A Look at Psalm 78, Part 1

A Look at Psalm 78, Part 1

Truth78 takes its name from Psalm 78, which captures the heart of our ministry and fuels our passion for the comprehensive discipleship of the next generation. We have also established Psalm 78 Day on July 8 of each year to remind us of the privilege and responsibility of every follower of Jesus Christ to faithfully pass along the truth about God—His will, His work, His ways, His salvation, and His glory—to the next generations. We thought it would be fitting to commemorate this day by presenting the first of a three-part series on Psalm 78, so that you might meditate on the first eight verses of this great psalm with us and be encouraged as we pursue the joy of the next generation together. 

Even though Psalm 78 is second-longest among the psalms, its point, purpose, and motivation for faithful discipleship of the next generation is captured in the first eight verses. Asaph, the psalmist, makes clear that God established a “testimony” and, from the beginning, intended that one generation would pass this testimony to the next.

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, (Psalm 78:5)

Asaph and his audience received this testimony from their fathers (verse 3), who were commanded to teach it to their children (verse 5). This is likely a reference to Deuteronomy 6:6-7—“these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children.” Asaph reinforces this command as well as the assumption and expectation that their children would grow up hearing this testimony and faithfully teach it to their children, who would then grow up and do the same.

Long before Asaph wrote this psalm, God had been making His intentions known to Israel. Later in Deuteronomy 6, Moses exhorts Israel to keep the commandments and do what is right so that "When your son asks you in time to come, 'What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the LORD our God has commanded you?' then you shall say to your son, 'We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt. And the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand” (verses 20-21).  

In Exodus 13, Israel was instructed to devote the first offspring of every womb to the LORD so that “when in time to come your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery” (verse 14).

In Exodus 16, Aaron was instructed to put an omer of manna in a jar and keep it in the ark of the testimony “throughout your generations, so that they may see the bread with which I fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt'" (verse 32).

In Leviticus 23, the LORD established the Feast of Booths so “that your generations may know that I made the people of Israel dwell in booths when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God" (verse 43).

And when Israel crossed the Jordan into the land that the Lord promised to give them, Joshua took 12 stones from the river and set them up on the west side. He did this so that "When your children ask their fathers in times to come, 'What do these stones mean?' then you shall let your children know, 'Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever" (Joshua 4:21-24).

As God gave these instructions, He was looking down through all the generations to come. He was seeing children yet to be born. He was seeing you and me and the children in our family and in our churches. He was seeing those belonging to a future generation that we will never see. He was seeing those yet to be born whom we can impact if we are faithful to the calling to spread this testimony to those children who are within our spheres of influence, instructing them to spread it to those in their spheres of influence and so on until Jesus comes.

Today, we know, love, and trust God through Jesus Christ because there were people of God in every past generation who were faithful to fulfill what we are calling the “Psalm 78 Mandate.” Let’s be such people who are gripped by this mandate and committed to doing all we can to faithfully send this testimony forward to make disciples among all nations and in all generations.

Israel would have understood Asaph’s reference to the “testimony” as the sum of God’s Word to His people. It included not only the Ten Commandments, which were often referred to as the “tablets of the testimony,” but also the whole law, which was the standard that the Lord set for His people. But Asaph has something even greater in mind, which is captured with one word in this passage. That one word is what ignites our zeal for the discipleship of the next generation. And that one word we will explore in Part 2 of this series. In the meantime, may the Lord keep us all faithful in our joyful labors to make His testimony known to the next generations.

Read Part 2: The Testimony

Find ideas for celebrating Psalm 78 Day here.

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