Psalm 78:1-8 Parenting with Purpose
A young man said to the psychiatrist, “I had a strange dream last night. I dreamed you were my mother. I woke up and couldn’t understand it. Why should I dream you were my mother?” The psychiatrist said, “Well, what did you do after having the dream?” “I had this appointment with you first thing in the morning, so I grabbed a cookie and a diet soda for breakfast and rushed out here.” The psychiatrist frowned, “A cookie and a diet soda? You call that a breakfast?”1
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: People are what their mothers make them.2
in Psalm 78 we find a blueprint of God’s grand method for faith replication throughout all generations. He chose to use the family as the primary place to nurture faith.3
Today is that wonderful Sunday we call Mother’s Day, a day when we celebrate our moms and the priceless role they play in family and society. Moms, it’s never been harder to be a parent. But because parenting is so crucial and because God has called us to do certain things as moms and dads, I do want to share some truth from Scripture about raising children. Though this is Mother’s Day, my message is specifically targeted to all parents; and in addition, I believe God has a word for all of us here this morning, whether we’re parents or not. In Psalm 78, the Lord gives us four principles to follow in parenting with purpose.4
1. Teach our children God’s greatness (Psalm 78:1–4)
The Psalmist first gets our attention.
“My people, hear my instruction; listen to what I say.” (Psalm 78:1, HCSB)
In modern terminology, he is shouting, “Don’t touch that dial! Pay attention! This is important stuff!” Then he uses historical material to drive home his points.
The first principle he emphasizes that we are to pass on to the next generation is God’s greatness.
“We must not hide them from their children, but must tell a future generation the praises of the Lord, His might, and the wonderful works He has performed.” (Psalm 78:4, HCSB)
What are the ways we can teach our children about God’s greatness?
FOUR KINDS OF GOD-SIZED STORIES TO SHARE
1. Stories that show God’s wisdom
“I will declare wise sayings; I will speak mysteries from the past — things we have heard and known and that our fathers have passed down to us.” (Psalm 78:2–3, HCSB)
Some of these wise sayings are local. You may have heard about farmer’s wisdom. Parents talk about their past to instruct their children for the future. It isn’t just about going up the hill both ways to school in the snow in the winter. There is wisdom to be found in the family stories we tell.
Just this week, we were driving home from Southwest High School graduation. We saw an animal on the road. This led to a discussion about how to treat animals. Heike explained that one of the lessons that the Bible teaches about Balaam and the donkey is that we don’t mistreat animals. It speaks to our character when we are willing to mistreat animals. So many of these stories that we weave as parents to our children’s minds come form God’s Word. Parents are able to share God’s wisdom by reading the Wisdom books in the Old Testament like Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
2. Stories of God’s work
There are all kind s of stories about how God works in the Old and New Testament. But parents can go beyond the Biblical stories to the personal stories. We can share circumstances where we saw God work in the life of our families. Just as the Israelites were often reminded of the Red Sea parting, and the provision of God for food for His people, we have stories that we share. God works in our lives. Whether it is the way God provides a way for a father to provide that car for his son who decides to go to seminary, or how God showed a mother how to have faith that foster-to-adopt was the way to have children, we all have stories that show God at work in our lives. “His praiseworthy deeds”—the awesome things God has done in our lives.
3. Stories of God’s power
There are stories of God’s work and then there are stories of God’s power. We see in all these stories how things are not outside of God’s power. God has the power to provide a path for His people. He has the power to help me overcome any difficult. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me power.” He is above all other powers—nothing is too difficult for Him.
4. Stories of God’s miraclesWhat many see as a mystery, the Bible shows are miracles. The Bible is full of miraculous stories. Yet, these stories are just the beginning. God still does miracles today. He has done miracles in each of our families. We need to be sharing with our children and grandchildren the miraculous that God has done. Whether is it a physical or emotional healing, a restored relationship, or some other thing, we need to be sharing these positive stories with our families. “His wonders”—He is a God of miracles! It’s our responsibility to teach our children, our grandchildren, and our spiritual children God’s greatness.
“Yahweh is great and is highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable. One generation will declare Your works to the next and will proclaim Your mighty acts.” (Psalm 145:3–4, HCSB)
2. Teach our children God’s Word (Psalm 78:5-6)
“He established a testimony in Jacob and set up a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children so that a future generation— children yet to be born—might know. They were to rise and tell their children” (Psalm 78:5–6, HCSB)
In the maze of moral confusion, God’s Word serves to guide us. Notice the multi-generational aspect of these verses: forefathers, their children, the children yet to be born, and their children. The psalmist is talking about four generations!
Grandparents, your spiritual assignment is not over when your children are grown. You are to influence your grandchildren spiritually as well! It’s not always easy to teach children of God’s Word. Sometimes our own lack of knowledge and understanding hinders us, but remember that the teacher most always learns more than the student. Sometimes our supposed lack of time hinders our teaching of the Word to children. We can make time for what’s important, and the psalmist puts utmost importance on this task! Why not share with each other what you are learning in God’s Word? Your children can teach you, too, which excites them to learn.
3. Teach our children to trust God (Psalm 78:7a)
“so that they might put their confidence in God…” (Psalm 78:7, HCSB)
How can we teach our children to trust God? We do this by trusting God ourselves and by sharing stories about God’s faithfulness with them. These verses tell of how Israel forgot about the Lord’s work. How could they forget? God had done so many miracles (the parting of the Red Sea, the providing of manna, etc.) how could they forget? We do the same thing! When God parted the Jordan for Israel to pass through, Joshua set up stones to commemorate God’s mighty acts so future generations would remember (Joshua 4:20–24). What are we doing to commemorate God’s mighty work in our lives?
4. Teach our children to obey God (Psalm 78:7b-8)
“so that they might…not forget God’s works, but keep His commands. Then they would not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not loyal and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” (Psalm 78:7–8, HCSB)
We need to help our children build their own set of convictions. When our children leave home, we can’t make their decisions for them! They learn about who God is from me. They learn about how God is from their mother. As parents, we must model obedience for our children.
What lessons are you teaching as parents about God through the stories you tell?
My mother is an artist. I am going to show off some of her art. She paints on a variety of canvases. She signs them with two bars and an A. Bar-Bar-A. That’s her name. But it is also her signature. It is also the brand for the farm. She paints landscapes. She paints happy little trees, like Bob Ross. She paints animals, bee hives, and she paints pictures of our farm. Each painting tells a story. A story that says something about her and about her family. She leaves this legacy for future generations. I leave you with this question parents. What stories of faith are you painting for your future generations?
1 Lowell D. Streiker, Nelson’s Big Book of Laughter: Thousands of Smiles from A to Z, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 300.
2 Robert J. Morgan, Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000), 578.
3 Michelle Anthony, Spiritual Parenting (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2010).