(Maschil of Asaph.)


Living lives of purpose before God is the great objective of the Truth. It sets His people far apart from the inhabitants of the world, who seek lives of personal gratification, but end with lives that are insipid and aimless, because no higher cause lights a flame, and no guiding star points the way.

In contrast to the emptiness of such unfulfilled lives, this family knew their purpose, and every generation lived it. They sought to teach Israel what it meant to ascend into the majesty of the divine presence 1 but it was not just their song that gave instruction, it was their godly lives. Here was an example of such breathtaking devotion, of such deep commitment, that their history could only humble and amaze all who read its record.

How our hearts wish that we might share their fervency, taste their intensity, and know their love! And yet we can, if we choose to learn from them, for their story was preserved so that we might be inspired by their example, and seek to keep their spirit alive, in our own songs of thanks and praise.

One of the great lessons this household learned was that what they could accomplish as a family far exceeded what any one of them could have done on their own. It took, however, a rare faith to perceive it, and a special humility to accept it. Theirs were lives of mutual support for the greater good, and it was one of the hallmarks the family left behind.

lt was a lesson and a legacy which other families should heed, for we could do no better than to capture their spirit of faithfulness and their sense of heritage, and pass it to the generation to come.

The House of Asaph were skilled in this task, because of their unique involvement in the music of worship. As each child came of age, they were pressed into the service of song, and their training began. Gradually, as they learned their songs, words, and music, the standards of the family were carefully and thoroughly inscribed upon the heart. 2

This was a deliberate work, and vital to the family's purpose. Few were those who inculcated their family principles with such care, or in such depth. But the vow of this family, that they would "shew forth thy praise to all generations" was no idle boast, for it depended upon the diligence of their household education. 3

In all the circumstances of life, this family had learned to ascend into the presence of Yahweh. 4 When they were singing their songs at the sanctuary, the nearness of the ark helped to focus their mind on the reality of God. But there were other times, when they could not attend the sanctuary, or when the ark was no longer present, or when they were not even in the land of promise itself.

Yet, wherever they were, and whatever their state, they were acutely aware of the divine presence. They had learned the principle of focus and concentration, so that they could come before Him in heart and mind.

1 Chronicle - 16:29.

2 That work of family instruction is outlined in one of their family psalms (Psalm 78:1-7). The word used (caphar) means 'to inscribe, to mark, to record, to recount, to celebrate'. It is used three times (verses 3,4,6) concerning the continuous process of education that was handed down to each "generation to come".

3 Psalm 79:13. Note margin: "to generation and generation."

4 This idea of living before God, and of being constantly in His presence, is one of the most pervasive thoughts in the psalms of the House of Asaph (Psalms 73:23-28; 74:12,22; 75:1; 76:7,11; 79:11-13; 80:1-3,7,19; 81:1; 82:8; 83:1,17,18).

Bro Roger Lewis

1  Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

As their song was sounded day by day, their singing became more deliberate, more determined, more decided. The routine of a new life in Babylon became the settled way, but beneath the surface, the family hymn was their vow of steadfast dedication that the Truth would be preserved.

There was a secret blessing here with the families of the singers dispersed among the towns. For, just as the Levites of old were scattered throughout the tribes to dispense the blessing of divine instruction in their land, so now the House of Asaph was dispersed among their own to bring the blessing of divine song to the captivity.

Each day, after the manner of the temple service, the temple hymns arose afresh. Their brethren of the house of Judah, passing by the houses of the singers, heard the words and tunes of their ancient hymns, and the songs brought tears to their eyes. Never had the sanctuary seemed so close. Never had it felt so far away.

Bro Roger Lewis - The House of Asaph Ch 9

2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:

When Christ came, he cloaked his wisdom in parables, that they might remain in their ignorance, and become subject to the judgment of God. Yet even then, his teaching was plain enough to be understood by those who gave close attention, and gave that respect to God which is His due.

And he gave them to understand that the principle exemplified in the national blindness would operate in individual cases. He said (Mark 4:24]:

"To you that hear shall more be given, and he that hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he hath."

So that any one earnestly attending to what Christ taught, would be helped to understand; while those who stood contemptuously and self-sufficiently apart, doing dishonour to God, would be deprived of what wisdom they had, in being left to their evil ways.

The lesson is, that those who neglect or hold loosely what they have, are in danger of being deserted by God, and led into ways that shall be for hurt.

The principle was again exemplified in the first generation of gospel believers. These were greatly privileged in having the teaching of the Spirit visibly in their midst; but like the Israelites who came out of Egypt under Moses, they grew accustomed to marvels, and conceived the idea that these things were in some way their right; that the apostles were only fellow-partakers of a common benefit, and had no more superiority among men than themselves.

Hence arose false apostles. Many false brethren crept in, to whom the others listened. Many followed their pernicious ways. They dabbled in doctrines and disputed greatly about them, but it was the perverse disputing of men of corrupt minds. They received not the love of the truth.

What was the consequence? Jesus hinted at this, in his message to the seven ecclesias, that he would remove the candlestick out of its place.

The Christadelphian, May 1874

Verses 1-16: Yahweh's goodness toward His people Israel

2 I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:

3 Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.

4 We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Yahweh, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

5 For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:

6 That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:

7 That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:

8 And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with El.

9 The children of Ephraim, being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle.

10 They kept not the covenant of Elohim, and refused to walk in his law;

11 And forgat his works, and his wonders that he had shewed them.

12 Marvellous things did he in the sight of their fathers, in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13 He divided the sea, and caused them to pass through; and he made the waters to stand as an heap.

14 In the daytime also he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a light of fire.

15 He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.

16 He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.

vv. 17-33, Israel - Rebellions and punishment;

17 And they sinned yet more against him by provoking the most High in the wilderness.

18 And they tempted Elohim in their heart by asking meat for their lust.

19 Yea, they spake against Elohim; they said, Can Elohim furnish a table in the wilderness?

20 Behold, he smote the rock, that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; can he give bread also? can he provide flesh for his people?

21 Therefore the Yahweh heard this, and was wroth: so a fire was kindled against Jacob, and anger also came up against Israel;

22 Because they believed not in Elohim, and trusted not in his salvation:

23 Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven,

24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.

25 Man did eat angels' food: he sent them meat to the full.

26 He caused an east wind to blow in the heaven: and by his power he brought in the south wind.

27 He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea:

28 And he let it fall in the midst of their camp, round about their habitations.

29 So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire;

30 They were not estranged from their lust. But while their meat was yet in their mouths,

31 The wrath of Elohim came upon them, and slew the fattest of them, and smote down the chosen men of Israel.

32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.

33 Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble.

vv. 34-37 Israel - feigned repentance

34 When he slew them, then they sought him: and they returned and enquired early after Elohim.

35 And they remembered that Elohim was their rock, and the high Elohim their redeemer.

36 Nevertheless they did flatter him with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues.

37 For their heart was not right with him, neither were they stedfast in his covenant.

vv 38-39, Yahweh's compassion toward Israel

38 But he, being full of compassion, forgave their iniquity, and destroyed them not: yea, many a time turned he his anger away, and did not stir up all his wrath.

39 For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

See Eur 2 p246-249 Souls

There is much in this for our personal consolation. We have been brought into relation with the God of Israel, in our subjection to the gospel of His Son. We have become His sons and daughters if our faith is one that is alive, working by love, in the obedience of His commandments. In this position how naturally - naturally to the spiritual man - we turn our thoughts towards "Him with whom we have to do." If we could not find comfort in our contemplations of Him, how comfortless we should be.

We are poor and weak ourselves in all senses. We have no mental resources of any account. In the flesh dwelleth no good thing. We delight in the law of God after the inner man: but we find a distressing impotence in the direction of spiritual accomplishment, which would bow us to earth with despair were it not for the encouragement we draw from "the God of all comfort" in our contemplations of Him as revealed.

He is presented to us as our Father, compassionate of our weakness, and appreciative of our dependence. Jesus made this aspect of Him very prominent in his communications with the disciples.

"My Father and your Father";

"The Father himself loveth you";

"Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of before ye ask him";

"Ye are of more value than many sparrows";

"The Father who seeth in secret shall reward thee openly".

We do well to avail ourselves of the full wealth of comfort there is in these words. Our weakness and our cloud are all our own. They are incidental to the weak nature we have. They no more interfere with His kindness than the mountain mist interferes with the brightness of the sun.

Our weakness may incapacitate us for rejoicing in the Lord at all times: but the Lord is there all the same, to rejoice in. In the Lord Yahweh is everlasting strength, and in the mental sense, we can always draw upon Him for sustenance. We can always lean on the Rock that is higher than all. We learn at last to say with the Psalmist:

"Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."

Seasons 1.75.

39 For he remembered that they were but flesh; a wind that passeth away, and cometh not again.

See Eur 2 p246-249 (Logos) Souls

vv. 40-42, Israel - their backsliding and forgetfulness of His mercy

40 How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!

41 Yea, they turned back and tempted Elohim, and limited the Holy One of Israel.

42 They remembered not his hand, nor the day when he delivered them from the enemy.

43 How he had wrought his signs in Egypt, and his wonders in the field of Zoan:

44 And had turned their rivers into blood; and their floods, that they could not drink.

45 He sent divers sorts of flies among them, which devoured them; and frogs, which destroyed them.

46 He gave also their increase unto the caterpiller, and their labour unto the locust.

47 He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycomore trees with frost.

48 He gave up their cattle also to the hail, and their flocks to hot thunderbolts.

49 He cast upon them the fierceness of his anger, wrath, and indignation, and trouble, by sending evil angels among them.

"messengers of evil," not "evil angels." Context deals with the Exodus. The messengers of evil are no other than Moses and Aaron sent by Elohim to warn and denounce Pharaoh and inflict the several judgment plagues against Egypt because of Pharaoh's refusal to listen to them - the last plague being the worst. In this sense they were the messengers of evil, or affliction.

Sis Valerie Mello

50 He made a way to his anger; he spared not their soul from death, but gave their life over to the pestilence;

51 And smote all the firstborn in Egypt; the chief of their strength in the tabernacles of Ham:

vv52-58, Yahweh delivers His people from Egyptian slavery and the peoples' repeated ingratitude and disobedience

52 But made his own people to go forth like sheep, and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.

53 And he led them on safely, so that they feared not: but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.

54 And he brought them to the border of his sanctuary, even to this mountain, which his right hand had purchased.

55 He cast out the heathen also before them, and divided them an inheritance by line, and made the tribes of Israel to dwell in their tents.

56 Yet they tempted and provoked the most high Elohim, and kept not his testimonies:

57 But turned back, and dealt unfaithfully like their fathers: they were turned aside like a deceitful bow.

58 For they provoked him to anger with their high places, and moved him to jealousy with their graven images.

vv. 59-64, their punishment

59 When Elohim heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel:

60 So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men;

61 And delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemy's hand.

62 He gave his people over also unto the sword; and was wroth with his inheritance.

63 The fire consumed their young men; and their maidens were not given to marriage.

64 Their priests fell by the sword; and their widows made no lamentation.

vv. 65-66, Elohim's wrath against Israel's adversaries;

65 Then the Yahweh awaked as one out of sleep, and like a mighty man that shouteth by reason of wine.

66 And he smote his enemies in the hinder parts: he put them to a perpetual reproach.

vv. 67-72, Elohim's rejection of the tribe of Israel, His choice of the tribe of Judah, and Elohim's choice of David to be king over His people.

67 Moreover he refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim:

68 But chose the tribe of Judah, the mount Zion which he loved.

69 And he built his sanctuary like high palaces, like the earth which he hath established for ever.

70 He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds:

71 From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance.

72 So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.