Tell the Next Generation

Psalm 78:1-8

In his book WHEN YOU’VE BEEN WRONGED (Moody), Erwin Lutzer tells this story:

A young pastor began a ministry on Saturday mornings to the inmates of the local county jail. Each week he’d go into the jail cells and conduct Bible studies and prayer sessions among the inmates — mostly young white men who were doing time for anything from burglary to habitual drug use. As he’d enter the jail the despair and anger among these nineteen to twenty-four-year-olds was palpable.

When the young pastor asked the warden how so many young men with great promise could end up in such a place, the warden sighed and said, ‘This place is filled with boys who got tired of waiting for their dads to keep their promises — promises to provide, promises to show up and spend time with them, promises to come home at night — they finally got so angry with the injustice of it, they went out and did stupid things.’

Likely true of many residents at gated community down the road a couple miles. When you think about it, was far more than promises at stake. Parents, dads especially, are ones who have first and best shot at communicating values and principles to children. Certainly absent dads cannot carry out that part of their responsibility. Truth is, though, present dads and moms don’t always do such a good job. Christian parents who are the ones best equipped (God’s Word and Spirit) fail in their duties also.

When it comes to providing spiritual training for children, primary responsibility falls on dad and mom – see Deut. 6:4-9. Church family and opportunities serve support role, same is true for Christian school. Understanding of God and his Word and his ways best passed on at home through instruction and example. Biblical principle is that parents have safety net, those who can help them and stand in the gap if necessary. Their identity: grandparents! “Teach them to your children and your grandchildren.” (Deut 4:9) And… don’t be afraid to “adopt”, being an influence for good in lives of kids who need the help.

First 8 verses of psalm an introduction that lays out principles – “Telling to the generation to come the praises of the LORD, And His strength and His wonderful works that He has done.” (v.4) Then balance of psalm an example of what needs to be told next generation.

A. our fathers told us v.1-3

important principle, important topic, requires serious attention – “listen up!!”

can come up / be addressed in course of casual conversation but… lessons we are to learn from God’s dealings with his people far too important to be treated in offhand way

more concerned with lessons than precise details of history

hence, “parables” and “dark sayings” – facts, details are easily acquired; lessons not so much

especially when considering redemptive history (the Story of Hope) spiritual discernment necessary for full understanding

had come down generational tree as far as Asaph

God expects his children to know their history

about far more than learning from past so as not to repeat same dumb mistakes; knowing our future requires knowing our past

John 8:14Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going.”

B. we will not hide them v.4a

important to communicate the meaning behind the facts – why did these events take place this way, what was God’s purpose, how did God expect his people to respond

we don’t always have all those answers; can start with ones that are given in God’s Word, ones that have been communicated to us, ones that we have lived

history of the church, missionary biographies just a couple other sources of material for instruction

in process of teaching, along with internal work of Holy Spirit, will be equipping next generation to recognize God at work in their experience

should be instructing more than just facts – the principles of how to recognize God at work, how to understand his purposes, proper response, application of what has been learned

shouldn’t expect the kids to figure it out on their own

usual way is that God gives children to parents who are adults, have more experience, wisdom because kids don’t, and need it

C. telling the generation to come v.4b-5

requires words, not images

pictures are inadequate to communicate spiritual truths – leave out details, subject to misunderstanding

just like praying to God – if only use that identifier (God), which one is being addressed? psalmist makes it clear

requires generational connections: our fathers, their children, present generation, the generation to come, their children

God takes long view – 5 generations (at least) identified here, expects there will be contact and influence from one to next and next and next

should invest not only in children but in grands and great-grands; by extension, any one of younger generation

tell them, show them, read to them about who God is and what he has done at every opportunity

those who despise history, what is old, do so at great peril; God takes it seriously and “promotes” its value for future generations

its greatest value is in the witness / testimony of himself God has left throughout history, especially in “Israel”

D. that they might know v.6a

knowledge in view here is kind that includes understanding and application – knowledge that can work

knowing the facts, the details – understanding the reason / purpose / place it has in God’s plan – applying principles involved to personal life

it’s kind of knowledge that is life-changing: informs setting of priorities, making choices, establishing goals

requires sufficient understanding so truths can be communicated to others

it’s a kind of knowledge that is too valuable to “hoard”; must be shared especially in light of it’s connection with hope

E. that they might tell v.6b

God’s general practice is to work in families – generation after generation; pattern is obvious in OT – that’s why genealogies

see Jukes and Edwards anecdotes

expects tradition of passing along truth to continue, to be encouraged and enabled by parents and grandparents

it’s an integral part of a godly heritage; the treasure and the ‘wits’ to properly use it must be shared

means kids are to be equipped with knowledge and understanding so that they will tell their kids

thank God for GNC and SS teachers and others who work to break cycle for children from ungodly families

side note: key to family is the dad; influence dad (or future dad) and will change the family

F. that they might hope v.7a

those young men in story at the start – they lost hope in their dads, had no other hope to take its place

it’s sad story that is repeated over and over every day and in every neighborhood – people come into world without genuine hope, most leave it the same way

hopelessness at root of many of society’s ills – it can’t get any better, it doesn’t matter, life stinks and then you die – that mindset fuels foolish and destructive behaviors and choices

parents are not friends who offer suggestions to their children – they are trainers, of mind as well as body

Eph. 6:4but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

purpose / goal of declaring God’s ways to next generation: that children would trust in God, purposefully setting placing their confidence in God of whom they have learned

hope found in God through faith in Christ the greatest treasure known to mankind; but, for people to put their confidence, their hope in God, must know God because they’ve heard about him

Rom. 10:14But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

G. that they might not forget v.7b-8

second purpose of instruction: godly lifestyle of obedience to God’s commands

not like their fathers who were

forgetful – barely got out of Egypt, “forgot” who the God was that clearly demonstrated his superiority over all other gods, desired and made an idol to worship and follow

forgetfulness really equivalent to unbelief; not that they didn’t remember what God had done, they chose not to continue trusting in him

disobedient, stubborn and rebellious: “Fathers stubborn in their own way, and rebellious against God’s way, are sorry examples for their children.” CHS

not loyal to God – gave their affection and trust to things / people other than God; not just idols

“give us a king”; “some trust in chariots”; trust in self – evident in wrong marriages, breaking the Sabbath

not faithful to God – at best, took God’s faithfulness for granted; at worst, didn’t even give God credit for blessings that came from him; in most cases, did not respond to God’s care of them with proper devotion

continued faithfulness to God requires continued reminders of his truth

truth has value; God’s truth – what has come to us from the very mouth of God – accomplishes what nothing else can

God’s truth accompanied by God’s Spirit has the power to teach, reprove, correct, train in righteousness, equip for good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

The challenge to us: we have the goods – God’s Word, God’s Spirit, an understanding of God’s ways and works. Must do our best with God’s help to communicate those truths to the next generation and the next and the next. Starts with family, those closest to us. Moves out from there to church family. Then to those within our “sphere of influence” – Good News Club, neighborhood contacts, at the gym, wherever there are those who need to hear. May God loosen our tongues that we might speak freely and often of him.

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