Telling The Next Generation

Psalm 78 is a selective retelling of the story of Israel’s relationship with God from Egypt to Canaan. The Psalm is from the perspective of a teacher (78:1-2). As the Psalm unfolds, there is a recurring pattern of God’s grace (12-16; 40-55), Israel’s rebellion (17-20; 56-58), judgment (21-32; 59-64), and theological reflection (33-39; 65-72). The Psalm explains God’s choosing of Judah (i.e., David; 68-72) over Ephraim (i.e., Saul, 9-11; 67). Ultimately, Psalm 78 recounts God’s rejection of Israel and their king, and his election of a new kind of king.

The Psalmist wants to tell the next generation that “they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation” (78:8a). There are two focuses of the Psalmist. First, God’s divine action revealed through his glorious deeds and law (78:4-5). Second, he recalls “dark sayings from of old,” namely Israel’s failures in the covenant. Overall, Israel’s story seems to be an unending cycle of tragedy, so why should the next generation expect anything different? Why should they learn the story if they are only destined to repeat it themselves?

The answer God gives to break this cycle is a new king who embodies his own shepherding character that rules with and “upright heart” (78:52, 71-72). In context, this is king David. However, Israel’s later history showed that the cycle of rebellion continued, and the people ended up in exile. However, God would not leave all his people lost here either. His solution for Israel was his solution for all humankind, a new kind of king.

Now, Israel’s story becomes our story. Looking into the Old Testament with a Christ lens, Psalm 78 points us to the ultimate shepherd king, Jesus. It shows the need for our own generations to internalize God’s story and Gospel. Like Israel, our story is of God’s continual gracious action among people with numerous monumental failures and a king who comes to guide us in the paths of righteousness (23:3).

Take time to consider how well you know God’s story, his king, and how you can share it to the next generation. Commit to memory God’s wondrous acts revealed through Jesus Christ and embody his teaching in your life. Be honest with others about your own failures and sins, how Christ has resolved them, and how he has made you a better disciple. Share the Gospel story of King Jesus and call the next generation to follow Him as you have.