RPM, Volume 15, Number 8, February 17 to February 23, 2013

We Will Not Hide Them

Psalm 78:1-8

By D. Marion Clark

Introduction

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. I will not hide them from our children, but on this first day of the year will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

The Deeds of the Lord

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. He created all that exists. He created the Milky Way solar system with its 200 billion stars; he created all of the billions of galaxies that exist. God created the mountains that soar thousands of feet high and cover nearly a quarter of the earth; he created the oceans and seas that cover over two-thirds of the earth and are as deep as the mountains are high. God created all that we see and do not see. He created atoms and protons and electrons. He created the millions of microbes that are on your hands. God created all the animals, all the plants, everything that has life. And he created creation out of nothing. He called creation into being and set it into motion so that creation expands and shrinks and changes in uncountable ways. And so we have lightening and erupting volcanoes, hurricanes and meteor showers, seasons and stars that move in precision. We have decay and birth. Are these not glorious deeds and wonders of the Creator Lord that he has performed in his might? Such deeds have been told from of old in the Scriptures and revealed in creation itself, so that mankind may look, may examine, explore, and subject to tests and find the greatness of God ever more awe inspiring.

But there is more. For there are the wondrous deeds of God as he providentially guides creation and human history. It is God who "sits above the circle of the earth…who brings out the hosts of stars by name." It is God who provides grass for the livestock to eat and plants for man to cultivate; it is God who provides springs and rivers for drink. God guides the courses of stars, meteors, and comets. God protects both the mother and the unborn child and brings labor at the right time. Such things we are taught by the ancient Scriptures and such things we may examine for ourselves and grow in wonder as we discover the complexities and precise balances of molecules and systems by which God preserves and moves forward his creation. Surely he is a God of wondrous deeds.

But God providentially guides the activities of man. He raises and removes rulers; he even controls their decisions, even using their evil intent to bring about his good will. God numbers our days so that we all live according to the time he has set. No one goes through life alone but that God is there with him guiding his steps. Again, the ancient Scriptures teach us these things, and again we can observe their reality. Historians marvel at the rise and fall of civilizations and at the complex movement of forces both great and seemingly trivial which lead to unlooked for consequences. And how many of us can look back over our lives, marveling at the unexpected twists and turns that have made us what we are. Truly the Lord is a God of wondrous deeds that nothing and no one is too great or too small to glorify him; no event is too momentous or too trivial for him to use for his glory.

But there is more. For there are the wondrous deeds of God as Judge. For as much as we may point to injustice and evil in the world, the truly great marvel is that good so often prevails. And it prevails because God is the judge who visits his judgment against the wicked. Let the Jewish people be the great example. For time and again nations have sought to not only defeat them, but eliminate them altogether, and yet those same nations and rulers have received the judgment they planned to execute on the Jews. We note that what is good never seems to last, but such an observation is more true for what is wicked, for no wicked regime lasts and the wicked are more likely to meet untimely death than the good. These truths we are taught by the ancient Scriptures and born out by history. Truly God has performed wondrous deeds of judgment.

But there is more. Indeed, the greatest deeds have yet to be recalled, the deeds of redemption. The ancient Scriptures tell us of such deeds in dark sayings from the first moments of the fall of man. "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15). From that time on we are told of God's acts of redemption, how mankind was redeemed from the flood; how God called forth Abram to become Abraham, the father of a multitude of nations; how he redeemed Abraham's descendants from famine, then from oppression in Egypt, then from the wilderness, and time and time again from enemies seeking their destruction. There are stories of how God redeemed individuals from their sins like Samson, David, and the wicked king Manasseh. There are stories of God raising up delivers to redeem his people from threats, oppression, and bondage — men and women like Moses, Joshua, Deborah, David, and Esther. There is the great redemption of the Jewish people told again and again which this psalm recites. Listen.

…the day when he redeemed them from the foe,
43 when he performed his signs in Egypt
and his marvels in the fields of Zoan.
44 He turned their rivers to blood,
so that they could not drink of their streams…
51 He struck down every firstborn in Egypt,
the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham.
52 Then he led out his people like sheep
and guided them in the wilderness like a flock.
53 He led them in safety, so that they were not afraid,
but the sea overwhelmed their enemies.
54 And he brought them to his holy land,
to the mountain which his right hand had won.
55 He drove out nations before them;
he apportioned them for a possession
and settled the tribes of Israel in their tents.

This deliverance from bondage in Egypt is the great story of redemption for the Jewish people, and yet it only points (as does all the other stories of redemption) to the greatest redemption to come — deliverance from bondage to sin for all peoples. For the great wondrous deed of God is found in the good news of God the Father sending God the Son to take on man's very flesh; to live in that flesh in perfect obedience withstanding all the attacks of Satan and the world; to offer that flesh as the sacrifice for the sins of the world, dying upon a cross to make atonement for sin; to experience the pangs of hell and then to rise in flesh again; and to ascend into heaven in glory and serve as the High Priest of his people. That is the greatest story of redemption of which all other stories are but types and metaphors. That is the greatest story still incomplete, for it waits its completion in the return of the King who will return in all his glory, completing both judgment and deliverance.

Every writer bears witness to this redemption when he writes of one who has fallen and been redeemed. Just as every element of creation points to the Creator, so every work of art that presents a person "finding himself" or being delivered or of rescuing others is pointing to the great act of Christ's redemptive work. It is there in the Lord of the Rings and Aragorn, the king who returns. There again in The Matrix, in Neo's arms spread out after defeating his enemy. There again in every Christmas story that presents a Scrooge redeemed. Some of these works may be warped because of man's rebellious spirit, but the world cannot deny the hope of redemption planted in us all since the fall.

These truths are the parables, the dark sayings from of old, found in the ancient Scriptures, the testimony established in Jacob. These are the truths imbedded in the law appointed in Israel. They form the testimony and the gospel given to us, entrusted to us to tell this and the coming generation.

Tell to the Coming Generation

That is the point of this psalm, that we will not hide the glorious deeds of the Lord from our children and their children yet unborn. We all have the duty to pass on these things we have heard and known. Follow verses 5 and 6:

He established 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.

This is important to God. Listen to his words for Israel given through Moses:

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children �" 10 how on the day that you stood before the Lord your God at Horeb, the Lord said to me (Moses), 'Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so' (Deuteronomy 4:9-10).

"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7).

Note what we are to tell our children. One is what we have heard, i.e. what has been passed down to us through the Scriptures and the teachings of our fathers and mothers of the faith. We are to teach the Scriptures so that they grow up knowing their stories, memorizing their passages, and understanding the Gospel in their pages. We are to teach the doctrines of our faith passed down by our spiritual ancestors. And so we teach our children our catechisms and creeds that they may know and understand truths of biblical teaching. And so we teach them the hymns of our faith that they may know both truth and passion for that truth. And so we are to tell them the stories and testimonies of believers throughout the ages, of young and old, of people around the world so that they understand the depth and breath of the gospel, that it is ancient and worldwide. These things we have heard, we are not to hide but pass on.

By the way, it is sometimes said that such activities do not make children Christians. And that is true. No amount of memory work will cause a child to be reborn. What it will do is help him to stay stable on his ride through rocky life experiences. And even if he should become a prodigal, it will be such lessons learned that will bring him home. I have a friend caught up in drugs in his teenage years. One night, when a drug experience went bad and he began to freak out, what brought him back to peace and to the Lord was remembering hymns that he had learned as a child.

And then (and this is so very important) we are to tell them what we have known, what we know for ourselves. We are to tell them our stories, what God has done in our lives; we are to tell them of Christ's redemption for us. When we tell our children what Christ has done for them, we need to say, "This is what he has done for me." When we explain to them that God is sovereign and thus takes care of us, we need to say, "Let me tell you how he has taken care of me."

And our children need to see real faith, real desire. The strongest argument against having children in worship is that they don't understand the preaching and find the worship boring. Let me tell you: they do not need to understand all (though they understand more than we think), nor do they even need to find worship exciting. What they need to witness is the desire of their parents to worship their God and to be fed with his Word. They need to see living faith in their parents who believe what they teach. They need to see passionate love in their parents for the God they claim to believe in.

They need to see what these now grown-up children saw in their parents. These comments are taken from testimonies of Tenth new members.

My mother had a great deal of influence in me becoming a Christian. She read the Bible and prayed with us every day when my siblings and I were in grade school.

This and the steady example of my Christian father slowly led me to consider and eventually accept much of what I was taught as a child.

I was raised in a Christian home. My parents read the Bible with me daily and prayed for me. It was through their witness that I repented and was saved.

I was born and raised up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord by my two godly parents and my Christian family.

I was raised in a Christian home and as soon as I could talk, my parents had me begin memorizing Scripture. When I was very young, I understood the Gospel and trusted Christ for forgiveness and salvation.

The writers of these testimonies experienced the goal expressed in verse 7:

...so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments.

Because they heard and observed the witness of one generation, they set their hope in God, the hope that rests on Jesus Christ. They did not forget the redemption won for them by their Lord; and they became Christ's disciples, obeying his commandments. This owning the Gospel for themselves should be the prayer of all parents from the moment their children are conceived, and even before. It should be the prayer of us all for our covenant children in the church. Because the children of this church hear us; because they observe us, they set their hope in God.

Not Like Their Fathers

Failure to live and share the faith that belonged to them was the sin and downfall of the fathers spoken in this psalm. Read verse 8:

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.

Even their repentance was an affront to God:

35 They remembered that God was their rock,
the Most High God their redeemer.
36 But they flattered him with their mouths;
they lied to him with their tongues.
37 Their heart was not steadfast toward him;
they were not faithful to his covenant.

These were not people who had heard about God's glorious deeds. They had seen them; they had experienced them. They walked through the Red Sea. They followed a column of cloud and of fire. They ate food provided miraculously for them every day. But it wasn't good enough because they still faced the daily struggles of living. Life was still hard.

We must be careful not to be like them. We must be careful not to exhibit complaining spirits before our children. Do they see that in us? What will your children hear from you today — how wonderful it was to worship God with his people or complaints about parking or room temperature? What will they hear from you this week — your sharing of God's glorious deeds or grumblings about how tough life is? Will they remember best your prayers with them or your complaining about them?

And these are not just questions for parents. Everyone here, you need to know that you are being watched and listened to by children. They see and hear you when you don't notice them. They are learning from you whether worship in the house of God is as boring as it seems or something that they too should be delighting in. They are learning from you by your attitude in worship and your attitude towards them if the gospel is something to really believe; if it is something for them. What are you teaching them?

Conclusion

Today is the first day of a new year. Brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, let us resolve today that we will not hide the sayings from of old in the Scriptures; rather, we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. Let us make known the faithfulness of the Lord to all generations.

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