The knowledge and experience God gives us are not for us alone. Psalms 77 and 78 urge us to remember and pass on to each new generation what God has done and what He has taught us. This will benefit us and also help others to know Him, think biblically, and live wisely.
A Chain Reaction of Truth
Now as we open Psalm 77 today, the superscription—that heading in small print—tells us that this is “a psalm of Asaph,” one of Israel’s leading composers. We’re also told the psalm was to be sung “according to Jeduthun.” Jeduthun was an assistant music leader in David’s time as well, according to 1 Chronicles 25:1, and he evidently wrote the musical score for this psalm.
We don’t know what the tune sounded like. But while God did not leave us the melody line, He did leave us the lyrics.
Psalm 77 reflects on the mystery of God as He walks through history. His footsteps in the waves of the sea are mysterious and most often hidden.
The waters saw You, O God . . . The deeps also trembled . . . The sound of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; the lightnings lit up the world . . . Your way was in the sea and Your paths in the mighty waters, and Your footprints may not be known. (verses 16, 18-19 NASB)
You could paraphrase those final words, “Nobody saw you come or go” (The Message). Yet the Lord’s presence was evident.
This reminds me of the first English novel, entitled Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1719. It is a novel about the adventures of a young man shipwrecked on an island near the coast of Venezuela. Before the ship completely breaks up, Robinson is able to salvage some tools, some supplies, and a Bible. He soon figures out how to hunt for food, grow barley and rice, and even make pottery. He reads the Bible and eventually gives his heart and life to the Lord. He keeps a journal of his adventures over the course of the next twenty-eight years on this island; he records all sorts of hardships and dangers.
Believing he is all alone on that island, he is shocked one day to see a footprint in the sand. He is terrified and mystified—he is evidently not alone after all. Eventually, he discovers a native who has escaped from cannibals. Robinson and this native become lifelong friends and eventually are rescued and sail back to England together.
From a mysterious footprint to becoming his best friend—that’s the idea here with Asaph as he writes of God’s mysterious footprints in the sands of time. Asaph writes in the final verse that the Lord becomes a faithful Shepherd, leading him, guiding him, all along the way.
Now in the very next psalm, Psalm 78, Asaph wants the truth of what he has learned to be passed down to the next generation. Like Robinson Crusoe’s journal that told of his adventures and of the faithfulness of the Lord, Asaph does not want us to keep our adventures—and the faithfulness of the Lord—secret.
He writes here in verses 1-4:
Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth! I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.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.
This is a chain reaction. Our parents taught the glorious deeds of the Lord to us, and we are going to teach them to our children.
Asaph writes here in verse 6 of God’s purpose: “that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children.” This chain reaction is to continue and not break apart at any link in any generation, and this psalm provides some clues on how to do that.
Now if you are not married or you do not have any children, don’t change the channel. The responsibility to influence the next generation belongs to us all, even if it is simply telling that neighbor or coworker or fellow student the truth about the Lord.
Let me give you three priorities for all of us found here in Psalm 78.
Priority #1: We need to help the next generation know who God is. Asaph makes this aim of instruction very clear here in verse 7: “So that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God.” People cannot place their hope in God unless they have seen the hand of God, that is, the glorious works of the Lord in creation and throughout history.
Priority #2: We need to teach the next generation to think biblically. Note again verse 7: “So that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.” Not only do children need to know who God is, but they also need to know what God has said. What do they know about God’s Word—about God’s commandments and His instructions for living?
One author writing on this text offered a good reminder: “The best education is education in the best things.” Children do not just need a good education; they need an education in good things. And that must include the truth of God’s Word.
Now you might be thinking that children don’t think all that deeply about God and life in general. Oh no; they have a lot of questions, and some of them might surprise you.
Through the years of my pastorate, our children’s minister would have the children in third through fifth grades write down questions each year that they wanted answered. Let me read you some of them:
- How are God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit the same God?
- How do I handle the emotions of having someone in my family die?
- If the person I marry one day abuses me, can I get a divorce?
- If people live far away and never hear about Jesus, can they go to heaven?
- If God knew Satan was going to sin, why did God create him?
- Do angels have a free will?
- Did God create girl angels? That one is easy. The answer is yes, there are girl angels. I know because I married one of them!
Let me tell you something, these young children are asking deep questions about God and His Word. Let’s make it a priority to teach them how to think biblically.
Priority #3: We need to teach the next generation how to live wisely. Asaph writes here that biblical instruction is designed so that the next generation “should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation” (verse 8). Asaph is referring to his disobedient Israelite forefathers who rebelled against God. Let’s remind those in our family and in our world how to live wisely and avoid wasting their lives through disobedience to God’s Word.
This is the chain reaction described by the apostle Paul when he told Pastor Timothy, “What you have heard from me . . . entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).
I love the story about the kid who was fussing in church. He wouldn’t sit still, talked out loud, dropped his books and his crayons, and finally started crying. His father finally had enough and picked him up, put him on his shoulder, and marched out of the sanctuary—that boy knew he was in trouble now. And just before they got to the back doors, the kid hollered out, “Pray for me!” Well, at least he had learned the value of prayer.
So here are the ultimate priorities for us today: let’s show the next generation that God is worth knowing, that God’s Word is worth learning, and that God’s will is worth obeying.
 Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Volume 2 (Zondervan, 1977), 331.