Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tell the Next Generation

Perhaps it is my age or the new addition to our family with my little nephew Caleb, but I have become rather intrigued by supporting younger generations. Working at Kanakuk Kamps for two summers, visiting with high school-aged girls in FCA and even interactions with college freshman are all examples of avenues I have been able to influence the next generation. Now that I have graduated from college, I feel as though I have been pushed out of this current generation’s bubble and into a space that I don’t believe anyone likes to admit they are in: the older generation. Don’t worry, my mid-life crisis has not hit me yet at age 22 but it is amazing how one can go from being concerned with the idea that the world is “yours” to “theirs.” Think about it with me for a second: elementary-aged children have been exposed to more technology within their short life span than my grandma has in her entire lifetime! Not only is the upcoming generation technologically driven, but also evidence-based with the demand for proof in every aspect of life. Modern medicine has revolutionized our healthcare system and has transformed the way we approach health and fitness. What about our spiritual status? (….Chirp, Chirp….) Yah, that’s what I thought! Appears as though only a cricket knows what to say, right? Funny how we bring in the topic of religion and people are at a loss of words as how to describe this generation’s view on it. Well, it’s not that this generation isn’t “spiritual” just “spiritual” in a variety of different ways with some being incredibly far away from the Truth. Why do you think that is? Don’t blame the government or the free religion tolerance that is taking place; Yes I believe God has been somewhat slighted-out of schools and public places but do you know what I really think it is: we have a degree of what I like to call “Spiritual Amnesia.” We are a generation of forgetful people, but we are not the first generation to be like this. The other generation that sticks out in my mind as well as in the Bible was notorious for having bouts of spiritual amnesia which caused them to remain in the desert for a period of time. Can you think of a group of people that may have been in the desert for a period of time? Let’s visit an account in Psalm 78 and discuss how our “older generations”—including myself, can learn from their mistake.

Now, Psalm 78 contains 72 verses so we won’t be going verse-by-verse however, I highly recommend you do this and wrestle with each point presented because it will transform the way you not only understand where this generation was but more importantly, it will reveal the character of our great God! I will try and find “natural” breaks in the passage and discuss sections of verses for ‘blogging-sake.’

Within the first four verses we can sense urgency in the Psalmist for getting the attention of those he is writing to: give ear, incline your ears and so on and so forth. He proclaims that he will not hide the things that were made known to him by his father but “will tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.”

In the next section, verses five through eight, he continues to explain why it is important for the next generation to know of God’s goodness. God established a testimony in Jacob and the law in Israel way back in Genesis 17:7; 18:19 and Deut. 6:6-9. Genesis 18:19 states this:

“For I have chosen (known) him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” ESV

So basically, this isn’t a new concept of “telling the next generation” this has been part of God’s plan from the beginning of time! Why you may continue to ask, is this so important? Because the next generation is to “set their hope in God” to “not forget the works of God,” and to “keep his commands; and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.”

When I read this passage, I feel as though there’s a dependency created between “obedience of God’s law” and “forgetting God’s works,” and vice versa. It makes sense does it not? If your mom or dad said to you “Sweetie, will you clean your room,” you would have the choice to obey or disobey depending on not only your desire to honor your parent, but the running history you may have experienced in choosing one way or the other. If you’ve experienced goodness from you parent, you are going to remember that which may propel you into being obedient; if it was a real bad experience and you were punished for disobedience, I bet that you recall that situation much faster than the other. I don’t know. To me, if you are struggling with a sin, generally that sin is on your mind all the time; but if you continually having the Lord transform your mind---getting into his Word on a daily basis and meditating on those truths---the temptation to sin becomes less likely to be in your mind. Just a thought regarding this point of the passage: let’s continue on!

The next passage of scripture leads into a larger portion of this passage recounting the works of God and Israel’s response. The Ephramites turned back in the day of battle and did not keep his covenant; these people forgot his works. Notice that phrase---“they forgot his works.” To me a “work” a “wonder” like what is described in the next few verses is nothing short than a miracle and yet these people forgot them!

“He divided the seas and let them pass through it and made the waters stand like a heap…”

“In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light,.”

“He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep.”

“He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers.”

Hmm. In my basic knowledge and understanding of the characteristics of a desert, it appears as though the Lord is providing EXACTLY what these people need, does it not? As we read on into verses 17-22, we realize that these people still did not listen to God and in fact, tested him by saying “Can God spread a table in the wilderness? Can he also give bread or provide meat for his people?” Are you serious? You all just witnessed God dividing seas, splitting rocks and being led by a cloud and fiery pillar—is anything too hard for our God? Apparently the Israelites thought so and rebelled. Naturally God becomes angry because they did not ‘believe in God and did not trust his saving power’ (vs.22). Probably one of thee most beautiful of words follows this verse; yet. Verse 23 says this:

“Yet, he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down them manna to eat and gave them the grain from heaven. Men ate the bread of angels he sent them food in abundance He caused the east wind to blow in the heaves, and by his power led out the south wind; he rained meat on them like dust, winged birds like the sand of the seas; he let them fall in the midst of their camp, all around their dwellings. And they ate and were filled for he gave them what they craved.”
Psalm 78:23-29 ESV

Oh fellow (and fell-a ) beloved, do you see that? Seriously, do you see what has taken place and the revealing goodness of our God? The Lord provided abundantly and goes on to rebuke the people for not being satisfied by actually killing ‘the strongest of them and laying low the young men of Israel’ (vs 24). You may say, well that seems odd that God’s anger would rise after he gives them what he wants. But you have to understand, these people were not getting it! They refused to trust and believe in him and so, much like a Father disciplines a child who refuses to obey, God—who is perfectly Holy and Righteous brings justice to this group and works towards bringing about a generation who worships Him with obedient hearts. Eventually they get it because of his wrath and they begin seeking him earnestly and then revert back to ‘flatter him with their mouths; lying with their tongues.’ They did not remain faithful to his covenant (vs. 30-37). Do you flatter the Lord with your tongue and lie to God? Maybe just meditate a bit on this if you feel convicted in this area before reading on.

The beautiful word ‘yet,’ appears again in verse 38 saying:

“Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their inquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again.” ESV

Do you sense this balance scale that titers back and forth throughout these verses between God’s character traits: compassion and mercy versus justices and righteousness? This continues throughout the rest of the passage. The people continue to refuse disobey and God manages to retain anger and then has to bring forth wrath onto his people to get their attention. They even ‘provoke him to anger with their idols’ (vs. 58). They almost tease the God of the universe with these man-made idols, like the golden calf. How would that make you feel? Maybe you feel like your spouse or significant other is often so preoccupied with some rinky-dink gadget or worse, some other person and they hold that thing up to you and say, “This is so much better than you.” Ouch. I do not wish that upon anyone---but if anyone does not deserve it, it is God! We are merely humans—far from being good let along the perfect God of the universe! What idols are you teasing God with? Again, I challenge you to meditate on this before proceeding to read further in this passage.
Lastly, we encounter more wrath of God that is poured-out on the people of Israel in verses 59 through 68. He did reject what appeared to be a ‘more-likely tribe’ in candidacy of bringing in a king to lead the people and chose ‘Judah, Mount Zion which he loves’ (vs. 68). From this tribe came King David who became a shepherd of God’s people and did so with an ‘upright heart’ and ‘guided them with his skillful hand.’ Later on the ‘good shepherd’ is revealed who we know as Jesus Christ who is also acts as the Lamb of God and takes upon himself, the sin of the world.

I am sure you may be puzzled and hung-up on a few parts of scripture in this text. It’s challenging to see this dual-character of God and not somewhat ask the question, “If God loves us so much, why does he bring his wrath upon his people like that?” But you have to look at it from the Lord’s perspective (which none of us can do perfectly or understand---who can know the mind of the Lord?)---He is both equally just and loving. It would be denying himself if he were to completely go against this aspect of himself and to just give- in and do whatever his people wanted him to do. He wouldn’t be God---we would be able to manipulate him and corrupt him in our sinful ways---which completely goes against him because he is the only thing that is truly good! Seek Him and ask Him to bring a sense of peace to this area if you continue to struggle in it and you know what you can do? Tell the next generation! Find someone younger than you and teach them the goodness of our Lord revealed in both his justice and his mercy in this passage. He didn’t have to have compassion on his people, but he did. He didn’t have to give them what they needed after they deliberately disobeyed him, but he did! We don’t deserve anything! Do you understand that? God does not owe us anything!! Anything that we have that is good is a gift from our Lord—we deserve hell and total separation from the Lord. But in his goodness, he provided a Shepherd—one that laid down his life for us and paid the penalty for our repulsive sins so that we could be in community with the Lord. Think about all of this. Remember the Lord’s goodness in your own life and share that often. Do not become like the people of Israel and complain about being in a wilderness: rejoice in it and say “But we have Emmanuel, God with us! What more can we ask for?” Wake up from your current state of ‘Spiritual Amnesia’ and remember what the Lord has done, is doing and what he promises to do in the next generation.

1 comment:

  1. haha you posted early:) It is so rewarding to serve a younger generation like you say. I often forget how others did the same for me. Praise God for their obedience. Let's do the same.