Text: Psalm 78:1-8
Main Point: Fathers need to be encouraged and equipped.
Fathers, Psalm 78 issues a charge to us to disciple our children. Church, Psalm 78 issues a charge to us to equip the family to do their ministry. We have serious, joyful, and eternal work to do. Let’s give our ear to the teaching; read Psalm 78:1-8
I. Fathers, teach your children (1-6)
It is important to understand that the verses we are covering this morning are a prologue or an introduction. We are looking at an eight-verse introduction to a Psalm that has seventy-two verses. Verses 1-8 tell fathers and families what they must be about in order to avoid the heartache and destruction described in verses 9-67. If you want to avoid these sixty verses of pain, then you need to pay attention to these eight verses of wisdom.
The central message is found in verse 5, “God established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach their children.” The glorious God has made himself and his good ways known to us.
So, what’s a father’s job? A father is commanded by God to teach his children. A father is commanded by God to teach his children who God is and what God commands. Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:18-21; Ephesians 6:4; and the book of Proverbs clearly demonstrate the fact that a faithful father is a man who knows the Lord, obeys the Lord, and teaches his children to do the same. Men, we must pursue the Lord, obey the Lord, and lead the church to do the same. This is a high calling and we must be on guard because
- It is easy to be a dumb dad
By dumb I mean two things: ignorant and mute. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge; you just don’t know. I have an amazing amount of ignorance about medicine, geology, computer programing, installing crown molding, and executing a French braid. I am woefully dumb about these things. Dumb can mean ignorance and dumb can mean you do not speak. I picked this up from the King James and the references to people being deaf and dumb (Ex 4:11; Ps 38:13; Mk 7:37; 9:25). To be dumb can mean a person who does not speak, a mute.
Picture some dads who refuse to know God and who refuse to think about what God commands. These dads are ignorant. Still other dads seek to know God and seek to obey God, but they do not teach their children to do the same. These dads are mute; they feed themselves and starve their children.
Being a dumb dad is as easy as falling off a log; any guy can do it! But being a dumb dad causes great pain because ignorance and silence are not what God has called us to give our families. Men, we were redeemed to know God, obey God, and teach others to do the same. So, while I’m being very pointed for fathers today, ladies, I want you to hear that these truths apply to our neighbors, our coworkers, and the children of the church. The generations around you, on your street and in this church, need you to love God and teach others to do the same.
William Plumer was a 19th century pastor in New England and he gets straight to the point, “It is awful to think how many parents, by their negligence and wickedness, become the murderers of the souls of their children” (Plumer, 758). Moms and dads, men and women of this church, it is our high calling to bring life to these children. But how?
- God and his ways require our constant attention
We need to be all about God. But why is this the case? Why do God and his ways require constant attention? Is God nothing more than the Wizard of Oz, once appearing powerful but now proven to be a fake? As parents, must we always be spinning stories in order to defend poor old impotent God? Or are we Alice; having stared at ourselves for long enough we have become lost in the looking glass? I will claim the second; we are a people prone to ignore the eternally glorious for the sake of the now mundane.
Let’s work through Psalm 78 together. Verse 1 calls out to all who will hear. Asaph the choir leader is the writer and he is calling God’s people to pay attention. In verse 2 we learn that Asaph wants to take us into the deep end. Asaph is speaking in a parable; he is uttering ancient truths hard to hear. Matthew 13:35 quotes this verse about Jesus’s use of parables. The fact that this Psalm is a parable reminds us that Asaph’s purpose is to talk about Israel’s history in order to teach us an important lesson. Asaph is making a connection, men, look at what happened to families and God’s people back then so that you will not follow in their steps.
Now to verse 3, “things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.” These are ancient truths passed down to previous generations, entrusted to this generation, and necessary for the life of the next generation. Our fathers taught us and now that we are fathers, we will teach our children.
Look at the commitment of a faithful father in verse 4, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” Men, we must not hit the mute button when we enter our homes. We spend our day gaining knowledge and giving instruction so that we can get ahead. Then we come home and turn into a dumb dad who through ignorance, laziness, or hatred hides the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done from our children.” Our ignorance cuts off our children from Jesus who is light and life for each moment.
Instead of hiding who God is and what God has done from our children, we will give God our constant attention. We will ask, “How does God and my relationship to him affect the way I parent?” We will ask, “What does God command of me in my home?” We want to know and obey God. And we want to teach our children to do the same.
Psalm 78:5, “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach their children.” The God of infinite worth and wisdom has made himself known. What God has made known about himself and what God commands is to be cherished and taught. God’s people want the next generation to know God’s testimony and law. We are looking to children yet unborn. We want these children and those children yet unborn to know the Lord, love the Lord, and teach their children to do the same. Because of the surpassing worth of God and the constant presence of God we are to give him our constant attention. We are to teach our children to do the same. So,
Fathers, get a good goal (7-8)
Just like it is easy to be a dumb dad,
- It is easy to be a godless dad
Psalm 78:8 paints a painful picture of godless dads, “don’t be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” These godless dads were Jews who had been circumcised as a sign of belonging to God by covenant, but the facts of their lives proved their circumcision to be worthless. They said they loved God but their lives proved they did not.
You see men, we can go to church, get baptized, and say we are Christians while living a stubborn and rebellious life. This going, getting, and saying are worthless. Christianity is a matter of the heart and the spirit. Is your heart steadfast in pursuit of God and his kingdom or is your heart steadfast in pursuit of money and your own kingdom? It does not matter what you do on Sunday morning if you spend the week ignoring God. What we need is a spirit that is faithful to God. What we need is God’s grace given to us through Jesus Christ. We need His help. We need to know God for who he is, we need to love God because he is glorious, and we need to follow God because his ways are right and good. A godless man sets his hope on himself or his business or his abilities. A godly man sets his hope in Jesus and teaches his children to do the same. Here is our good goal
- Teach so that your children set their hope in God
Dads, God’s plan is to use your faith and your doctrine to teach your children to hope in God. Men, God’s plan is to use your faith and your doctrine to teach the children of this church to set their hope in God.
The world will teach our children to hope in the government. The world will teach our children to hope in money, race, power, or fame. The world will teach our children to hope in sexuality or pleasure. If we do nothing, if we sit there like a bump on a log, we can expect only greater evil and more heartache. Faithful parents teach their children why we can hope in God and how we are supposed to hope in God. Children need to know how to go to school hoping in God, how to repent hoping in God, and how to go to bed hoping in God. How do we shop with our hope set in God? How do we play sports with our hope set in God? How do we go on a date with our hope set in God? How do we struggle and suffer with our hope set in God? Our calling is to teach our children how to trust God as they go through all of life.
Talk about God’s might and the wonders he has done. Around the dinner table, on the way to school, at school, on the way home, and during family worship celebrate God. The God who was faithful then is faithful now. No person, no child, naturally remembers or naturally moves toward Jesus. We must teach our children so that they do not forget the works of God. We must teach our children to keep God’s commandments. Let’s get practical
Some practical advice for parents
- Trust Christ
God is the only perfect Father; the rest of us stumble and struggle. We trust Christ with our failures. We believe Jesus died on the cross to forgive and redeem ignorant and mute dads. Jesus gives us fresh starts. Dads, do you believe? Do you believe Jesus’ grace is sufficient for your past sins and your current responsibilities? Jesus is the vine and we are the branches; because of Him we can be faithful fathers. Jesus will forgive you. Jesus will help you. Repent of your sins and keep asking for his help. Trust Christ and
- Be discipled
Men, we need help and we need encouragement. One of the means God has established to help his people is discipleship. Through discipleship we learn how to trust Jesus and how to obey all that Jesus commanded. Certainly this “learn to obey all that Jesus commanded” includes how to be a faithful dad. Dads, if you are struggling alone, you are sabotaging yourself and your family. Jesus redeemed you to be in a church relationship where you can be taught, encouraged, and corrected. Talk to an elder, deacon, or Sunday school teacher if you have questions about discipleship. Come to the men’s Bible study on Thursday mornings. Trust Christ, be discipled, and
- Read your Bible with your family
Of course, dads, we need to be reading our Bibles on our own so we can grow in the faith. Reading, thinking, and praying about the Bible is where strength, joy, and wisdom come from. But dads, we are meant to give our families strength, joy, and wisdom by reading the Bible and praying with our families.
The best advice is start young. The second-best piece of advice is start today. Aim to read an age appropriate and your family appropriate Bible reading every day. I will admit, this does not happen every day in my family, but I wish it did and I aim for it to. Read a child’s Bible, do a slow read through one of the Gospels, or follow the church Bible reading plan. The aim here is content. We want to expose our children to the testimony and commands of God. We want our children to know who God is, the mighty acts he has done, and what he expects of us. Read the Bible together then
- Listen so you can talk about God and stuff
The fancy way to say this is, “disciple your family.” Dads, it is our job to disciple our families. Daily Bible reading as individuals and families provides the starting point for these conversations. But pay attention, you are not going to know how to help your child follow Jesus if you don’t know what your child is facing. I struggle with this, instead of listening to my children, I act like the know-it-all lecturer.
But think about it, our heavenly Father knows everything about us. He knows what we have done, he knows what we are thinking, and he knows what we are going to do. God knows all this and yet he wants us to talk to him through prayer. Through prayer we know that we are known. Through Bible saturated prayer we are corrected and led. Too often we dads skip the listening to know part of parenting and go straight to correcting and leading. Stop it; listen so you can lead well.
It is true that many of our children are frustrated because we will not listen. It is also true that some of our children are frustrated because they will not talk. Dads, we need to listen and students, you need to talk. Dads, if you have a student in the youth ministry, have you taken him/her to Tree of Life Coffee to get a away and talk? Use that gift certificate Pastor Aaron gave you.
God has ordained the church to equip moms and dads to do the ministry of family. May God help us teach the next generation, may God give us a better goal, and may we see each of these children following Christ in baptism and joyful obedience. Let’s pray for it.