Read Psalm 78.
If Psalm 77 was an invitation to look back on the mighty works of God, Psalm 78 is a reminder that while God has been faithful, His people have not. Asaph beautifully recounts the story of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the reign of King David, helping us to see the cycle of rebellion spinning ‘round in the hearts of sinful human beings.
But that’s the thing about sin—the darker it gets, the brighter God’s grace shines in history. Of course, that doesn’t mean we should sin all the more in order to light up the night with God’s mercy. As the apostle Paul asked (and answered), “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” (Romans 6:1–2).
Psalm 78 isn’t an invitation to join the nation of Israel in her repeated benders of faithlessness and idolatry. Rather, it’s a call to reject the foolishness of the past and cling to Yahweh and Yahweh alone.
There has always been a remnant among the people of God—a small band of tried and true followers of Yahweh. When we look at the history of Israel, we can see this thread of worshippers, sometimes thick but more often thin, weaving its way down through the centuries. And each generation receives a call to join this inner circle of God’s friends:
He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands. They would not be like their ancestors—a stubborn and rebellious generation, whose hearts were not loyal to God, whose spirits were not faithful to him. (Psalm 78:5–8)
It’s never enough to belong to the people of God by birth—whether you’re an Old Testament Israelite or a New Testament church member. We must embrace God personally—each and every one of us. Scripture, then, is an invitation to do just that. The books that make up the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have been passed down from ancient times so that we might come to faith in God the Father and Jesus Christ, His Son.
In the book of Romans, Paul wrote that the Jewish people were given a tremendous gift: “the very words of God” (Romans 3:2). Because Israel had the Scriptures, they had access to the mind and heart of their Creator—the joy of hearing for themselves how good and beautiful God is, and just how much He loves them.
There are two dangers when it comes to the Bible. The first is to neglect Scripture and take it for granted. So many people think they’ve got it down—as if the Bible could be mastered in just a few years (or in a lifetime)—and as a result, they’ve all but stopped reading it. What these folks can recall of Scripture’s message then becomes garbled with cultural truths and watered down by the world.
The other danger is to hold the Bible up as an idol—to forget that the purpose of Scripture is to lead us to God. We cannot study and memorize our way to closeness with our Maker. The Bible is an invaluable tool, but it can never, and should never, be a substitute for God Himself. Never forget that the Pharisees, the folks who read and studied Scripture the most in Jesus’ day, were also the ones who couldn’t see who Jesus was. There were a few exceptions, of course—I’m looking at you, Nicodemus—but it would be a mistake to think knowledge of the Bible somehow equates to love for God.
I don’t know what your life has been like. Maybe you grew up in a Christian home where you were taught the Bible. Or maybe you just picked up a Bible for the first time last week. Either way, as long as there is a Bible in the world to read, the invitation remains open to you: Come closer. Get to know the God who loves you.