[A slightly abridged version of this article will appear in the April 2018 edition of the Mount Carmel Cumberland Presbyterian Church newsletter.]
“My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old— things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” – Psalm 78:1-4, NIV
Psalm 78 is one of the longer psalms in the Bible taking up 72 verses.
Douglas Wilson has provided this summary for it:
“Consider the preamble of this history to be the first eight verses (v. 1-8). The time of Israel in the wilderness is then recounted (v. 9-41). The movement then goes historically backward as the psalmist recalls how God delivered Israel from Egypt in the first place (v. 42-52). The history of Israel is then resumed, and continues down to the time when Judah takes over from Ephraim as the dominant tribe (v. 53-66). That transfer is then celebrated (v. 67-72)”
We know from the psalm that it is a brief history of God’s people in the wilderness, and there’s something for us to learn here.
The primary way to build a community of faith is not with our hands, but with our stories. Revelation 12 tells us that we are made overcomers by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. If that’s true, then remembering what God has done for us (our testimony) is essential to seeing the victory that God has won for us in Christ (by His blood.)
Unfortunately, Psalm 78 has this refrain over and over again in some way: “but they forgot…”
Psalm 78:10 says, “they refused to keep God’s covenant and live by His law.” But why did they forget? They forget because, at some point, the people abandoned the practice of rightly teaching their children who God is and what He was doing for them.
The only way we are going to keep our community from being defined by lawlessness is to tell our children about the works of God, and live out the Gospel in our homes.
Tell your children and grandchildren about Jesus dying on the cross and raising from the dead to declare victory over sin, death, and hell. Teach how to live a godly life in the midst of a sinful world. Show them the importance of living in community with other believers and being active members of the local body of Christ. Remind them of what God has said about them in baptism.
Any kind of community can be built by the work of our hands, but only a community of faith can be built by the word of the Gospel being proclaimed consistently in the home.