Daybreak: Psalm 78:1-72
“For he [God] 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, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children.” (Psalm 78:5-6)
Ten-year-old Patrick was blessed to be born into a Christian home where both parents are serving the Lord. His grandparents also are Christians, and his great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents were also followers of Christ. Each generation in the family has been careful to pass on their Christian heritage.
Recently, Patrick and his classmates were instructed to write an essay about someone they admire. Patrick titled his composition, “I Admire Jesus.” He wrote, in part [original spelling retained]:
“I admire Jesus because He is who I follow. Along time ago, Adam and Eve sinned to the lord. Adam and Eve were the first human beings on Earth. God created Earth. When Adam and Eve sinned, It made everyone have Sin in there heart when they are born. Its our duty to pray and ask forgiveness from Jesus for your sins. Then He knows that you are sorry. At the end of time, Jesus will be bringing everyone who is saved to Heaven. The most wonderful place in life! When people do not get saved and die then they go to Hell. A place that is a big lake of lava and you do not die, but you feel the pain. You can’t exscape Hell. You live there forever…When you have Jesus in your heart, your life will be way better and not much problems. Jesus has a lot of stories and there all in the Bible. You do not put anything on the bible. It’s the Lords word. Do not stack away the bible. You need to be close to the lord. So get saved and closer to the lord. You will have a good life. Read the Bible and pray every day!”
That is a lot of theology expressed in one short essay! Clearly, Patrick has been absorbing what is taught him.
In our focus verse, the psalmist reminded Israel that each generation should make known to their children God’s commandments so they would not be lost or forgotten from generation to generation. God’s statutes are designed to bring happiness and fulfillment through righteous living. His desire is for parents to instruct their children in how to implement God’s will in their daily lives. If parents will strive to fulfill this responsibility, their children and grandchildren will learn about God’s plan of salvation and the blessings that come with obeying His commandments. Patrick’s essay is clear proof of that!
Children learn a great deal from the example their parents set before them, in both word and deed. Repetition also plays a big role, making it essential to regularly take them to Sunday school and church, and to point to God’s Word as the guideline for making decisions and choices.
Repeat it often. Live it before them. Our children are the most important mission field we have!
Psalm 78 is attributed to Asaph, and is a Maschil, or teaching psalm, in the form of a hymn. The first and lengthiest of the historical psalms, it recaps highlights from Israel’s history from the time of slavery in Egypt to David’s reign. Because of the distinctive references to Ephraim and Judah, this psalm may have been written after the twelve tribes split into two kingdoms, but before the Babylonian captivity since the Temple still existed in Jerusalem. The psalm stresses that disobedience always results in judgment, and that each generation must pass on God’s commandments to the next, so they will not forget God and repeat the failures of their ancestors.
The opening verses are a call to instruction. In them, the psalmist pled with his people to pay close attention as he recounted the “parable” (comparison) of Israel’s history to make known the “dark sayings” (riddles or allegorical stories) of ancient wisdom imparted by their forefathers. Verse 5 establishes the authority for the psalmist’s teaching: “He” (God) was the One who appointed the Law for Israel. Verses 6-8 provide six reasons why parents are to teach their children the things of God.
Verses 9-11 single out the “children of Ephraim” for special rebuke. (Since Ephraim was the leading tribe of the Northern Kingdom, it was often used to reference the entire nation.) Three reasons are given: they fled in the day of battle, they rejected the covenant of God, and they forgot what He had done for them.
Verse 12 begins the summary of God’s awe-inspiring works on Israel’s behalf when He delivered them from bondage in Egypt. The “field of Zoan” likely referred to the region in lower Egypt where the Israelites lived. The psalmist then recited a litany of occurrences in which Israel’s conduct was faithless and vacillating, although at times divine judgment brought temporary repentance. Verses 40-64 revert back to the events surrounding the Exodus from Egypt. Despite the repeated manifestations of God’s power, the people “provoked the most high God, and kept not his testimonies” (verse 56).
Because of Israel’s rejection of Him, God forsook the Tabernacle in Shiloh (located in the land possessed by the tribe of Ephraim), and delivered the Ark of the Covenant — called His “strength and glory” — into enemy hands. This occurred when the Ark was taken by the Philistines and never returned to Shiloh (see 1 Samuel 4). Israel’s disobedience caused them to be defeated in battle and their young men to be killed. Israel’s priests were also killed, and due to the dire circumstances, there were no opportunities for the public mourning which was a common practice in those days (verse 64).
In verses 65-72, the psalmist described a revival of Israel’s blessings. The victories alluded to in verse 66 may have been the series of conquests over the Philistines by Samuel, Saul, and David. God rejected Ephraim as the location for His Tabernacle, and instead chose Mount Zion (Jerusalem) located in Judah, where He established His sanctuary.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- In verses 6-8, why did the psalmist say it was so vital for parents to diligently teach God’s precepts to their children?
- Why do you think Israel continued to reject God after He had performed so many miracles on their behalf?
- What are some ways you can pass on the teachings of God’s Word to the next generation?
If we set a godly example and faithfully teach our children from the Word of God, they will understand the necessity of following His will in their lives, and will be prepared to transmit the same instruction to the next generation.