PAST stories of God’s PROVIDENCE inspire FUTURE acts of FAITH: "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...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; and may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God." (Psalms 78:4, 6-8)
Psalms 78 is one of the two historical psalms (the other being Psalms 105) that traces all the significant moments of Israel’s history, and details God’s mighty acts on behalf of His people of Israel. The biblical history of Israel covers a comprehensive period of 1,800 years and represents a marvelous panorama of God’s gracious working through promises, miracles, blessing, and judgment. The writer, Asaph, begins this psalm with an appeal to reflect on the past, particularly on the occasion of the giving of the Sinai Covenant (v. 5), and learn from the past mistakes of the ancestors. The key objective of this psalm is specified in verse 7: “that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God.”
God had established a relationship with the Israelites even as He gave them important laws to live by and show their loyalty to Him. These laws were summarized in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20; Deut. 5), and these laws and faith principles were to be passed along from generation to generation (Deut. 6:4–9; 32:7). Adam Clarke notes that at least five generations appear to be mentioned in verses 4-8: (1) fathers; (2) their children; (3) the generation to come; (4) their children; (5) and their children. God had appointed laws, statutes, testimonies and commandments in Israel so that from generation to generation there would be oral transmission of God’s divine dealings to future generations. This instruction process was to continue so that future generations would be aware of God’s mighty acts and commands!
God gave His laws to Israel with instructions that it be faithfully transmitted to succeeding generations. There are six reasons mentioned in verses 6–8 as to why parents are to instruct their children in the things of the Lord:
- That the generation to come might know them;
- That the generation would declare them to their children to transmit this knowledge;
- That the generation would set their hope in God;
- That the generation would not forget the works of God;
- That the generation would keep the commandments of God;
- That the generation would not imitate their fathers in their stubbornness and rebellion.
Let us always remember that past stories of God’s providence inspire future acts of faith. In Psalms 78, Asaph was aware of the possibility of God’s mighty works being forgotten, so he exhorted the people of God to continue telling the inspiring stories of God’s redemptive acts to future generations (v. 4). This would actually inspire faith, obedience and hope in Jehovah God (v. 7), and keep future generations from indulging in unbelief and rebellion like that of previous generations (v. 8).
Just as our parents passed down to us a record of the past, so we are obligated to pass on to the next generation an account of God’s dealings with His people in grace and government. Because of God’s mighty power and grace in our lives, we must be faithful to recount the wonderful works of God in order to inspire faith and obedience in our future generations!