Psalm 78 in my ESV Study Bible is headed with the phrase, “Tell the coming generation.” There are many adults out there who think we’re supposed to tell the coming generation how lazy, unmotivated, indecisive, and self-absorbed they are. However, that’s not what this psalm says. Verse 4 says, “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 He has done.”
The psalmist goes on in this chapter to recount numerous ways God showed His faithfulness to the Israelites – parting the Red Sea, guiding them with the pillar of fire and cloud, providing them with water from a rock and manna from heaven, showing mercy despite their unbelief, and on and on. This is what you and I need to do with the coming generations in our realm of influence as well – acknowledge the power and goodness and grace of God.
I offer a strong warning to those who only point out sin and failures in a child or teen. There is a time for “speaking the truth in love” and confronting sin and encouraging repentance. Do that. But if you fail to also hold out the grace and compassion and power of God, you will likely lead a child to hopelessness and despair. After all, Romans 2:4 says, “…do you not realize that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”
Verses 5-8 of Psalm 78 contain some strong motivators for us to tell the next generation about God’s awesome deeds and His power, but look especially at verse 7: “so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” These goals are individually significant but inextricably connected. When you and I remember the amazing works and character of God and how He has been faithful over the years, that helps us put our hope in Him – not in health or beauty or money or people or a trouble-free life – and when we hope in Him, that drives our desire to walk in His ways. Psalm 78:7 is what I pray for the coming generations – for my own children and the other kids in my realm of influence.
Here is a practical example of what this might look like:
What if your teen is mocked for her faith at school, for vocalizing that Jesus saves and Jesus brings hope and He’s the only way to peace with God? Maybe the pressure from her peers becomes debilitating, and she “feels the heat,” so to speak. If you have been telling the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord and His might and the wonders He has done, then she might recall the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. She might think, “There was a fourth man in the fire and that was probably Jesus Himself! And Jesus promises to be with me (the beautiful promise in the Great Commission), so I’m going to keep His command to spread the good news of the gospel because I know Jesus is with me! And besides, I don’t put my hope in being accepted and approved by my peers. I set my hope in the God who made the universe!”
It’s so important to instruct the next generation about the stories of the Bible. I would never want to minimize teaching kids the stories of the Bible, but I do want to emphasize that you also talk about how God has displayed His goodness and power and faithfulness and wonders in your own life! Seriously, the stories of the Bible will hold a lot less meaning for those kids if they don’t see the God of the Bible ever making a difference in your life. Do you acknowledge His faithfulness and grace? Do you recognize His power and protection and point it out to your kids? Are you modeling faith in God and an awe of His wonders?
Here’s another everyday example. My own kids know about my mom and her 50-year journey with diabetes. They’ve heard me tell stories of my mom going into many diabetic comas when I was a child; they see my mom regularly check her blood sugar and adjust her insulin pump. When my mom was in her early 20’s, she received a life-altering diagnosis that affected every day of the rest of her life. What happens if one of my children receives a difficult diagnosis like a learning disability or severe asthma or something that will affect the rest of his or her life? Well, I hope and I pray that they will think of the godly example of their grandmother, that they will remember they don’t find happiness in perfect health or being great at their favorite sports, rather that they will hope in God. I pray that they will remember His works – yes, that Grandma has dealt with brittle diabetes for 50 years, and God has protected her over and over again and been with her each step of the journey. She rarely ever complains. My sweet mom models and testifies to the next generation that God is in control and He is still good, so they too are motivated to obey God’s command to not complain but to trust Him in whatever lies ahead.
So, moms and dads, grandparents, family members, teachers, coaches, neighbors, tell the next generation about the goodness and faithfulness and mercy and power of God not only in the stories of God’s Word but also in your own life, and pray that they will never forget the wonders of God but hope in Him and walk in His ways.