A Call to Family Discipleship
“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.  He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children,  that the next generation might know them, 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;  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.”
1. What has God done, according to vv.4-5a?
Many teachers and parents miss this key point. They have good intentions of teaching the Bible, but they do not teach ‘the glorious deeds of the Lord’ – his might and the wonders he has done.
Instead, they teach on the glorious deeds of the people in the Bible. As we have said before, God intends us to learn from them as good and bad examples.
But there is more to it than that. Remember what we said as we finished Ruth – God is the one who stands behind every story. Asaph – the writer of this psalm – is about to remind us about the consistent rebellion of God’s people (vv. 9-64). And yet, before he begins, he says he is doing so to teach the next generation something about God.
But we often read the Bible that way. I am preparing now for a series I will be doing this fall on Nehemiah. And I am amazed at how many books teach through Nehemiah and all they see are lessons for leadership and administration. Now, the book does have something to say about those things. But when that’s the first thing you see, or that’s all you see, there’s a problem there!
The book should better show us God – his glorious deeds; his might; his wonder!
So when we read Genesis 12 and see Abraham telling Pharaoh that Sarah is his sister and not his wife, and so she gets taken for Pharaoh’ harem, we should not first think, ‘okay, this is about telling the truth and not lying.’ No! It’s about sinful humanity threatening to muck God’s promise to give Abraham and Sarah a son, and God stepping in. After all, how can they have a son if Sarah is carried off to the harem! They can’t – that’s why God steps in and sends a plague on Pharaoh and all his house, and Sarah is returned to Abraham and that threat has been averted. The point of the passage is God’s mercy towards sinners, and his covenant faithfulness to his promises.
Or in the story of Joseph. At the end of Genesis, Jacob makes his son, Joseph swear that he will be buried in Canaan. On his deathbed, Jacob says take to the field that Abraham bought at Machpelah. You read this and think, ‘what’s this about?’ Could it be the theme verse for funeral parlors and morticians – ‘See, you should plan ahead!’ No; sorry, you’ll have to find another verse for that.
This has nothing to so with finances or burial plots – this has to do with God. You say, ‘But, how do you know pastor?’ Because, when Joseph dies, he makes the same request. Genesis 50:25 says, “Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, ‘God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.’”
Why? Why did he do this? He tells us why in the verse right before it – “And Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob’” (Gen 50:24). This passage is about the faithfulness of God. Like his father before him, Joseph believes that God will keep his promise and give the land of Canaan to the descendents of Abraham. Therefore, he says, even in death, “Take me with you and bury in the land of promise. Bury me in the physical manifestation of God’s faithfulness to his keep his promises to his people.”
If you aren’t seeing God like this in the Bible, then what are you seeing? Has the Bible been reduced to a few moralistic platitudes and a few tips for financial success? God forgive us.
When we approach the Scriptures, we should do so searching for insight into the character of God. Looking to see and understand, “the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”
We as the adults should not only understand this, but this is what we should teach to our children. ‘Why?’ You may ask. ‘They cannot comprehend should things – it’s too much for them!’ If that’s what you believe, you don’t know children very well.
Joshua is learning Bible verses. . . . He not only learned the verse, he was applying its truth to his life. Do you understand how big of deal that is? Most adults won’t do that! Our children are far more perceptive and far more moldable than you think. Their lives and hearts crave for stories and teaching that shows them a big God – a God bigger than their wildest imaginations.
2. What are God’s people to do in response to what He has done (vv. 5b-6)?
This passage is clear in its exhortation – we are to teach our children. Those who first penned our church covenant understood the importance of this. And every time we make that affirmation to each, we commit to “educate our children religiously.” This means we are to educate them about religious things.
Our vision statement more clearly defines what this means as we say, “We seek to train and encourage all members to be disciples of Jesus Christ, equipping them to think and live a counter-cultural, Christian lifestyle, use their spiritual gifts for the good of God’s people, and serve as a witness of God’s grace to the world.”
So where do we begin? How do we start obeying this command to teach our children abut the glory of God? Notice what he says, “[God] established a testimony … appointed a law … which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children.”
Ephesians 6:1-4 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Guess what dads – this teaching of children begins at home, and more specifically, it begins with you. God says, this is your responsibility. That doesn’t mean you tell your wife to do it, either!
Now, ladies, does this mean you’re off the hook? Absolutely not – you are to support your husband’s efforts in this. You say, ‘honey, what can I do to help?’ ‘How can I serve you and support you in helping teach our children about God and his word?’
And most of all, you pray for him. Because, quite frankly, the thought of this task that God has set before us should make every father in this room, shake with fear.
This is such an awesome responsibility – are hearts ache are we say to ourselves, ‘who is sufficient for these things?’ The answer is – ‘no one.’ That’s why we need prayer; that’s why we need God’s Spirit to grow and mature us, so that we will be equipped to teach our children so they will see the glory of God.
3. Why are God’s people to teach the coming generation (vv. 7-8)?
3.1. teach them to hope in God
Look at v 5 again – “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God…”
Why should we teach our children in such a way that they see the glorious deeds of the Lord? Why should we teach our children to have a big view of God? So that they will set their hope in God.
Imagine you’re flying for the first time and you are a little nervous about it. You are standing, waiting around in the terminal, wondering if you should cancel your trip. Then as you look out onto the tarmac, you see a Boeing 747. You see this massive plane with four jet engines And you think, ‘well, that’s not so bad.’ Then you see it take off – turbines roaring, power vibrating through the windows of the terminal, and then thing goes flying down the runway and off into the atmosphere is gone from your sight in a matter of minutes. And you think to yourself, ‘what was I ever worried about?’
But then they call for your flight. And you see your friend motioning you over to the gate. Instead of walking out to a waiting plane, you descend a flight of stairs out to the runway and you see there are five people on your flight, and they are all huddling into this little twin-engine prop plane that’s smaller than your house. Suddenly your fear of flying comes back with a vengeance!
What happened? When you thought the bigger, better, faster, more impressive plan was your sweet ride, you felt safe and secure. But that puddle jumper made you feel about as safe as a turkey on Thanksgiving day!
Brothers and sisters, this is why we teach our children to have a big view of the glory of God. If you have a big God, you have a big hope. You have a confidence for this life and one to come. Instead of being disillusioned with religion and beginning to trust in themselves and their strength and wisdom, they will throw themselves at the feet of Christ! They will trust in him alone for salvation. And whatever life throws at them, they will feel secure in their relationship with God.
What happens if we teach them about a God who is small and seemingly insignificant? The kind of God you pull out of your pocket and sing to on Sunday, but forget exists any other day of the week? They lose interest. They grow apathetic. They think church is irrelevant to their lives. They see no reason to believe in such an impotent God. They fall away from the church.
How do we teach our children to hope in God? By telling them over and over and over the mighty and wondrous deeds of God – The deeds that reveal the glory of his name. George Swinnock once said, “Acquaintance with God’s favor will encourage [your children’s] faith; knowledge of his power will help them believe his promise…. The more they be acquainted with the goodness, wisdom, power, and faithfulness of God which appears in his works, the more they will fear, love, and trust him.”
We must give our children a grand, glorious vision of God. So that they will set their hope in him.
3.2. teach them to live faithfully
“[God] established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, 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; 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.
Asaph is telling us, ‘when we realize the greatness of God’s grace, when we realize the power of His works, when we realize the trustworthiness of His promises, we will respond in obedience.’
That’s what living faithfully is – obedience.
Asaph is about to go through verse after verse after verse of Israel’s disobedience. And he does so, I think in some way, to make us sick. He recounts failure after failure after failure – ingratitude, open rebellion, pride, hypocrisy, and apostasy. He wants our stomachs to turn and say, ‘Please, Lord, not my children – don’t let them turn out like that! Let them be humble and obedient; hearts that are steadfast in their love for you.’
And Asaph says, do that by teaching them. Don’t let them forget who God is; don’t let them forget his mighty deeds; don’t let them forget his power and grace; give them a vision of the glory of the Lord. Give them a big view of a God – a view that shows him to be bigger and more desirable than any sin this world can offer. When we do that, they will keep God’s commandments. They not be like this stubborn and rebellious generation of Israelites; their hearts will be steadfast, their spirits were be faithful to God.