The Past! - Psalm 78:1-39

Write on the whiteboard/blackboard or large sheet of paper: “Those who do not learn from history…”

1.      Point out the phrase: how would you complete this famous quote? (…are doomed to repeat it.”)

There are some variations of this that have been thought up through the years, for instance—“Those who don’t learn from history will wind up in summer school.” I’m living proof of that prediction.

2.      How would you describe the general tone of the original quote? (That the outcome will not be good, perhaps even disastrous.)

3.      Based on your own experiences or the state of the world today, do you think this saying is true?

4.      What is necessary to keep from repeating history? (We must know history to avoid making the same mistakes our ancestors made.)

Psalm 78 called for Israel to learn lessons from their history. Like Psalm 1, which we studied last week, Psalm 78 is a wisdom psalm. Its purpose is to teach not only the Israelites something but us as well.

Psalm 78 is rich with stories of historical events—plagues that led to freedom form Egyptian slavery, God parting the Red Sea, God’s provision of food during the journey, rebellion expressed through building high places to worship false gods, God residing among the people in the tabernacle, God choosing David to lead Israel, and more.


Teach for the Future! Read Psalm 78:1-4


1.      How are our children to learn about their heritage?

2.      What is Asaph going to share in the following verses?

3.      Is this just a good idea Asaph came up with or does this practice go much deeper? (Read Deut. 11:18-21)

4.      What is it that will bring success in our lives and nation?

Read Psalm 78:5-8

5.      What were parents to teach their children? (According to verse 5, fathers were to teach their children God’s law. Hebrew poetry often emphasized repetition of ideas rather than sounds. Thus, “testimony in Jacob” and “law in Israel” are synonymous.)

6.      Why were they to teach these truths of Israel’s history and law to their children?

7.      What are some ways people teach future generations about God and His love besides telling?

8.      What types of teaching will most likely touch a future generation?

9.      How might you put God’s faithfulness into one sentence stories? (This Psalm shows two ways to live—respect and obey God, or ignore God and assume you’re smarter than Him.)

10.  Who in previous generations taught you about God?

The natural order of humanity is to drift toward decay. It takes intentional effort for us to grow in love and obedience toward God. This is true of old and new generations as well. That is why we are commanded to keep God’s word constantly on our minds!


(If time permits read Psalm 78:9-31. If not summarize these verses.)

Remember the Past! Read Psalm 78:32-37


1.      The Scripture records the tendency for God’s people to turn from God, fail, receive God’s discipline, and then return to God. What clues do these verses give for why this happens? (The people did not “believe” God. In other words they did not place their confident trust in Him. They tried to use “flattery” in their insincere worship.)

2.      For what reasons might a person risk lying or being unfaithful to God?

Even people who crossed the Red Sea and recipients of God’s miraculous feeding refused God’s loving direction. The people’s repentance was insincere and self-deceptive. They had a form of belief that responded to God’s judgment and not His compassion.

3.      Conversely, what would lead someone to be sincere in repentance and trust of God?

4.      How can we demonstrate our faith and trust in God to our children?

5.      How have people in our day, tried to “rewrite” history to suit what they would like for it to be? (Some would say our ancestors came to this country for reasons other than religious freedom. Some would say that the U. S. A. is an aggressor nation, trying to impose our lifestyle and beliefs on others! They would teach our children that God’s Word is not truth and not what our nation was founded upon!)

Read Numbers 14:34: (Highlight the Sinai Desert on a map.) The Israelites rebelled against God so they received His righteous judgment. They would wander in the desert for 40 years, until every adult 20 years old and older died, except Joshua and Caleb. Numbers 1:46 lists the number of fighting men at more than 600,000 so if they were all married, that’s a total of 1.2 million people. That’s one funeral every 17 minutes! While verse 35 indicates that some did repent when they remembered God as their rock and Redeemer, they always seemed to lapse back into unfaithfulness.

6.      Read Psalm 78:35: How does this verse motivate us to desire to be faithful to God? (Seeing God’s character should draw us toward Him. When we focus on God’s character, our faithfulness grows out of gratefulness rather than the fear of getting caught.)

7.      How did the people, as a whole, demonstrate insincere hearts toward God in verses 35-37?

8.      How do people do the same today?

9.      Why do tragedies cause people to turn to God?

10.  How would you define the difference between a genuine turning to God and a temporary turning to God?


These verses paint a grim but accurate picture of human nature. Thankfully, it isn’t human nature that saves us. Verses 32-37 talk about what the people did in spite of God’s goodness. Verses 38-39 talk about what God did in spite of the people’s wickedness.


Compassion in the Present! Read Psalm 78:38-39


1.      What word gives us hope here in the face of God’s righteous judgment? (Atoned!)

2.      How did God atone for the guilt of the people? (God’s plan has been the same from the very beginning—He would send His Son to atone for our sin! Jesus was the substitute sacrifice offered for our sin!)

3.      How does God’s compassion shown in the past give us hope for the present?

4.      What is the connection between God’s compassion and humanity’s limitations? (God provided what we could never be—the perfect sacrifice for atonement for our sin!)


Summarize and Challenge!


Think back for a moment about what your parents passed on to you and what you are passing on to your children. Whether it’s cooking or changing a tire, there is value in all the things we try to pass on to our children.

1.      But what are we doing to pass on those lessons that have eternal significance?

2.      What did you learn today about human nature and God’s compassion?

3.      What are some ways our S. S. class can teach younger individuals about God and His compassion for humanity?

4.      What examples of God’s faithfulness can you site in your life right now, regardless of good or bad circumstances?


We can learn from the past as we observe God’s faithfulness in contrast to humanity’s unfaithfulness.