July 25, 2021
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
1 My people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter hidden things, things from of old—
3 things we have heard and known,
things our ancestors have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their descendants;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
8 They would not be like their ancestors—
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
whose hearts were not loyal to God,
whose spirits were not faithful to him.
This is a leather punch. It is used to make holes in leather. The leather punch can make holes in leather for a belt or for two pieces of leather to be sewn together. This leather punch was given to me along with many other old leather working tools from my great grandmother. Because it belonged to my great grandmother and was now passed on to me, it has become part of our family story. I could go on to tell all of you other details about my family, but that is not why we are here this morning.
All of you have stories that you like to tell. Maybe you are someone who likes to tell sports stories and can recall the winners or losers from games stretching back decades. Maybe you are someone who likes talking about relationships, whether they are yours or other peoples’, from books, movies or reality tv, good or bad, brief or committed to the end. Maybe you like to exaggerate stories or maybe you stick to the facts. We all have stories we like to tell, but we are not here this morning to share stories.
We are here this morning to hear about the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord. The opening words to Psalm 78 read, 1 “My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. 2 I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—3 things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.” The writer of Psalm 78 was Asaph and the story he planned to tell had been passed down for generations. And the story he planned to tell was meant to continue long after him as he wrote, 4 “We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” The words Asaph wrote in Psalm 78 were a summary of what God had done for his people, Israel. God guided Asaph to retell the events of Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt up to David becoming King of Israel. These events included the 10 plagues of Egypt involving the Nile River turning to blood, frogs, flies, locusts, destruction of crops, death of cattle and even the death of firstborn sons, God’s parting of the Red Sea, God giving Israel water from a rock, God giving Israel manna and quail to eat, God guiding Israel in a pillar of cloud and fire, God fighting against the other nations to clear a path for Israel to the promised land, God dwelling among Israel in the Tabernacle, God’s anger putting Israelites to death for turning away from him, and God giving them King David who 72 … “shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.” This summary of God’s praiseworthy deeds was written down as proof that God wrote the story of Israel; they have a history and existed as a people because God constantly used his power and wonders to keep them alive. Yet, we read, 41 “Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel. 42 They did not remember his power.” God guided Asaph to write Psalm 78 because every generation puts God to the test and does not remember his power, and must be reminded of God’s powerful love in action to save them from being lost to suffering, death and hell.
Every generation needs to hear the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord recorded in Psalm 78. The history recorded in Psalm 78 revealed God’s power to give life to his people and showed the sinful nature of Israel as they rebelled against God, and God’s forgiveness when they repented. The words of this Psalm would have benefited Israel’s leaders generations later at the time of the prophet Amos who was called by God to point out their sin and rebellion against God in the hope that they would repent and again serve God. Instead, we read in Amos 7, one of the leaders said, 16 “Do not prophesy against Israel, and stop preaching against the descendants of Isaac.” The leadership did not want to hear about sin or serving God; they wanted to live life on their terms. They wanted to write their own story on their terms and pass that onto the next generation, which lead to their destruction as God spoke through Amos, 17 “Therefore this is what the Lord says: “‘Your wife will become a prostitute in the city, and your sons and daughters will fall by the sword. Your land will be measured and divided up, and you yourself will die in a pagan country. And Israel will surely go into exile, away from their native land.’” Every generation needs to hear the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord to trust in him, or they will suffer for their sin without his saving power.
When you do not tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, they will suffer. All of you have stories that you like to tell and that means you have a listening audience. You have a listening audience whether it is your kids, grandkids or great grandkids, an underclassman, a young coworker, a niece, nephew or a cousin, family, friend, acquaintance, or stranger, even someone older than you. When you choose to share stories that do not include Jesus, God or things that he says are good, then you willingly keep someone from knowing or being strengthened by the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord. When you choose to let someone live without knowing what God has done for them, you choose to keep them on a path to destruction, to death, to guilt, to fear, to a purposeless life, to unanswered questions, to struggling to make sense of a broken world, to fight the devil alone, to not knowing truly unconditional love, to not know their Savior, to being shut out of heaven, to be condemned to hell, etc. When you do not tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord it comes from a heart that is not hearing the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord. Your sinful nature wants you to hide what Jesus has done from others and wants you to forget it too.
The history of Psalm 78 is your story. God guided Asaph to write, 5 “He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children.” The words of Psalm 78 are the history of the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord. They are the history of God’s miracles to save the people he promised the Savior would be born to. God promised Jesus would be born an Israelite; he would be the offspring of King David from “the tribe of Judah,” as Asaph wrote in verse 68. You are one of the children of the next generation, children yet to be born, who have heard what God wanted you to know. God wanted you to know that after Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the world, he would allow one of their offspring to crush the devil’s head. God wanted you to know that he preserved mankind through Noah and his family. God wanted you to know that he could make Abraham and Sarah parents to a child when they were decades past childbearing, whose children would become Israel, who would be God’s people by faith in his promise to give life to what is dead. God wanted you to know the history of Moses to David so that you could see that he does not stop loving and working powerfully to save, forgive and give life to imperfect, sinful, stubborn, questioning, prideful, people just like you. God wants you to know the Bible, the history of his love for you, to know Jesus was born, lived, died, rose, and will return to bring you to live with him in heaven forever.
The next generation needs to hear those same praiseworthy deeds of the Lord. Part of Jesus’ work while he was on earth was to make sure the next generation would hear about their Savior. In Mark 6, Jesus sent out his twelve disciples in pairs of two and 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. Some of the people the disciples preached to repented and put their faith in Jesus, while others remained in love with their sin and rejected Jesus. They were not sent to make people believe, only to share Jesus’ message. This is still true for pastors today. In 1 Timothy 3, we hear one of the qualifications for a pastor, 4 “He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” Even though pastors are called to serve a congregation, they must first be able to manage their own family. The highest calling of a pastor is to share what God has done with his family. You have the same message as Jesus, his disciples and pastors to share with your family and everyone in this next generation. Telling the next generation is not always rainbows and butterflies. Telling the next generation means calling out sin and its consequences, even when feelings are hurt, and relationships strained or ended. It also means patience and tact, repetition, and prayer. It is also the truth of God as our loving Creator, the giver of life, who made this amazing world that keeps us alive. It is Jesus who became one of us, giving up the riches of heaven, to become poor, to suffer rejection by the world, those he loved and God himself, to save us, to rise, to ascend into heaven, to rule all things and wait until Judgment Day when he will declare you to be one of his before all people, and bring you to live with him in heaven. It is the Holy Spirit who gives the gift of faith, who opened your eyes to see Jesus as your Savior, who fills you with wisdom, joy, peace, hope, understanding and love.
This is a leather punch from my great grandma. I could tell you more about it, but that is not why we are here today. I have another piece of my family history to share with you. This is the baptism certificate of my great grandma from 1896. I am thankful for this because it means my great, great grandparents heard the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord and wanted to share them with the next generation, trusting a generation not yet born would hear about their Savior Jesus. Telling the next generation about Jesus will not always rainbows and butterflies, and I am sure you have all faced rejection for sharing Jesus or feel guilty for not sharing him. The good news is that you are forgiven by God and you are his people because of his mighty power and love. And, I want you all to know that sometimes telling others about Jesus is all about rainbows and butterflies. The rainbow was the sign God gave Noah that he would not destroy the world again with a flood; it is a reminder of how serious God is about sin and a sign of God’s promise to save lives by his mercy and grace. And the butterfly allows you to talk about the three stages of Jesus’ work to save us like the three stages of a butterfly’s life. Jesus was born and lived looking like an average person like a humble caterpillar, then he was put in the tomb like a chrysalis, and finally he rose in all his glory and ascended into heaven like a butterfly breaking out of its chrysalis, spreading its wings and flying away. The Bible is full of God’s power and forgiveness for you and all generations through Jesus. God be with each of you as you tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord. Amen.