For the next few days, we return to the book of Psalms. The temple is now completed (Ezra 6:14-22) exactly 70 years after it was destroyed. God kept His word. This chronological Bible places now brings us several psalms that celebrate God’s faithfulness in restoring His people. The first one is Psalm 78. These 72 verses are a micro-summary of Israel’s history, from the time of Jacob to when David sat on the throne (what they would remember as their best days).
There are two things that stand out to me in this psalm. The first is the emphasis placed on each generation’s responsibility to tell their children and grandchildren about God, “that they should put their confidence in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (78:7). Let’s think about this for a minute. Statistics tell us there 7 billion people in the world (5 to 6 thousand people groups) who are considered unreached (less than 2% are Christ-followers). Many have no gospel influence at all. How did this happen?
One generation failed the next generation.
Do you understand that any people group in the world can transition into an unreached people, simply by a failure of those who know Christ to pass it on to their children? We live in the “Bible belt” and yet there are already people you and I meet every day who have never heard a clear presentation of the gospel and have no idea who the God of the Bible really is.
The second thing that stood out to me in this Psalm are the statements about God’s anger. Speaking about the children of Israel’s grumbling in the wilderness, it says, “When the Lord heard them, He was furious; His fire broke out against Jacob, and His wrath rose against Israel, for they did not believe in God or trust in His deliverance.” (78:21-22) Later on, speaking of Israel’s unfaithfulness in worshipping idols, we read, “When God heard them, He was furious; He rejected Israel completely … He gave His people over to the sword, He was furious with His inheritance.” (78:59,62)
Perhaps God gets angry when His own people sin because He knows the effect it will have on future generations. Our occasional compromise with sin becomes the acceptable and normal life of those who follow us. Our distractions with things that offend God can lead to denying our descendants the truth, and the opportunity for salvation. So should we be righteously angry, just as God is, against sin!
John Wesley has been quoted with this bit of wisdom: “What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace.” Oh, my, how we are seeing that play out in unspeakable ways today!
Am I saying we can prevent the sovereign hand of God from saving? Of course not. But we are responsible for what we do with the truth we are entrusted with.
Are you a Christ-follower, as I am? We have a great responsibility, not only to tell the next generation who God is and urge them to trust in and obey Him, but also to live in a way that shows them why. We are stewards of the grace and gospel of Jesus Christ, and it depends on us to make sure those who come after us have the opportunity to know Him. Let’s not take that lightly.