I remember the first time I heard a youth group girl repeat something I had said.
I was leading a Bible study group for Year 11 and 12 girls. After bible study one day, I happened to overhear a conversation between two teenaged girls, one of whom was in my group. She was explaining something from the Bible passage we had all been studying and I was shocked when I heard her repeat verbatim something I‘d said earlier.
I don’t remember what I said, or to be honest even what it was about, but I do remember the way I felt when I heard it. I couldn’t believe she had been paying such close attention that she had memorised what I said. How long would she remember it for? How many other people would she repeat it to? I suddenly felt the weight of the responsibility that comes with teaching the next generation.
It’s not a responsibility we should take lightly, nor should we shy away from it. The Bible is full of commands to teach the next generation. Or more specifically ‘to tell the next generation’. What should we tell them? Psalm 78 helps us out.
In this Psalm, Asaph appeals to his generation to share the ‘things from of old’; things that our ancestors have taught us. Telling the next generation is simple. Tell them what you were told. To quote an old hymn tell them “the old, old story of Jesus and his love”. Passing on this story is the responsibility of all of us: parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties, bible study leaders, children’s & youth workers. The things of old have been told to us, and now it’s up to us to tell the next generation.
Asaph and his generation had so much to tell. The praiseworthy deeds of the LORD were numerous. Asaph reminds his readers of these deeds throughout the psalm, and it’s a long list that starts with the rescue of the Israelites from slavery to Egypt and includes the parting of the Red Sea, his guiding cloud & fire through the wilderness, the provision on manna in the desert and his choice of the shepherd boy David as king. Asaph’s generation had so much to praise God for and so much to tell the next generation. He also had a great reason to tell them.
Telling the praiseworthy deeds of God to the next generation is not simply about passing on good stories. There is a twofold purpose to this task. Asaph wants the next generation to know God’s saving acts so that they would trust in the LORD and be saved. More than that, he wants them to continue to pass the story onto the generation that follows, so that generation after generation would know the glorious deeds of God and trust in his salvation.
There’s also something he doesn’t want. He doesn’t want them to be like those who came before, who forgot God. Asaph spells out the hard and horrible truth for those hearts that are not loyal to God. His Psalm lays out the wilful disobedience of Israel, the undeserved grace and mercy of God and also his righteous anger and judgement against his people. Asaph’s message is clear: Remember God and live. Forget God and die.
So we tell the old, old story. Not only a rescue from slavery to Egypt and a shepherd king David, but a rescue from slavery to sin and the good shepherd, King Jesus.
The Apostle Paul says it like this:
I pray we would all continue to tell next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, so they will put their trust in him and be saved.