Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. Psalm 78:1–3
Words: Thomas Sternhold, The Whole Book of Psalms Collected into English Metre, 1565, alt. The text below is from The Psalter: the Scottish Version of the Psalms Revised, and New Versions Adopted by the United Presbyterian Church, edited by R. B. Robertson & John Gailey (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: United Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1872), pages 178–81.
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Attend, my people, to my law;
Thereto give thou an ear;
The words that from my mouth proceed
Attentively do hear.
My mouth shall speak a parable,
And sayings dark of old;
The same which we have heard and known,
Ev’n as our fathers told.
We will not from their children hide
The wonders done by Thee;
To generations yet to come
These things declare will we.
The praises of the Lord our God,
And His almighty strength,
The wondrous works that He hath done,
We will show forth at length.
His testimony and His law
In Israel He did place,
And charged our fathers it to show
To their succeeding race;
That so the race which was to come
These things might learn and know;
And sons unborn, who should arise,
Might to their sons them show:
That they might set their hope in God,
And suffer not to fall
His mighty works out of their mind,
But keep His precepts all:
And might not, like their fathers, be
A stiff rebellious race;
A race not right in heart with God
Whose spirit faithless was.
The sons of Ephraim, who nor bows
Nor other arms did lack,
When as the day of battle was,
Yet faintly turnèd back.
They broke God’s covenant, and refused
In His commands to go;
His works and wonders they forgot,
Which He to them did show.
Things marvelous He brought to pass;
Their fathers them beheld
Within the land of Egypt done,
Yea, even Zoan’s field.
By Him divided was the sea,
He led them through the flood;
The waters on each side He raised,
Till as a heap they stood.
With cloud by day, with light of fire
All night He did them guide.
In desert, rocks He cleft, and drink,
As from great depths, supplied.
He also from the rock brought streams,
Like floods made waters run.
Yet, sinning more, in desert they
Provoked the Highest One.
For in their heart they tempted God,
And, speaking with mistrust,
They greedily did meat require
To satisfy their lust.
Against the Lord Himself they spake,
And, murmuring, said thus,
A table in the wilderness
Can God prepare for us?
Behold, He smote the rock, and thence
Came streams and waters great;
But can He give His people bread?
And send them flesh to eat?
Jehovah heard, His wrath arose:
Then kindled was a flame
On Jacob, and on Israel
His indignation came.
For they believed not God, nor trust
In His salvation had;
Though clouds above He did command,
And Heav’n’s doors open made,
And manna rained on them, and gave
Them corn of Heav’n to eat.
Man angels’ food did eat; to them
He to the full sent meat.
He in the heaven also caused
An eastern wind to blow;
And by His power He let out
The southern wind to go.
Then flesh He rained on them like dust
Which cannot numbered be;
And feathered fowls in numbers vast
Like sands along the sea.
At His command, amid their camp
The flesh in showers fell;
On every side it fell about
The tents where they did dwell.
So they did eat abundantly,
And had of meat their fill;
For He did give to them what was
Their own desire and will.
They from their lust had not estranged
Their heart and their desire;
But while the meat was in their mouths,
Which they did so require,
God’s wrath upon them came, and slew
The fattest of them all;
And so the choice of Israel,
O’erthrown by death, did fall.
Yet after all the Lord had done
They still went on in sin;
Nor did believe, although His works
So wonderful had been.
He therefore did in vanity
Their days consume and waste;
And by His wrath their wretched years
Away in trouble passed.
But when He slew them, then they did
To seek Him show desire;
Yea, they returned, and after God
Did earnestly enquire.
And that the Lord had been their Rock,
They did remember then;
And that the high almighty God
Had their Redeemer been.
Yet with their mouth they flattered Him,
And with their tongues they lied;
Their heart was not sincere; they from
His covenant turned aside.
But, full of pity, He forgave
Their sin, nor did them slay;
Nor stirred up all His wrath, but oft
His anger turned away.
For that they were but fading flesh
To mind He did recall;
A wind that passeth soon away,
And ne’er returns at all.
How often in the wilderness
Did they provoke His wrath!
How often grieved Him, as they marched
Along their desert path!
Yea, turning back, they tempt the Lord,
And boldly limits place
About the high and holy One—
The God of Israel’s race.
And they remembered not His hand
Nor yet the noted day
When He redeemed them from the foe
Who sought them for his prey.
Nor how great signs in Egypt land
He openly had wrought;
What miracles in Zoan’s field
His hand to pass had brought.
How He their rivers and their lakes
Turned everywhere to blood;
That neither man nor beast could drink
Of standing lake or flood.
Devouring flies, of divers sorts,
The Lord among them brought;
And swarms of frogs o’er all the land,
Which great destruction wrought.
He to the caterpillar gave
The fruits of all their soil;
He gave the labors of their hands
To be the locust’s spoil.
Their vines with hail, their sycamores
He with the frost did blast:
Their beasts to hail He gave; their flocks
Hot thunderbolts did waste.
He cast upon them anger fierce;
To burning wrath gave vent;
In indignation troubled them
By evil angels sent.
He did not spare their soul from death
But for His wrath made way;
And to the fearful pestilence
He gave their life a prey.
And over Egypt’s land He smote
Their first born, and their pride,
Till everywhere in tents of Ham
Their chief of strength had died.
But forth from these like sheep He brought
His own, His chosen band,
And led His people like a flock
Across the desert land.
And on their journey He them led,
Secure from every fear,
But by the sea’s o’erwhelming waves
Their enemies covered were.
To borders of His holy place
The Lord His people brought,
Ev’n to the mountain which for them
His own right hand had bought.
The nations which in Canaan dwelt,
He also by His hand,
Before His people’s face, expelled
Beyond their native land;
Which for inheritance to them
By line He did divide,
And made the tribes of Israel
Within their tents abide.
But God most high they did provoke,
They tempted Him again;
His testimonies to observe
Their will did not incline.
But, like their fathers, they turned back,
In faithlessness and pride,
And like a false, deceitful bow,
They all were turned aside.
Because to anger they provoked
The Lord with places high,
And with their graven images
Moved Him to jealousy.
When God heard this, He angry was,
And much loathed Israel then:
So Shiloh’s tent He left, the tent
Which He had placed with men.
And He His strength delivered o’er
To long captivity;
He left His glory in the hand
Of His proud enemy.
His people also to the sword
In anger o’er He turned:
Against His own inheritance
His wrath so fiercely burned.
The fire consumed their choice young men;
Their maids no marriage had;
And when their priests fell by the sword,
Their wives no mourning made.
But then the Lord arose, as one
That doth from sleep awake;
And like a giant that, by wine
Refreshed, a shout doth make.
And on the backs of fleeing foes
He caused His strokes to fall,
And to reproach perpetual
He put His enemies all.
Moreover, Joseph’s tent He spurned,
Nor Ephraim’s tribe approved;
But Judah’s tent Jehovah chose,
The Zion Mount he loved.
And like the firm and lofty hills
He built His holy place;
Yea, strong as earth’s foundation fast,
He gave it changeless base.
Of David as His servant then
His sovereign choice did make,
And him, from out the folds of sheep,
The Lord was pleased to take.
From waiting on the suckling ewes,
He brought him forth to feed
His Israel, His inheritance,
His people, Jacob’s seed.
So with integrity of heart
He did them wisely feed;
And with His skillfulness of hands
He did them safely lead.