Recently I read in a newsletter that, “We are about to begin a special time…the 30th anniversary of Betel International…We will remember and give the glory to God that, from one heroin addict who came looking for help 30 years ago, the grace of God has taken this ministry into some 100 cities in 25 countries around the world. Tens of thousands have been helped, churches have been planted and 2400 men, women and children are currently being cared for…This will be a time of remembering the wonders that the Lord has done, as well as allowing him to inspire us to move on to greater things in the years to come.” (http://betelinternational.org)
This last sentence above summarizes the purposes of the Remembrance Psalms, in fact, of much of the Bible. Longman says concerning Psalm 78 that it “moves beyond praise and explicitly uses redemptive history to instruct future generations how to act.” (see references # 1)
The first 8 verses (of 72 verses) illustrate this:
Psalm 78. “Lessons from History. Asaph’s poetic song of instruction.”
“Beloved ones, listen to this instruction. Open your heart to the revelation of this mystery that I share with you. A parable and a proverb is hidden in what I say, an intriguing riddle from the past. We’ve heard true stories from our fathers about our rich heritage. We will continue to tell our children and not hide from the rising generation the great marvels of our God, his miracles and his power that have brought us all this far. The story of Israel is a lesson in God’s ways. He gave Moses his laws then commanded us to keep them, and to make them known to our children. For perpetuity God’s ways will be passed down from one generation to the next, even to those not yet born. In this way, every generation will have a living faith in the laws of life And will never forget the faithful ways of God. By following his ways they will break the past bondage of their fickle fathers who were a stubborn, rebellious generation and whose spirits strayed from the Eternal God. They refused to love him with all their hearts! “
And then verse 9 starts the stories: “Take for example…” (The Passion Translation)
Here are a few helpful comments on this psalm:
As mentioned, verses 1-8 (above) are a good summary of the purpose of the psalm because, as Broyles says, “Each generation must hear the story of salvation and so [have the opportunity to] choose to trust God. In sum, God has revealed his deeds (vv. 4, 7, 11), wonders (vv. 4, 11, 12, 32, 43), power (v. 4), and signs (v. 43). He has established his law (vv. 5, 10), statutes (or ‘testimonies’, vv. 5, 56), covenant (vv. 10, 37), and his commands (v. 7). He has guided (vv. 14, 53, 72) and redeemed (vv. 32, 42) his people; he has provided them with water and bread (vv. 15-16, 23-25), shepherded them (vv. 52, 70-72), and settled then in the land (vv. 54-55).”
Just to name a few of the many interventions of God in the lives of his people worth recalling!
Sadly, as we continue reading, after all these amazing acts of their loving and compassionate God, the verses following are not so positive as we discover some more details of what the psalmist was talking about in verse 8 when he spoke of these “fickle fathers who were a stubborn, rebellious generation and whose spirits strayed from the Eternal God. They refused to love him with all their hearts!” The latter verses speak then of their sin and the inevitable judgement that resulted, even to the point where God rejected them (vv. 59-60).
“The psalms solution to this dilemma for ‘the next generation’ lies in retelling this story [‘warts and all’], so they, unlike their forefathers, would not forget but know, put their trust in God and keep his commands (vv. 4-8). A living memory of God and his acts is the crucial factor.” (see references # 4)
Kidner entitled this psalm as “Lest We Forget” and says “it reviews the turbulent adolescence of Israel from its time of slavery in Egypt to the reign of David…it is meant to search the conscience: it is history that must not repeat itself. At the same time, it is meant to warm the heart, for it tells of great miracles, of a grace that persists through all the judgements, and of the promises…” of God to his people. (see references # 29)
I wonder what a psalm that describes our life from the beginning to the present day would look like? Would it be so inspiring that it could be passed “down from one generation to the next, even to those not yet born”? And would it be that in “this way, every generation [who reads it] will have a living faith” in God and “will never forget the faithful ways of God”?
As 2015 draws to a close, why not try writing a psalm to celebrate and describe the grace of God in your life over this past year?
Here’s mine, reflecting something of what I wrote about in my post # 33, commenting on Psalm 30.
Father, what words can express the sense of gratitude I feel today?
It’s been a year of many ups and downs, of open doors and closed doors.
There were times of elation, times of confusion, times of doubt and times of faith.
If nothing else this year, along with many others, I learnt what it means to be dependent upon you in a new way.
So often we recognised that we had no idea of the way to go.
Failure and rejection were our constant companions along the way, and not very pleasant ones at that.
But, deep down, we knew. We knew they weren’t our only companions. There was no doubt about it. You were there!
You gave us peace when all around us was chaotic. You gave us strength when we felt like giving up.
You answered prayer when all seemed lost. Each time we wanted to throw in the towel, you came near and encouraged us on.
And we did it, together, in community.
Thanks for the lessons you have taught us together and we are better people for it.
So, now we are here. We didn’t really see it coming, but the year has almost ended and with a good outcome.
And we have hope. There is no doubt in our minds that you have a plan for us.
In you our future is certain.
You are good and I give you thanks.