A Look at Psalm 78, Part 3: The Goal of Our Instruction

A Look at Psalm 78, Part 3: The Goal of Our Instruction

This is the final post in a series examining Psalm 78:1-8. In part 1, we were reminded that God has established a “testimony” and a “law” that we must teach to our children. In part 2, we focused on this testimony as the sum of God’s revealed Word to His people. It is the record of His deeds and the demonstration of His faithfulness, patience, and steadfast love for His rebellious people from one generation to the next. 

More than just handing a Bible to our children, we are called to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, model trust and confidence in His Word, faithfully walk according to His ways, teach His Word (78:5), and tell to the coming generations His glorious deeds and His might and the wonders He has done (78:4). In verse 4, we are warned not to hide this testimony from our children. Certainly, no well-meaning Christian parent or teacher would willfully hide the truth from children. However, without realizing it, we can focus on only the parts of a Bible story that are particularly exciting or interesting to children. Or we can put so much focus on the characters and stories that we don’t put enough emphasis on what the story reveals about God and His glory. 

To guard against this, it is helpful to consider the goal of our instruction. Why should we faithfully impart to our children the testimony that has been entrusted to us? There is a four-fold answer given in verses 6-7, namely:

  • that our children “might know” the testimony (v. 6)
  • that they will “not forget the works of God” (v. 7)
  • that they will “keep his commandments” (v. 7)
  • “so that they should set their hope in God” (v. 6)

It goes without saying that we invest time and energy in teaching our children the truth so that they would know that truth. Knowledge of the truth is crucial, and yet it is insufficient. Romans 1:21 speaks of God’s wrath being on those who “knew God” but “did not honor him as God or give thanks to him…” Truth must be embraced and acted upon. We often say in our ministry that discipleship must include instructing the mind, engaging the heart, and influencing the will. All three are essential. Parents and teachers have the opportunity to offer the next generation this “three-dimensional” approach that God can use to implant truth deep into their lives.

Not forget
Even deep knowledge of the truth must be retained. If “children yet unborn” (v. 6) are to know the testimony that the Lord has established, then our children must rehearse what we teach them for a lifetime. In our efforts to teach children, it is important to employ strategies to help them remember what they have learned. There is, however, a kind of forgetting that is far more serious than merely not retaining what was learned. We see this spiritually deadly forgetfulness in verse 8 as the psalmist describes the fathers before them as “a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” Included among them were the “Ephraimites,” who were “armed with the bow, turned back on the day of battle,” and “forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them” (vv. 9-13). Our aim is to arm the next generation with the knowledge of the glory of God and the wonders He has done on behalf of His people. As we do that, our earnest prayer is that, when the testing comes and the battle rages in their lives, they will not forget, but remember the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob while standing firm in their faith, not turning back but trusting in the faithfulness and steadfast love of God.

Keep His Commandments
God “appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children” (v. 5) so that they will “keep his commandments” (v. 7). However, we see in Psalm 78 and throughout the Old Testament how Israel failed to “keep God's covenant” and “refused to walk according to his law” (v. 10). There is an important relationship between the law and the gospel that our children need to understand. They will need to know and understand the impossibility of keeping God’s commandments, especially when Jesus’ standards are applied to them (Matthew 5:19ff). We teach our children so that they will keep God’s commandments through Jesus Christ who came to fulfill the law. We teach our children so that Christ might transform their hearts and, unlike the sons of Ephraim, joyfully and wholeheartedly walk in obedience, trusting that God’s way is always right.

Set Their Hope in God
Bottom line, we teach our children “the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (v. 4) so that they should set their hope in God (v. 7). This is the ultimate aim of our discipleship efforts—and the heart of our vision at Truth 78. We want our children to grow up trusting in the name of the Lord our God rather than in the horses and chariots of this world (Psalm 20:7). We want our children trusting in the Lord so that, like Mount Zion, they will not be moved, but abide in Christ forever (Psalm 125:1). When our children are faced with suffering and grieved by various trials, we want the tested genuineness of their faith, which is more precious than gold, “to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Truth78 is committed to inspiring and equipping the home and the Church to faithfully fulfill this Psalm 78 mandate. We are laboring together to intentionally and strategically impart to our children the whole counsel of God’s Word and rehearse the truth with them so that our children would know and not forget God’s ways and walk in obedience to His commands. 

As much as we are able to faithfully tell of God’s glorious deeds and the wonders He has done, we have no control over how our children respond to the truth. We can help them know the truth, but we cannot make them love the truth. We can declare to them the faithfulness and steadfast love of God, but we cannot make them trust Him and hold fast to Him in the day of battle. We cannot prevent them from sinfully forgetting God and turning to the gods of this age for the happiness and comfort their souls crave. We can teach our children what the Lord commands, but we cannot make them delight in His will and joyfully walk in His ways. We cannot make our children hope in God, but we can appeal to the One who can open their eyes to see His glory and who can transform their rebellious hearts and satisfy them with the fullness of all that is theirs in Christ. 

The fulfillment of the Psalm 78 mandate rests solely on the grace of God. He is the one at work in their lives to accomplish His purposes. Our mandate is to faithfully teach, earnestly pray, and trust God with all our hearts that the next generation might know and set their hope in God and not forget the works of God but keep His commandments (Psalm 78:6-7). May God help us for His glory and for the joy of the next generations.

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