O my people, listen to my instructions.
Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable.
I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—
stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us.
We will not hide these truths from our children;
we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord,
about his power and his mighty wonders.
(Psalm 78:1-4, NLT)
My wife and I are blessed to have three wonderful children, who are married to three wonderful spouses, and who are raising eight fabulous grandchildren (so far). If you’ve ever been a parent, you know that raising kids is a long-term investment—the benefits are not immediately available, and future rewards won’t come without cost and sacrifice. There is the financial investment, of course, but there is also an emotional and physical cost. Our children are our responsibility, and if we take that responsibility seriously there is a price to pay—in blood, sweat and tears, as well as dollars. To all of you parents who are in the thick of that, I want to say, “Hang in there, your investment can make a difference, to your kids and to the world!”
Let’s face it, raising kids is hard. Grandkids, on the other hand, are the best return on investment you could ever hope for! It’s like someone else is continually depositing into our account, and we get to continually benefit from their hard work! When families are operating at their best, the blessings are exponential. All the life lessons, good and bad, produce the long-term dividends we had worked and hoped for. All the blood, sweat and tears finally pay off…it’s worth it!
In Psalm 78, Asaph writes a (very long) song that encourages us to invest in our children spiritually as well. He begins the song by imploring his people to listen to his instructions (vs. 1). Or does he? Is Asaph speaking with his own voice or is it God’s voice speaking through him? The word translated “instructions” here comes from the Hebrew word torah, which refers to God’s law. What Asaph hopes to teach the people—what he wants them to “tell the next generation” is God’s instruction…God’s word revealed in scripture. And that’s what he proceeds to do.
Asaph tells the story of Israel’s exodus—how God freed them from bondage in Egypt (vs. 43-53); how he led them and cared for them miraculously for forty years in the desert (vs. 12-16, 23-29); how he brought them into the promised land (vs. 54-55); and how he established His kingdom (vs. 69-72). But there is more to this story than God’s goodness and faithfulness. The story is a story of people continually abusing God’s grace, ignoring God’s laws and rejecting God’s claim on their lives (vs. 10, 17, 22, 32, 37, 40, 58). It’s a story of “putting God to the test” again and again (vs. 18, 41, 56). Would God be faithful in spite of their sinfulness? The answer is “yes!”
Through Asaph, God’s story is told, God’s instructions are communicated, God’s truth is revealed…life lessons are passed on from generation to generation.
God intends us to learn life lessons. It’s how He teaches, how He guides and guards us, how He brings us into the life He is offering us…life in relationship with Him. There is so much Psalm 78 has to teach us, but I want to focus on how this song teaches us to teach.
We begin to teach godly life lessons by hearing the truth. Asaph begins the song with a simple command, “listen!” If we hope to teach God’s truth it begins be listening—hearing the words of scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit. Asaph proceeds to tell us that his song is a parable, describing its lessons as hidden truths. Even though he acknowledges that these are “stories we have heard and known,” they require understanding. The Holy Spirit continues to guide us by learning the truth, through reflecting prayerfully on our experiences with God. The story of God isn’t simply a story to be told, it is a story to be learned…a story to be revealed. And God’s story isn’t intended to be heard and learned in private, Asaph encourages God’s congregation to be engaged in sharing the truth. “We will not hide these truths from our children, we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord.” (vs. 4)
The best life lessons are taught by the Word of God, revealed by the Spirit of God, shared in the community of God.
Nearly 1000 years after God spoke His word through Asaph, Jesus—God the Son—came to teach us a much clearer, compelling revelation of God’s truth. Matthew quotes Psalm 78 in his description of Jesus’ teaching, “he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.” (Matthew 13:34-35)
Not only did Jesus teach the word of God, Jesus was the Word of God in the flesh (John 1:14). He was and is the truth (John 14:6). He was and is the new and better revelation from God. (Hebrews 1:1-3). Do you want to know the truth? Get to know Jesus! Do you want to give your children and grandchildren a gift that promises exponential returns? Make a spiritual investment in their lives. Teach them Jesus! Let them hear his story; help them learn his story; invite them to share his story with you and with the world. He was and is the Living Water…always stay thirsty for him!
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