One of the highlights of Family Camp was taking my children on their very first canoe ride. I had the three children (ages 6, 6, and 2), while Amanda and Tammy were in another canoe. You might think I was brave, but I think it would have more dangerous being in the canoe with Amanda and Tammy with how jumpy and giggly the two of them can get ;)!
As my children were very eager to get out there, the shakiness of the canoe caused them to listen more carefully to my voice. As I sat in the back of the canoe, I could instruct them based upon prior knowledge and experience.
While my voice was helpful in that canoe, they need it even more desperately in their lives.
Our children need a voice in the back of the boat telling them where to go and where not to go. It’s especially beneficial if that voice has been down that path before. In the water, they began to trust that voice behind them because I had done this before. I knew what worked really well, and I also knew what capsized canoes. Listening to my instructions in the water saved us a lot of pain.
How Could You Avoid Danger for Your Children?
Let’s face it: you have lived some life. Your life has contained some moments of brilliance, but I imagine there are also some moments that you wish you could take back. You have walked through trials and temptations, and your scars have stories to tell. The question is: will you be willing to tell your children your stories to ensure they don’t have the same scars that you do?
I want you to think back to some of the worst decisions you made growing up. Is there a decision that you regret? Is there a season of life that you wish could be stricken from the memory books? Did you have a period of time in which you are glad Facebook had yet to be invented so there wasn’t mobile phone uploads of your behavior?
You made mistakes. You have regrets. Do you honestly want your children to repeat some of your wayward ways? Of course not. You pray that your children will not indulge in some of those things that had your attention once. What if I told you that you could shortcut them in life? They could avoid some of those traps if only someone would be in the back of the boat warning them of oncoming danger.
Don’t Be Like Us
In Psalm 78, the psalmist retells periods of Israel’s sinful past in hope that the present generation can avoid future transgressions.
This historical psalm recounting Israel’s sinful past is the second longest psalm, exceeded only by the lengthy Psalm 119.
By the psalm’s form, a priest probably addressed the nation of Israel as his people (Ps 78:1) and delivered the message recorded in Psalm 78.
1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done
5 He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8 and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God. -Psalm 78:1-8
Before the psalmist recounts objective details of how Israel transgressed against the Lord throughout history, he sought first to illuminate the Israelites concerning the spiritual significance (Ps 78:1-3).
The psalmist commanded the hearers to pay attention to these critical words. Since certain elements are absent from this history, the psalmist had purpose in including certain information and neglecting other information.
By the psalmist’s providing certain information, the hearer should be able to make certain conclusions.
While Israel might have desired to forget the past mistakes, those stories are remembered to warn of future possible apostasy (Ps 78:4-7).
As the psalmist relayed their history, a faithful God is pitted against a faithless people. The psalmist hailed Yahweh for his redemptive deeds in Israel’s history. In this psalm, the psalmist appealed to four different generations: the hearers, the ancestors, the future descendants, and the next generation.
The psalmist desired that “from generation to generation, God’s ways and will are to be passed on for children to learn from the sins of their fathers and for God to be known as mighty and glorious.”
If parents are to offer their children any type of education, they must educate their children concerning Yahweh’s deeds.
If the psalmist’s opening message were not clear enough, he then exhorted his hearers simply not to be like their forefathers (Ps 78:8). The present generation was to remember both the great deeds of Yahweh and the disappointing deeds of their forefathers in order to stay faithful to Yahweh.
He established a testimony for himself through the people of Israel (Ps 78:5) in order that they serve as a beacon of truth in a world full of idolatrous people.
In this psalm, the psalmist attempted to educate Israel concerning Yahweh’s past miracles, his commandments to the people, and his reminders of the Law.
If the psalmist were successful in transmitting this information, he also hoped that generation would be faithful to transmit that same message to the next generation (Ps 78:6). Each new generation has an advantage over the last generation in that they can see another example of the consequences of unfaithful living. If this generation were wise, it would turn away from imitating their forefathers’ examples.
Don’t Let Mistakes Pass to the Next Generations
Parents of every generation can learn a great lesson from this psalm: children do not have to make the same mistakes as their parents.
Children do not have to make the same mistakes as their parents.
Whether referring to personal unholiness or national idolatry, parents can educate their children of trodden sinful paths in order to persuade the next generation to follow a different course. In addition to warning children about past apostasy, parents should also inform their children concerning the past wondrous deeds of the Lord. Children of Christian parents might be amazed to hear the testimonies of their parents concerning how God worked in their lives.
If parents would apply this psalmist’s words today, many children would possess a greater foundation needed to forsake sinful choices and embrace a powerful, proven God.