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Psalm 78 (part one of three) A Sermon on the passage we are memorizing this year May 17, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Discipleship, Psalms, Religion, Scripture Memorization, Sermons.

Theme: Hope is the reason we should learn and teach about God’s work about God’s covenant with His people.
This is the fourth year in which I have challenged you to take a specific passage of Scripture to memorize. In connection with this challenge to memorize Scripture, I have preached a series of sermons from those passages. This year we will be looking at Psalm 78, memorizing verses 1-11.
Scripture memorization is a spiritual habit. The purpose of spiritual habits is to develop our discipleship. The strength of a believer’s dedication to discipleship is measured by his habitual acts (adapted from Pascal).
This morning as we took the morning offering, we had the opportunity to practice such a spiritual habit. Jesus said according to Luke 14:33, he who “…does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” When we receive the offering each Sunday morning, we have the opportunity to forsake all that we have and to give some of it to the Lord. While tithing does not guarantee discipleship (salvation does that), it is invaluable in developing our discipleship as it relates to our money.
Another spiritual habit has to do with our relationships. In the upper room, Jesus said according to John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” Joining a church is a commitment to loving one another. Regularly attending its meetings is an important part of maintaining that love. In other words, the strength of a believer’s dedication to discipleship in the area of relationships is measured in part by church attendance.
There is one other main area of discipleship. In addition to demanding our possessions and our relationships, Jesus Christ demands our time. Again in the upper room, Jesus said according to John 15:7-8, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” So prayer is a spiritual habit that demands our time. Both private and public prayers fit into the category of spiritual habits that develop our discipleship in the area of time. That is why we set aside time for prayer at 9:15 a.m. every Sunday morning. We are developing our discipleship.
There is another group of spiritual habits that are necessary if we are going to give God our time. They are centered around the Word of God. In John 8:31, Jesus tells those Jews who said that they believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, you are my disciples indeed.” It is necessary that you follow the Word of God and to do that you must know and learn the Word of God and Scripture memorization is an excellent way to learn the Word (some of the ideas above with thanks to Rick Warren).
With all of these habits, people make excuses. “I cannot afford to give, I am not a people person, I do not like to pray, I cannot memorize Scripture.” Let us be honest with ourselves and say, “Being a disciple of Christ is not worth what is demanded of me.”
Although this psalm is not about Scripture memorization per se, this psalm should help us to understand the worth of being a disciple who gives his time to learning the Word through Scripture memorization. I trust that you will endeavor with me and my family over the next three months to memorize these eleven verses together as a church.
Now let’s get into the why of Scripture memorization.
Every generation is responsible for the knowledge of future generations (verses 1-6). The writer of this Psalm is Asaph. Asaph was appointed by David to lead the music when tabernacle worship was established at Jerusalem. His musical specialty was the cymbals. He wrote of number of psalms and took the psalms of David and used them in worship (See 2 Chronicles 16:4-8 and following). In fact, the first psalm he was given, a variation on Psalm 105, was very much like this one in its purpose, presenting publicly to the people the history of the salvation of God’s chosen people.
This is the responsibility of God’s people, God’s church, as a group (verses 1-4). These verses underline that even though the parents have the primary responsibility for teaching children the Word of God, the people of God also bear an important complementary responsibility, that is: (1) to remind believing parents of their responsibility, (2) to supplement the teaching of the parents, and (3) to assist where parents cannot or will not fulfill their responsibility. This psalm was written and used directly for the first of these two purposes and would certainly be useful in fulfilling the third.
This is why I challenge you to not only memorize Scripture but also that you lead your families to memorize these verses with you or that you partner with other believers so that you might build each other up in your discipleship. We as a church are responsible to teach each other Scripture and corporate Scripture memory is a way in which even those who have no teaching talent can help others to learn the Word of God.
This is the responsibility of all people who have a knowledge of God (verse 5). Not every person who was given the Ten Commandments followed God. We will see later that most did not. God still, however, held them accountable to teach their children about the covenant which God had made with them. Their spiritual inadequacies were not excused and neither will ours be an excuse before God. If we know the truth we are responsible to teach it even if we are not perfect in following it ourselves.
This is a responsibility our children should learn from us (verse 6). As you can see, every generation is responsible not only to teach God’s truth but to encourage that generation to teach the next one. We are so shortsighted. We forget that we are responsible to pass down a spiritual heritage to our children. If you do not make memorizing Scripture, knowing the Word of God a priority, then your children will also not make it a priority and your grandchildren will grow up ignorant of the truth of the Word of God.
Why was the word of God scarce before the days of Samuel? Israel had forsaken and not taught the knowledge of God and after a few generations, the truth taught by Joshua and faithfully kept by his generation, the generation that had taken the Promised Land, was forgotten and forsaken.
The knowledge we should pass down is God’s covenant with His people (verses 5-11).
What is God’s covenant with His people (verses 5-6)? The covenant mentioned in these verses is the covenant of Moses. It contains the Ten Commandments, the moral code, the laws of sacrifices, the laws of purity but all of these things are based on the relationship that God established with Israel. He chose them. Although they agreed to the covenant, God was the one who determined the conditions, the blessings, the curses, the laws, all aspects of the covenant were given by God. It was not a negotiated agreement.
When Jesus died, He established a new covenant through His death. The conditions and the expectations of this new covenant, like the first were given by God. What is this new covenant?
Hebrews 9:26a-28 tells what the new covenant is. Jesus, who “…has appeared to put away sin (that is the guilt of sin) by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ (that is, the Messiah) was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” That is the new covenant in a nutshell. That is the miraculous work of Christ, whereby He established for us a new covenant for forgiveness of sins.
The confirmation of God’s covenant by His miraculous works gives hope to believers (verse 7). Hope in the Bible rarely if ever means wishful thinking. This particular word is actually the word for “flanks.” It is referring the strong group of thigh muscles that not only enable us to walk but to stand erect and strong. Where does our strength and confidence come from? It comes from the Lord. Scripture is a book filled with God’s works and most of the Bible is in some way involved in the works of God. When we memorize Scripture and we teach our children to memorize Scripture, we are strengthening those spiritual muscles that can give them confidence in God, helping them to stand in this evil world, enabling them to climb the highest mountains and to descend into the lowest valleys without falling. That is the great value of memorizing Scriptures. They give you the tools to confirm Christ’s new covenant with you and through that confirmation comes spiritual confidence and obedience.
Inattention to God’s covenant and His miraculous works results in mutiny during difficult times (verses 8-11). If we do not as a church, emphasize knowing the Scriptures, specifically memorization, what might happen to the new generation?
Confidence in God and obedience to His Word will be lacking. In these four verses, we have a synopsis of the rebellion of Israel at Kadesh-Barnea. It was time for Israel to invade and possess the Promised Land after over a year of seeing the confirming works of God in Egypt, at the Red Sea, in the wilderness, and at Mount Sinai. They had seen the works of God but because of their unbelieving hearts, they feared the enemy more than they feared God and rebelled against His command to possess the Promised Land. As big a mistake as their complaining about lack of water and food and as big a mistake as the golden calf was, this was the test to see if they had learned their lesson and they failed because they did not put their hope in God, they did not find their strength and confidence in Him but rather looked at themselves and saw their weakness and rather than turning to God, they rebelled against Him.
They mutinied. God’s chosen people refused to submit to His will. They refused to keep the covenant He established for them. They forgot His works. The point here is not if you memorize Scripture, you will never sin, you will never backslide, and your children will always be saved. The point is this, these people forgot what they knew. How much harder will it be for the new generation to enter into the new covenant with God if they do not know the works and words of God? It is impossible.
Why is the next generation rejecting God? They do not know His works because no one has taught them who Jesus is and what He has done. We as parents and we as a church are responsible to teach them. We need every tool we can muster. The confidence and strength and hope of the next generation is in how well we do our task of teaching them the truth. Join with me this summer in memorizing Scripture and teaching the new generation and new believers the new covenant and the confirming works of that covenant.



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