Having received the truth of God from our forefathers in the faith, we dare not shirk our responsibility to pass on this truth to the coming generation. Church history tells us that whenever the gospel is not clearly proclaimed, God’s Word is obscured and the covenant community is plagued with much error in doctrine and in worship. Thus, an important vocation we have as members of God’s people is to make sure we hand down the truths of the Christian faith unchanged.
We find this principle taught clearly in Psalm 78. Much of the psalm consists in a recitation of the Lord’s mighty acts of old, but as we read in today’s passage, the psalmist Asaph does not tell his readers of these deeds merely for the sake of conveying the facts of history. As is true of the rest of God’s Word, our Creator’s work in history and the inspired interpretation of his actions, which makes up the Old and New Testaments, is given for the renewal of our minds and the transformation of our lives (Rom. 12:1–2). We learn the Word of God so that we will be strengthened in godliness and equipped sufficiently for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16–17).
Specifically in regard to Psalm 78, Asaph recites the history of God’s covenant people so that the coming generations might know the statutes of the Lord’s holy law and hope in Him (vv. 5–8). As we will see in our other studies based on this psalm, this instruction is mainly by way of negative example, as he reminds his readers of the perverse ingratitude of the wilderness generation in particular (vv. 9–53), but also the failure of Israel to set aside the idols of Canaan after the conquest (vv. 54–66). Yet the psalm ends on a hopeful note with its reminder that God raised up David to shepherd his people in godliness (vv. 67–72).
God has promised to preserve a faithful remnant who will seek His face and endeavor to honor Him in all that they do, but He has not purposed to accomplish this work apart from the instrumentality of human agents. In other words, while the preservation of this remnant is finally due to the Lord’s irresistible decree, He calls His people to faith, strengthens His remnant, and sustains His church through our teaching of His Word until He comes to consummate His kingdom. John Calvin writes, “[It is] the will of God that these things should be published from age to age without interruption; so that being transmitted from father to child in each family, they might reach even the last family of man.”