“I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter hidden things, things from of old.”
Psalm 78 is an instruction Psalm written by Asaph. Its purpose is to anchor God’s people in the Biblical means of understanding and applying their history. Such Biblical history must be understood, applied to real life, and taught to the coming generations. It is to be the means by which God’s people become rooted in the covenant that God has made with them.
In introducing his theme Asaph writes prophetically. In Psalm 78:2 he speaks about his method. He will open his mouth in parables; he will utter mysteries of old. These words are later to be quoted by the LORD Jesus Christ as the method by which our LORD will proclaim the Gospel of His Kingdom to this sin sick world. This is made clear in Matthew 13:35. Asaph, the prophet, point to the Biblical method used by our LORD Jesus Christ.
If this is the method of the Psalmist, and of the LORD Jesus Christ, why then would we not continue to follow it today? What Asaph instructs us in, is a deep familiarity with, and application of the Biblical message. Such preaching and teaching casts us back into the message of the Word of God, with its doctrines, its invitations, and its warnings.
In his book Knowing the Times (The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1989, p. 5-6) D.M. Lloyd-Jones outlines this Biblical approach for our days in the proclamation of the Gospel.
“Having done that, we shall find that the following great foundation principles stand out very clearly as governing this whole subject.
- The supreme object of this work is to glorify God. That is the central thing. That is the object that must control and override every other object. The first object of preaching the gospel is not to save souls; it is to glorify God. Nothing else, however good in itself, or however noble, must be allowed to usurp that first place.
- The only power that can really do this work is the Holy Spirit. Whatever natural gifts a man may possess, whatever a man may be able to do as a result of his own natural propensities, the work of presenting the gospel and of leading to that supreme object of glorifying God in the salvation of men, is a work that can be done only by the Holy Spirit. You see that in the New Testament itself. Apart from the Spirit, we are told, we can do nothing. You read in the Bible of men attempting to do things in their own strength, but they fail completely. In the subsequent history of the Christian church you find men who cease to be instruments of the Holy Spirit, and their ministry at once becomes barren. There was no change in their natural powers, proving, therefore, that the work is a work which ultimately can only be achieved by the Holy Spirit Himself.
- The one and only medium through which the Holy Spirit works is the Word of God. That is something which I can prove quite easily. Take the sermon which was preached by Peter at Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. What he did really was to expound the Scriptures. He did not get up and give an account of his own personal experiences. He unfolded the Scriptures; that was always his method. And that was also the characteristic method of Paul, the ‘he reasoned out of the Scriptures’ (Acts 17:2). When he dealt with the Philippian jailer you find that he preached to him Jesus Christ and the Word of the LORD. You will remember his words in the First Letter to Timothy, where he says that it is the will of God that all men should be saved, and brought to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tem. 2:4). The medium which is used by the Holy Spirit is the truth.
- The fourth principle, therefore, is that the true urge to evangelization must come from apprehending these principles, and, therefore, from a zeal for the honour and glory of God and a love for the souls of men.
- There is a constant danger of error and of heresy, even among the most sincere, and also a danger of false zeal and the employment of unscriptural methods. There is nothing to which we are exhorted more frequently in the New Testament than for the need for a constant self-examination and a return to the Scriptures themselves.
There, I think, you have five foundation principles which are taught very clearly in the Word of God, and which are confirmed abundantly in the subsequent history of the Christian church.”