Psalm 78: 1-8
Many years ago, I was studying for a Philosophy degree in education and so fairly obviously the first question was, what do we mean by education? The most succinct and helpful definition I came across was the transmission of culture. Culture includes the body of knowledge we hold and value, our behaviours and traditions. Culture belongs to a defined group and is something that we learn, it is not innate. As people of God, what is the body of knowledge, values, behaviours and traditions we value so highly that we want to do our best to pass it on?
Psalm 78, the second longest psalm, is a narrative covering the period from Moses to David attempting to encapsulate the critical memory of God’s great deeds and his instructions to his people over the generations. It graphically spells out the consequences of the repeated times when God’s culture had been forgotten, ignored or rejected. Asaph, the psalmist, appeals for each generation to be taught the ways of God and the history of God’s people.
‘He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children not yet born, and they would tell their children.’ vv 5,6
Asaph was very aware that the history of the people of God was not a smooth one, there had been many times when for prolonged periods Israel had lived lives disobedient to God, testing his patience, love and grace. Now at last they lived under a shepherd king, appointed by God and the good times had returned and they were experiencing the favour of God.
‘He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.’ vv71,72
Tuition came in many forms e.g. parables, revealing things previously hidden, and through the demonstration of power and wonders. vv2-4 It was a forerunner of the teaching and life of Jesus who similarly revealed the mysteries of God in parables and miracles living a life that modelled holiness. The psalmist asked the questions, ‘Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favour again? Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion? Genuine and valid questions that have been frequently asked by those who find themselves estranged from God but not necessarily asking what is it that we have done and been that caused us to be so far from the Lord’s favour?
Asaph was not to know that the complete answer to all those questions was to be a resounding NO! With God’s YES to find it’s fulfilment in the person and life of Jesus. It is each believer’s generational responsibility to pass on the knowledge of the culture of the kingdom of God. We can all play our part, some formally, some informally, as members of the family of God. What matters is that we do so deliberately, not only in words but also in lifestyle because our actions either confirm or undermine our words. However, there is an important sense in that we are all children of God and remain so throughout our lives. The apostle John called all the church his little children and so we are to be constantly both learners and people who pass on the Christian culture.
How much have we entered into the culture of Jesus Christ?
Are we lifelong learners and teachers?
How often have we forgotten, ignored or rejected Christ’s teaching?
Remember Me – Mark Schultz