Jesus.

            The second section (verses 9-39) is really a few sections together that form a pattern of God’s goodness to his people, their rebellion against him, and his mercy in spite of their rebellion.  Over and over the passage mentions the rebellion and stubbornness of the people in the face of God’s goodness.  He brought them out of Egypt and through the Red Sea, but “they still continued to sin against Him, to rebel against the Most High in the desert.” (13-17)  He gave them water from the rock and bread right out of heaven, then he gave them the meat they craved, yet, “in spite of all this they still sinned and did not believe in His wonderful works.” (20-32)  Instead the people “would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues.” (36)  Even through all of this “he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.” (38)   That is our story of rebellion also, and in spite of us, God shows us his mercy.  Christmas is a reminder that God offers his grace to us as sinners.

            The third section (40-72) again tells a story of God’s goodness, demonstrated by the plagues in Egypt, followed by his people’s rebellion.  But in this section, God’s mercy was shown in a different fashion; here he gave the people a shepherd.  “He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people.”   God gave them a good shepherd to lead them.  So too in our situation, God, in spite of our continued rebellion against him, sent us the Good Shepherd, his Son Jesus.  Christmas is the time to remember God’s mercy in sending us a Shepherd.

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