Dear Veritas Families,
Peace and Grace in the name of our Lord Jesus.
I hope you and your family are safe. As we are faced with the peak of casualties from the Coronavirus worldwide, we cannot but sober up and reflect on the sovereignty of God behind this historic pandemic. It is too difficult to understand why these things are happening, but as those who trust in the God of Jesus Christ, we believe these things are happening for some ultimate good. While meditating on Psalm 78, the 4th Quarter Bible memory verses, I would like to share how this passage may shed some light on what we are experiencing.
Ps 78 is about the importance of transferring a way of life, from parents to children (v.1-6). The primary means by which faith is transferred is by parents sharing stories of God’s faithfulness and goodness in our lives and in the lives of God’s people in history and Scripture.
The rest of Psalms 78 is devoted to an example of what parents might share with their children (v.9-72). At the first reading, or several readings, one might become a bit discouraged, like me. The long passage reads like a litany of all the wrong things that the Isralites did against God, and how God became angry at first, then softened his heart, and gave them another chance. Repeat. One might wonder, how is telling our children this kind of story educational? How does this pass down God’s faith from one generation to the next?
Good questions. I had the same questions. After patiently meditating upon these passages, here are some principles of discipleship story-telling.
1). We need to tell stories about our failure to trust in God, and their terrible consequences. This long passage is full of them, from the fear in our children in the face of challenges (v.9), to God’s rejection of entire communities (v.67). According to Dr. John Patrick, Jewish people have a high sense of ethical standards, because they grew up hearing about what happened to their ancestors when they turned away from God. The educational principle here is this: We cannot expect our children to follow a high ethical standard, if they do not know that there are terrible consequences for our sins.
2). We need to explain how God showed his mercy despite our failure to trust and obey. We must not fail to follow up with explaining God’s mercy, lest we fall into legalism, which is more deadly than violating the letter of God’s laws. But we must not share God’s mercy as if God extends mercy automatically or that he owes us mercy. He does not have to. Sometimes he does not, for a while. So, when God does extend mercy, even in limited ways, they are real. We should be humbled and thankful. Although we are at the “peak” of mortality rate of Coronavirus, we should be thankful that we are not hit like the Spanish Flu of 1917. We have been spared.
3). We need to tell real, honest, specific stories about God’s acts of mercy and grace in the life of our family, and in the lives of larger communities that we belong to. For our children to really trust in God wholeheartedly, our stories must be as it is, with all its rawness. We should use age-appropriate language, expressions, sensitivity to the audience and context, but children need to know the truth, and they get it, better than adults. Both the depth of sin, and the heights of God’s mercy.
4). We need to share the ultimate good that those redemptive stories produce. Many times, we cannot see an ultimate good in the many sufferings that we go through yet. But it is there. In Ps 78, the Psalmist ends the long history of Israelites’ failures and God’s mercy with one specific good: God brought forth David, to “shepherd Jacob his people, Israelite his inheritance. With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand.” Despite David’s own failures, we cannot think of the history of Israelites as well as biblical history without king David. A man after God’s own heart. A poor shadow, but nevertheless a shadow, of Christ to come. What ultimate good is God bringing out of your life, your children’s lives, and our life together? Please share them with your children. May the Lord bless your family.