Think back on what God has done. In stanza one, we were reminded that he had done miracles, but the people had forgotten them. In stanza two, we were reminded that God provided for the people's needs abundantly, but they had remained unsatisfied. In stanza three, we were reminded of God's just judgments, but these only produced a false repentance. In fact, not even his mercy was effective. For in spite of his mercy, the people "often ... rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland" (v. 40)! Miracles! Provision! Judgment! Mercy! Four great actions. Yet in spite of them, the outcome was rebellion and unbelief.

The judgment mentioned at the end of the third stanza of Psalm 78 leads to the subject matter of the fourth stanza (vv. 32-39), namely, repentance. When the people were judged they repented. Unfortunately, their repentance was seldom true repentance. Therefore, in words that echo Hosea's later description of this sickening hypocrisy (in Hosea 6:1-3), Asaph says, “Whenever God slew them, they would seek him; they eagerly turned to him again. They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. But then they would flatter him with their mouths, lying to him with their tongues; their hearts were not loyal to him, they were not faithful to his covenant” (vv. 34-37).

The second stanza of this psalm begins its rehearsal of the historical dealings of God with Ephraim, one of the twelve Jewish tribes (vv. 9-16). This seems a strange place to begin, first, because Ephraim does not seem to us to be a very prominent tribe, and second, because the incident referred to is not known. It was a time when "Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle” (vv. 9). Nothing exactly like this is found anywhere in the Old Testament.

During the ten years that I was a part of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, which was upholding the high, historic view of the Bible, one of the arguments against our position was that the Scriptures are authoritative and inerrant in matters of faith and morals, but not in matters of history or science. We answered then, as I still do today, that for Christians faith and morals cannot be separated from history or even from science, because Christianity is an historical religion; attacks on its roots in history inevitably and always undermine it.

The last stanza of Psalm 77 (vv. 16-19, plus verse 20) carries through the theme introduced in stanza five, describing the Exodus more fully and in poetic language. Indeed, stanza five calls for it. For not only does it introduce the idea (“you redeemed your people," referring to the Exodus), it also echoes words and themes from Moses’ great Song of the Exodus after the crossing of the Red Sea (see Exod. 15).