Sunday, February 6, 2011

Not be like their fathers

Psalm 78:5-8 (NKJV)
5 For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; 6 That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, 7 That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments; 8 And may not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, A generation that did not set its heart aright, And whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Two weeks ago we considered this passage and its exhortation to fathers – fathers are to instruct their children in the ways of the Lord. Our task is to teach our children that they might put their hope in God, trust Him, love Him, serve Him, delight in Him.

This morning as we return to this text, I would like you to notice that the task of instruction is not only positive, it is negative. Not only are we to teach our children that they may set their hoe in God and keep His commandments – this is imperative and the central message that must be coming across – but we must also warn them of the dangers they will face in following Christ. Notice our text emphasizes that we are to teach our children so that they “may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not set its heart aright, and whose spirit was not faithful to God.” The task of fathers is to point out the folly of their fathers and exhort the current generation to remain faithful to God, to – as the psalmist remarks – set its heart aright.

So what will this involve? Quite clearly this will involve a regular study of the Old Testament. The Word of God gives us numerous examples of the way that “our fathers” were not faithful to God but turned away from Him to serve other gods. Whether it is the worship of the golden calf, the defeat of God’s people at the city of Ai because of Achan’s sin, the apostasy of God’s people at the time of Elijah, the destruction of Jerusalem because of our fathers’ unfaithfulness, or the ongoing sin that threatened our fathers in Nehemiah’s day – all these stories should be objects of discussion and instruction. Look at our fathers, look how they were unfaithful to God, look how they went after other gods and worshiped them, look at the dangers they faced and the way in which God was faithful again and again to enforce His Word.

But not only must we talk about the way in which our fathers failed to serve the Lord faithfully in the Scriptures – the Scriptures, after all, are meant to be applied to our generation, meant to instruct us about the dangers we are facing. So as fathers our task is not only to read the Bible but to help our children see the way in which the rebellious spirit that our fathers’ manifested in their day is being manifest in our own. Fathers, your task is to identify the idols of our day and help your children see them and flee from them. We are in the midst of a time of cultural rebellion and apostasy – our children need to know this and be equipped to recognize the signs of it. So, fathers, rise to the occasion.

And not only must our fathers rise to the occasion, but so too must you children. Your calling is to listen to your fathers as they apply the Word of God to our current generation. Your calling is not first and foremost to imbibe the wisdom of the world offered in the form of movies, music, and literature – your calling is first and foremost to set your heart aright before God and have a spirit that is faithful to Him. And this type of heart, this type of spirit, will necessarily get you in trouble with our broader culture. Just last night our family read of the murder of John the Baptist – a man whose heart was set aright before God and whose spirit was faithful to Him. This is the challenge set before you – to be that kind of man, that kind of woman.

Reminded of our calling to learn from the errors of our fathers – both those in Scripture and those in our own society – let us confess our sins to God. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. Let us kneel together as we confess.