Title: Passing On the Faith
Text: Psalm 78
Psalm 78 is a song about discipleship: passing on God’s mercy to our children. In times of duress and stress, it is so important that our Children know of God’s goodness.
There are times in our lives that we’re just like the people in the Bible: we walk away from what we know is best. We fail, we fall, we sin, we rebel. In those moments of disobedience, God will not bless us in our sin. I think that’s a hard and fast principle we could write down. God will not bless us in our sin and rebellion.
But we look at it differently, for some reason it seems God has abandoned us. And that just isn’t the case. There are numerous passages in the Psalms we could choose from to learn these principles. They’re often called Wisdom Psalms (1; 14; 37; 49; 53; 73; 78; 112; 119). Of these, we’ll be in Psalm 78 today.
I’ve chosen the 78th Psalm because it had an impact on my purpose statement.
When I was in Seminary, from 90-94, I had a professor who challenged us to write out a purpose statement for our lives. He said that it might change some through the years, but that it would probably stay pretty consistent. I worked hard on the project and came up with the following:
I will strive with skillful hands to build and equip leaders
To accomplish the Great Commission
By being an example of service,
An effective communicator of God’s Word
And a faithful and loving husband and father
As I work daily to conform to the character of Christ.
That first part of the first line was inspired, I guess I should say, by Psalm 78.72. I read it in the NIV, which was my choice of Bible Versions in those years. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.
Two parts: the heart and the hand. Now, there is a lot information in Scripture on these two parts the person. Let me ask you from Psalm 24:
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place? Answer:
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to what is false
and does not swear deceitfully.
5 He will receive blessing from the Lord
and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
The idea I think is two-fold: it’s who you are on the inside and what you do on the outside. This was David – a man after God’s own heart.
And now you see where I was going in this Psalm. In reviewing this recently, I was reminded of the purpose of the whole Psalm. So, what is the make-up of this whole Psalm? It ends with this statement about David and this two-fold dedication to the Lord and the Lord’s people. How did we get here? Remember: Context is King.
The Psalm is broken up into three main sections:
- God’s Call to Instruction and it’s purpose.
- Israel’s Cycle of Rebellion.
- God’s Choosing: Rejection & Election
But there is one that expresses the need for discipleship and the goodness of God, in spite of our failures; Ps 78; look there with me…
I. God’s Call to Instruction (1-11)
exp.: I mentioned earlier that this is what is referred to as a Wisdom Psalm. Some scholars call it an Instructional Psalm. I think both terms work well because Wisdom is what you do with the instruction you’ve been given.
ill.: I was working on the hub that houses my breaks on a Subaru some decades ago. I called Grandaddy long distance to ask him about what I was doing. He asked where I was in the process and what I’d done. I told him and he told me to stop. If I did one more thing, the housing would fall out onto the ground in 78 different little pieces. Then, I’d never get it all back together without the help of a mechanic. Had he not stopped me, I’m sure I would have destroyed that housing unit and it would have cost me a fortune to get it all fixed.
Now, it’s one thing to act in ignorance, but another to act with knowledge. I would say I acted wisely and left that housing unit alone! Wisdom is what you do with the knowledge you have.
exp.: if you think about it, foolishness is the same equation: What if I told Granddaddy to take a hike and then proceeded to destroy the housing? That would have been foolish. It all comes down to what you do with the instruction – the knowledge.
app.: That’s what this Psalm is all about. Acting wisely with the information you receive.
Exp.: rd v 1; this is the call to wisdom and instruction; rd v 2-4; Let us teach our children of God’s goodness and grace in order that they might trust him and walk with him, too. So, there is the call, then there is the purpose behind the call. That’s clarified even further in v 5-8; rd 5-8; v 7 – so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; Derek Kidner calls this a “three chord strand of faith”:
- The Heart – A deep abiding personal Trust in God.
- The Mind – never forgetting the works of God; Informed thinking.
- The Will – An exercised and obedient will – lived out before others.
AND, this is what the Israelites did not do! A three-chord strand of faithlessness: stubborn and rebellious actions (failure to obey), a heart not steadfast (forgetful) and a spirit not faithful to God (and faithless).
Truth: This life that is lived out is what is taught to the younger generation. I think what has hurt us – those of us 55 and older – this is why for many of us, our children don’t want to have anything to do with church or God. What has hurt us is that our teaching hasn’t matched the experience of the younger generation. This younger generation – millennials, they don’t want to hear it, they want to see it. And what they hear doesn’t match what they see.
Personal Question: Do my children and my grandchildren know about God’s Call on my life? Where I was, what he brought me out of? Do they know of His miraculous provision in times of struggle – how he answered prayer in time of need? The time we prayed for a car or money to buy one because we needed it? At Nahalem where God provided miraculously for our mission.
t.s.: Indeed, this is what happened with Israel; and from verse 9 down through v66, the Psalm teaches about the foolishness of the Israelites who rejected God’s Word (9-11) and their forgetfulness, failing remember God’s Works.
II. Israel’s Cycle of Rebellion (12-66)
exp.: In all of these verses – and we won’t read them all – we see God’s Faithfulness on display in spite of Israel’s Failures; This is much of what we see in Acts 8, where Stephen recites the failures of Israel and accuses the current Israelites of being no different. What happens now is the writer preaches a sermon from history (12-32).
- The Miracles from God are Forgotten: 12-16; note “He did”; mark down everything God did for them;
- Their Rebellion is expressed through Grumbling and Complaining: 17-20; note “they did”; that’s foolishness; these people just can’t be happy with what God has done for them.
- God’s Anger is poured out on their unbelief: 21-31; just as faith and trust are displayed through behavior, so is unbelief; ‘therefore’; his wrath was stirred, and “he commanded”, “he rained”, “he caused”
- Their repentance was meaningless and short-lived: 32-39; 40 is a transitional verse to the next section; like a good sermon, there are examples:
app.: Repetition of Ingratitude: a cycle continues of God’s blessings, how they forget God’s and his Work and choose to sin and rebel and grumble and complain.
- In the Wilderness
- In the Promised Land
t.s.: God’s Call to Instruction; Israel’s Cycle of Rebellion; God’s Choosing: Election & Rejection;
III. God’s Choosing: Rejection and Election (67-72)
exp.: He rejects Israel, the Northern Kingdom; He chooses Judah, the Southern Kingdom; He establishes the Sanctuary in Jerusalem; and, He chooses and establishes the throne of David; the last 3 verses are all about David; it is these last three verses that I’d like to spend the rest of our time on:
- His Calling: rd 70; His calling is found in 1 Samuel 16; Samuel travels to Bethlehem to visit Jesse. He goes there to find a king – a new king to replace Saul. Jesse’s sons are paraded before Samuel. The first son appears, and Samuel is impressed.
Picking up in v5; And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
6 When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
The rest of the boys are seen by Samuel, but God chooses none of them. It turned out that the youngest was out working with Sheep.
11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward.
Our text in Psalm 78 reads: He chose David his servant and took him from the sheepfolds; 71from following the nursing ewes he brought him to shepherd Jacob his people, Israel his inheritance.
- His Experience: I love that God used his experience as a shepherd throughout his life to make him the leader he was.
ill.: In the next chapter there in 1 Samuel, David faces Goliath. When Saul asks him about facing this giant, David takes Saul into his Game Room. Do you guys in the Hill Country know what a Game Room is? I’m talking about a man cave where a man has put all of his trophy deer and elk and whatnot!
David took Saul and showed him his stuffed lion. He also showed him his stuffed Bear. 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, 35 I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. 36 Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.”
- David took those skills and shepherded the people of Israel. He defended them. He led them. He loved them. He did so, it reads, with and upright heart and a skillful hand.
app.: he appears to be an example of the person God is calling his people to be. He is an example of who the Messiah would be.
t.s.: And that’s why instruction is so important – it gives us the foundation we need to trust our God in all things. It points others to Christ.
So, what are our take-a-ways this morning – Conclusion:
- God has always been good! His mercy endures forever! This needs to be taught and passed on.
- As a church – that’s my job and what we’re doing here this morning.
- As individuals – Our failure begins when we forget the miracles of God! His Provision; His Care; His Tenderness; With this in mind, let me ask…
- What has God done in your life that you’d testify to?
- As a church?
- As an individual?
- What prayers has he answered that communicate his goodness and grace? That needs to be taught and passed on to the next Generation.
- Can I ask, may I be so bold as to ask: Instead of a testimony of the glories of God, do we pass on Murmurs of Unrest? Do we grumble and complain?
- Do you have any monuments to God in your home or yard or office? A rock, a chair, a memento from camp, a book? etc.
- These are great reminders for us. In those tough times, we remember when God brought us through. We must not forget the miracles of God!
- These are great testimonies to others.
- We must be careful not to make them idols…
- The Lord’s Supper is a great example for us…