We Will Tell the Coming Generation

Psalm 78, today’s scheduled Bible reading, extends an invitation:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. 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. (78:1-4)

What sort of glorious deeds and wonders? The psalm continues:

  • God unleashed plagues on the enslavers of his people—rivers to blood, swarms of flies and frogs, locusts, hail, and more (42-51)
  • He guided Israel through the wilderness like a flock (52)
  • He divided the Red Sea so they could pass through it (13)
  • He gave them a law to live by (5)
  • He led them with a cloud by day and a fiery light by night (14)
  • He made water to flow from rocks in the wilderness (15)
  • He rained manna from heaven for them to eat (23-24)
  • He restrained his anger often towards them (38)
  • He brought them to his promised land, driving out the nations before them and settling the tribes in their tents (54-55)
  • He eventually chose a king after his own heart for them (70-72)

An impressive list, but why did these “glorious deeds of the LORD” need to be remembered and shared with each new generation? Why pay attention to the past? Psalm 78 offers two answers:

  1. Despite everything the children of Israel saw and heard, “they refused to walk according to his law” (78:10). “They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them” (78:11). “They did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power” (78:22). “Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant” (78:37).
  2. Each generation bears the responsibility of learning from the mistakes of those who have come before and passing the lessons of history on to the next generation. And so today—in songs and sermons, communion and classes—we will remember and celebrate and teach. Why? “That the next generation might know, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” The goal is bigger than knowing history. The goal is to know and hope in the God of glorious deeds.