Psalm 78 (Psalms on the Trail)

Psalm 78

They spoke against God and said,

“Can God spread a table in the wilderness?

Even though God struck the rock

so that torrents flowed out and waters overflowed,

can God also give bread or provide meat for God’s people?”  Psalm 78:19,20

A hiker in the eastern U.S. can usually count on encountering water somewhere on a day’s trek, but almost no hiker goes off into the wilderness without food.  Okay, there are a few exceptions.  There are those who think they know the vegetation enough to subsist on roots and berries—wasn’t there a TV show about that?—but even that’s got to be hard to do on the impoverished soil of the mountain ridges.  I found three small morels along the trail one day and four of us shared them. Once a backpacker was leaving the trail and offered some of us his extra food rather than pack it out.  One time I was fed an evening meal by a volunteer trail maintenance crew camped in a farm field along the trail.  Once the trail came within walking distance of a lodge with the most magnificent, reasonably priced all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet imaginable.  Probably the most fun, however, was when we met a local librarian and history buff day-hiking in his kilt and home-made, authentic Scottish leather shoes.  His car happened to be parked on the remote dirt road near where some of our tents were set up.  He regaled us with stories of Appalachian highlanders, local bears and civil war reenactments.  His car trunk also had ten-year-old hard tack (for the sake of teeth, I passed on that)  and cans of beer.  The evening with five of us strangers was a table in the wilderness—-a feast of conversation, if not a lot of food.

The psalmist bemoans a time when God’s people didn’t trust there would be food in the wilderness.  Understandable.  Don’t we have times like that?  And sometimes we bemoan the fact that as attendance and resources dwindle in churches around the country it seems like a wilderness.   Since coming back from the trail, I have started hanging out in the local coffee shop once a week with my laptop.  Some days are quiet and I get a lot of emails and prep work done.  Often, however, it is a day of conversations with people in the community around the tables.  Most of the time I wear my clerics so people can guess that I must have something to do with the church—for good or ill.   I meet people I would never know otherwise, catch up on the news with some regulars, occasionally end up with impromptu counseling, make connections introducing people to others who have a common interest or purpose.  Even people from our congregation prefer to talk with me over coffee in this neutral territory—and even pray too. The owner?  She’s glad I bring in business.  Yes, God can provide a feast in the wilderness of our busy lives—sometimes we just have to go out looking for it.


1.  Take this verse with you and ponder its meaning for you throughout the day.  What do you notice?  What do you wonder?  Can you point to a time when God has set an unexpected “feast” (in however you want to use that term) for you?

2. Or read all of Psalm 78 to discover how this verse fits into the psalm or to discover a different verse.

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that illustrates this verse’s meaning for you.

Tomorrow’s verse is from Psalm 79.

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting a daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.



  1. I like the description of your “office hours”….:-)