Devotional Psalm 78
This Psalm is a Maskil, which is a Psalm of instruction. Some Psalms were prayers, others had liturgical applications. Psalm 78 refers to the importance of instruction by instructing.
In our world, students are taught by rote memorization. The better you memorize and can regurgitate facts, the better you will do in school. This model begins in preschool and continues all the way through college. By contrast, this method is not used past the 6th grade in Great Britain.
In ancient Israel, the Torah, or first five books of Moses, was the foundation for all of life in this world.
The Psalmist states that this is important stuff; that we should listen. He tells us what he is going to teach starting in verse 2:
2I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old
Nothing is so intriguing as the unveiling of a mystery. When I was a kid, we all watched while Geraldo Rivera opened a vault owned by Al Capone on live t.v. There was nothing inside, but it was great television because of the anticipation from revealing a mystery.
Contrast the revelation of mystery to verse 3:
3things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
Doesn’t it seem strange that the speaker in verse 2 is telling us he is going to reveal a mystery, and in verse 3 that we have heard and known it, and it is common knowledge? Yet, this is the work of Philip as he speaks to the Ethiopian eunuch. He reveals that Jesus is the Christ through Isaiah’s book.
We, too are called as future ministers of the Gospel to reveal the Christ hidden in the pages of the Old Testament. We are called to teach as Christ did after his resurrection when he walked with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself”.
Luther once said that Christ can be found on every page of Scripture. That may be stretching it a little, but it is the Holy Spirit’s work to reveal Christ in the Old Testament. Additionally, we have the New Testament, much of which is a commentary on the Old. It helps us to see Christ as the New Adam. Christ as Melchizedek. Christ as a new Moses, leading us out of captivity.
And this is how the Old Testament is used as parable: The account of Moses leading Israel out of Egypt is not merely historical record. It is a parable of how we have been rescued from the slavery of sin into the promised land through the waters of Baptism by Jesus.
My brothers and sister, we have been called to do this for God’s people. To find Jesus, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, in the Old Testament.
And, likewise, we can find the Torah in the New Testament. Consider Hebrews. The meaning of this book is greatly deepened by understanding the roles of a prophet, a priest and a king in the Old Testament.
There is an ongoing dialogue between these two testaments. The thread that runs through both is Jesus Christ.
Begin with Moses. Begin by reading the accounts of creation, promise to Abraham, exodus and David’s reign. Read Hebrews simultaneously. Draw comparisons. See the contrasts. Discover what Luther discovered, that there is more gospel in the Old Testament than in the New. If and when you do, your sermons will fill the listeners with faith and rescue them from rote learning.