stringing a bowPsalm 78 is what is known as 1 of 4  “Historical Psalms”.  Through 72 verses the Psalmist provides us with a synopsis of the cluttered history of the nation of Israel – God’s favored people.  It lays out 80 mighty acts of God and couples them with 30 sins of Israel – often interchanging between the two.  (Some examples of this are the sins of Israel listed in vs 9-11… followed by the mighty acts of God in vs 12-16.  Again in vs 17-22 and 23-29, etc etc.).

There are many wonderful things we can glean from these “hidden things” (vs 2) that the Psalmist shares with us.  One glaring point is the clear compassion and patience that the Lord God shows towards His people.  As we have seen throughout our reading of Scripture – time and time again God is merciful even as His people rebel and demand their own way.   This cycle of sin and rescue (salvation) is repeated numerous times throughout history (as this psalm so powerfully lays out for us).

One picture that stands out to me is the description of Israel in vs 57.  Here, the Psalmist depicts God’s people as “tempting” and “provoking” God to anger by their stiff-necked and willful disobedience.  He then compares them to a “deceitful bow”.

So what is a “deceitful bow”?

First, remember that the pictures used in Scripture were typically of things the common reader would relate to.  In this instance – almost every man knew how to handle a bow and arrow – not only for hunting but also for defense.  They would have all understood how a bow operates when it was unstrung.  At rest – the bow had a tendency to resist the pressure applied by the string – in essence bending “backwards”.   It took a tremendous effort at the hand of the bowman to recurve the bow into a useable position by forcing it with the string.  A weak or unskilled bowman risked having the bow springing back with such force during stringing that it could break his arm.  (This could happen while discharging an arrow as well… not a good thing!).

A good, dependable bow was described as one that “turned not back”, meaning that it did not turn itself backward to it’s original position, such as Jonathon’s bow in 2 Sam 1:22.   It is the desire of every skilled hunter to train a dependable bow for use in his trade.

“They do not turn to the Most High, they are like a faulty bow.” Hosea 7:16

So both the Psalmist and the Prophet Hosea use this imagery to describe the nation of Israel during this time… in that, when bent toward God (the Master Bowman), she would suddenly spring back to her former position of sinfulness.

May we all avoid the trials of Israel – by being a bendable bow in the Bowman’s hands.

Be Fruitful and Multiply,

PK

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