• Caleb Harrelson

Engaging with your neighbor about Psalm 78



Imagine your neighbor mentions how she used to read the Bible but hasn't in a while. However, she said that she is open to reading it again but has had a hard time getting into it. From there, you mention how much you love the Psalms and would be happy to read one chapter with her and discuss it.


Below is a sample of how you could walk your neighbor through the Gospel using Psalm 78.


Dear Neighbor,


I think it’s awesome that you are open to checking out the Bible more! I have found it difficult to understand at times as well. Do you want to know where I normally start reading everyday? The Psalms.


Yes, I believe that ALL Scripture is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:14-16); however, it helps to have a simple gameplan on where to start reading. I typically suggest starting with one of the Psalms, then going through the gospel of John, then reading through the Bible chronologically. After that you may want to spend more time on a certain book or mix it up (click here for a thorough list of Bible reading plans).


So, for now, lets talk through a Psalm that shows us the main idea of the Bible and is very easy to understand.


One of the great things about the Psalms is that it provides an opportunity for us to identify with the author on various struggles in life, yet it continually points us back to were true hope is found: in “sett[ing] [our] hope in God” (Ps. 78:7).


Would you be interested in briefly looking at Psalms chapter 78 together? Click here to read the whole Psalm. I encourage you to write down anything that stands out to you or that needs further clarification.


If we look at the entire chapter, we notice several brutally honest things about how God interacted with his people throughout history and how his people responded.


One, we see a recounting of God’s actions with his Old Covenant people, Israel, with descriptions of his mighty deeds, patience and judgement. As we read this psalm together, I want you to notice how many times God’s people are described as stubborn, rebellious, forgetful, unbelieving (Ps 78:8,10,11,17) and how their “heart was not steadfast toward him” (78:37). God’s people then are just like everyone today: we both can be stubborn and not steadfast in our heart to God. Can you relate? Why do you think people can become so forgetful to God after how many great things he has done throughout history? I know before God gave me a new heart that was inclined to him, I didn’t have a desire to be “steadfast” and discipline myself to pursue him (see also 2 Tim. 1:7) at all. I only wanted to live for myself.


Two, notice in Psalm 78 how God’s anger towards his people and their rebellion was described multiple times (78:31; 50, 62, 67). Since God is so Holy and just, His judgment against his rebellious people was perfectly reasonable. However, I want you to also notice how many times the word “yet” is used in this chapter (78:17, 23,38) 56). This is a description of God showing mercy and not giving people what they deserve, just like Psalm 103:10 describes.


In the closing of this chapter, we see God described like this:


“With an upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand”

Psalm 78:72


This reminds us of the one we should set our hope in: the good shepherd. This is a perfect closing to this chapter as the beginning started out by emphasizing teaching “the next generation” (78:4) so that they won’t be stubborn like their fathers before them (vs 8). People become stubborn when they forget how truly good God is and that he is worth following and trusting in every moment.


Would you agree or disagree with that statement?


Follow up questions:


How does this passage affect your view of God? How do you view God? Do you think people's view of God can influence whether they decide to put their trust in him or not?


Would you say that you relate more with the “upright of heart” in this text or the rebellious Israelites? Why?


Did you know that later in the Bible it says that the Old Testament events were recorded to teach and warn us (1 Cor. 10:11; Romans 15:4)? What do you think about that?


The events described here in Psalm 78 remind us of the reality that no human is perfectly upright or can ever be good enough on our own (see also Isaiah 67:6-7; Rom 3:23). We can only receive an “upright heart” when we fully trust in God’s provision and promise to pay for our rebellion (Gen. 15:6; Romans 4:5; Ezekiel 36:26-27) against him.


Would you say that you have truly “put your hope in God”? Why or why not?


If God is kind to rebellious people, like you and I, what are the implications for what you should teach your friends and family about who God is? How should you go about that? Do you think your family would be open to reading and discussing the Psalms with you?


End of Psalm 78 Bible Study:


Close by praying with your friend or family member, encourage them to repent and trust in Christ (Rom. 10:9) and make plans to discuss another chapter of the psalms or study one of the gospels next time you meet.


*Click here for a more worldview questions if the conversation lends itself to further questions/discussion or here for a brief case on why Christianity is true.


 

"Help. I have questions about the Bible. Where do I go?"


If you you or your friend have more questions about the Biblical worldview or the gospel, I encourage you to start reading the gospel of John, take notes, and write down any questions you have. From there, I encourage you to reach out to a Christian friend and talk with them about your questions and get plugged into a church that regularly teaches from the Bible expositionally.


Also, please feel free to send us a message here on our website, check out our articles, our Engage Truth podcast, YouTube show, or attend one of our Engage seminars or classes listed on our event section of the home page.


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