Before we continue on to the book of Esther, let’s pause for a few days and consider the Psalms that relate to the restored people of Ezra and Nehemiah’s day…
Psalm 78 is a historical Psalm – written to preserve God’s work in Israel from generation to generation. No doubt, this Psalm was a useful teacher to the restored exiles in Jerusalem – working to reestablish their Jewish community and heritage!
Fast-forwarding in history to Paul’s day, he is still defending his authority as an apostle of Jesus in 2 Corinthians 12. Remember, he is writing in response to false allegations made against him by false teachers. Paul is reluctant to list his qualifications, and responds to his offenders by focusing on his weaknesses, rather than his strengths!
In today’s reading, we find Paul’s famous assertion that he was given a “thorn in the flesh” to keep him from being conceited after receiving glorious visions of paradise, the place where God dwells.
This passage has always been comforting to me…for two reasons!
- First, it reinforces my hope of heaven…that there really is a spiritual realm where God dwells – and that place is like paradise (2 Cor. 12:3)!
- And secondly, it gives a good purpose for pain. In this case, so Paul would not become conceited. God gave him a constant trial to keep and grow Paul’s godly character. God gave Paul the “thorn” because He loved him.
If you are going through a trial, are you convinced that God still loves you? If we struggle to persevere in our faith during life’s trials, we must take a lesson from the Israelites. We must look backward in our history and remember his faithfulness to us in the past.
The act of “remembering” is sprinkled throughout Psalm 78…
…so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God (78:7);
They did not keep God’s covenant,
but refused to walk according to his law.
They forgot his works
and the wonders that he had shown them (78:10-11);
They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God their redeemer (78:36);
They tested God again and again
and provoked the Holy One of Israel.
They did not remember his power
or the day when he redeemed them from the foe (78:35-36).
When the Israelites failed to remember God’s faithfulness, they fell away. But when they remembered, they were encouraged to draw near to God! We must not forget His goodness to us!!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:2-5).