Psalm 78 is a long psalm (72 verses) but it centers around two main themes: teaching the truths and commands of God, and the danger of testing God. The psalmist began with the all-important lesson of teaching the younger generations what God expects. In verses 1-7, the psalmist wrote, “Give ear, O my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done. 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; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments…”
As in the Old Testament scriptures, the New Testament likewise stresses the need to study and know the great truths and principles that are contained in being part of Jesus Christ. Individual Christians MUST GROW in their knowledge and understanding of God and their relationship that they have through the Lord. Knowledge and understanding lead to wisdom, and that is a goal that all children of God must strive to reach.
From personal knowledge and understanding, there is the added need to teach new Christians. In addition, the next generation must learn about the Lord, and the importance of being in Christ. The future of the church rests with the children that are now alive or will be coming in the future.
The results of not teaching and not growing in knowledge and understanding are almost too tragic to consider. The most immediate result is a weak faith that grows weaker rather than stronger. Tied in with this is a situation where Christians don’t truly know why they accepted Christ and cannot communicate that to other people. With no teaching or learning, Christians cannot use the principles found in the New Testament to grow closer to the Lord; and they are unable to apply the principles to daily problems and trials. A lack of teaching and understanding leads to a lack of obedience in doing the Lords’ will. Such disobedience, based upon willful ignorance, is NOT excused. In-fact, lack of teaching and learning indicate an attitude that is not submissive to the Lord. Finally, Christians that do not know the will of God will result in a drifting church that has lost its way. Christian work based upon sound teaching and application, will result in a strong, vigorous, AND faithful church.
Much of the 78th Psalm described the actions of the Israelites who were not obedient to the Lord, and did not learn from what happened to them. “How often they rebelled against him in the desert and vexed the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power the day he redeemed them from the oppressor.” Without knowledge and understanding, God’s actions are forgotten, and any initial commitment begins to fade and eventually becomes unimportant.
In the history of Israel – especially in the wilderness and during the time of the judges – the people constantly tested the Lord God. In the book of Judges, a tragic cycle was followed. The people knew the Lord and were faithful. The next generation did not “know” him and they turned from the Lord. The result was that an oppressor would come and the people would cry to the Lord for help. The Lord would provide a leader and the people would again be free. They would be faithful until the next generation and it would start all over again. It would not be until the people returned from the captivity that the nation would finally put away the problem of turning to idols and being unfaithful to the Lord in that way.
In the days of the psalmist, and today in the church, faithful men and women MUST grow in their love for the Lord, and in their understanding. But then, that love and knowledge must be SHARED with the next generation. Parents teach children through their words AND actions. Friends, neighbors, and fellow workers are brought to the Lord through the actions and application of Christian principles in day to day living.
The commitment of learning the will of God, and COMMUNICATING that will to others through actions and teaching will bring many more people to the Lord, and a beautiful, spiritual tie will be maintained from one generation of believers to the next. <Jim Shelburn>