The greatness of God (Sir 18:1-18:7)

“He who lives forever

Created the whole universe.

The Lord alone is just.

There is no other beside him.

He steers the world

With the span of his hand.

All things obey his will.

He is king of all things

By his power.

He separates the holy things

From the profane.

To none has he given power

To proclaim his works.

Who can search out his mighty deeds?

Who can measure his majestic power?

Who can fully recount his mercies?

It is not possible to diminish or increase them.

It is not possible to fathom the wonders of the Lord.

When human beings have finished,

They are just beginning.

When they stop,

They are still perplexed.”

The eternal God has created the whole universe. The Lord alone is just since there is no one beside him. He steers the world with his hands. Everything obeys his will, since he is the king of all things. The Lord separates the sacred from the profane. No one can proclaim his works, search out his mighty deeds, measure his majestic power, or tell all about his mercy. You cannot increase or decrease his power. You cannot imagine all the wonders of the Lord. Humans think that they are finishing things, but they are only beginning, since they are still perplexed. The Lord is the great creator of this wonderful world.

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Praise Yahweh (Ps 89:5-89:7)

“Let the heavens praise your wonders!

Yahweh!

Your faithfulness is in the assembly of the holy ones.

Who in the skies can be compared to Yahweh?

Who among the heavenly beings is like Yahweh?

Yahweh is a God feared in the council of the holy ones.

Yahweh is great and terrible.

He is above all that is around him.”

The heavens should praise the wonders of Yahweh. His faithfulness can be seen in the assembly of the holy ones. There seems to be some kind of divine heavenly council of the holy ones. Perhaps this is a projection of the assembly of the Temple councils of holy men here on earth. Obviously, no one could compare with Yahweh. He was feared by all. He was great and terrible at the same time above all that surrounded him.

The death of the original Israelites (Ps 78:30-78:33)

“Before they had sated their craving,

While the food was still in their mouths,

The anger of God rose against them.

He killed the strongest of them.

He laid low the flower of Israel.

In spite of all this,

They still sinned.

They did not believe in his wonders.

So he made their days vanish like a breath.

Their years were in terror.”

This section is based on Numbers, chapters 11 and 14 about the anger of God and the death of the original Exodus Israelites. They were still eating with the food in their mouths when God struck them with a plague, which is not mentioned here. It was after the second rebellion that Yahweh said that none of those who had left Egypt would see the Promised Land. Thus they lived in terror not knowing when they would die. They refused to believe in the wonders of God. Thus this led to the long trek in the wilderness.

The call to listen (Ps 78:1-78:4)

A Maskil of Asaph

“O my people!

Give ear 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.

These are the things

That we have heard and known.

Our ancestors have told us these things.

We will not hide them from their children.

We will tell them to the coming generation.

These are the glorious deeds of Yahweh,

These show his might.

These are the wonders that he has done.”

Psalm 78 is one of these long didactic psalms that relate the whole history of the Israelite people, like Psalms 105 and 106 as well as Psalms 135 and 136. This psalm is also a maskil of Asaph as the others in this series. We will learn the lessons of Israelite history, with a special emphasis on particular favorite heroes. There is an initial call to listen with care to the teaching of this psalmist, Asaph. He was going to speak in parables like the wisdom writers. These are the stories that were passed on to him by his ancestors. Now he was not going to hide it from the current children and the generations yet to come. All this shows the glorious deeds of Yahweh and his strength in the wonders that he has done for Israel.