In Psalm 78 we read:
1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth!
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known,
that our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children,
but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
5 He established a testimony in Jacob
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our fathers
to teach to their children,
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and arise and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments;
8 and that they should not be like their fathers,
a stubborn and rebellious generation,
a generation whose heart was not steadfast,
whose spirit was not faithful to God. [Psalms 78:1-8 ESV]
The first eight verses of Psalm 78 highlight the importance of passing God’s Word and the memory of His grace on from generation to generation. While the principal place for this work is within the family structure, as made clear elsewhere in the Old Testament, modern Children’s Ministry also plays a part in the process. A close exposition of this Psalm reveals the importance of such an exercise:
1. Children’s Ministry is of the Utmost Importance
The Psalmist calls attention to what he is about to say with the words, “Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the words of my mouth!” Charles Spurgeon explains the import of this introductory phrase,
“When God gives his truth a tongue, and sends forth his messengers trained to declare his word with power, it is the least we can do to give them our ears and the earnest obedience of our hearts. Shall God speak, and his children refuse to hear? His teaching has the force of law, let us yield both ear and heart to it.”
In many churches today, Children’s Ministry is an afterthought. Volunteers are hard to come by, and funds are not directed to Children’s Ministry. In many churches, not all by any means, the importance of passing biblical truth to children in overlooked in favor of a mere babysitting service.
2. The Call to Teach Children Is A Weighty Call and Requires Christians with Deep Understanding and a Firm Foundation in Truth
In verse 2, the Psalmist says that he will speak in parables and dark sayings of old. Both of these phrases reveal the weightiness of the topic at hand. Matthew Henry explains:
“Several reasons are given why we should diligently attend to that which is here related. 1. The things here discoursed of are weighty, and deserve consideration, strange, and need it: I will open my mouth in a parable, in that which is sublime and uncommon, but very excellent and well worthy your attention; I will utter dark sayings, which challenge your most serious regards as much as the enigmas with which the eastern princes and learned men used to try one another. These are called dark sayings, not because they are hard to be understood, but because they are greatly to be admired and carefully to be looked into.”
In these phrases the Psalmist reveals the importance and weightiness of what he is about to say including passing the knowledge of God from one generation to the next. Teaching kids about God, particularly the truth of God revealed in the scripture, is of utmost importance.
3. We Have Been Entrusted with a Gift in the Revelation of God
The third verse in this Psalm underscores that the idea that we have been entrusted with something that must be passed on. In the oral tradition of much of the old testament period, this was a sacred trust as recounting the scriptures from generation to generation was likely they only way they would be passed on. In our current culture, we are blessed with the written scriptures, but the charge is still the same. By the grace of God, we have been given knowledge of him and the salvation that he offers. That is a gift that we are commanded to pass along to others – including children!
4. We are Duty Bound to Pass on That Which We Have Learned!
In addition to a sacred trust to pass along the trust of God, in verse 4, the Psalmist tells us that not passing along that knowledge amounts to hiding things from our kids. The Bible tells us that teachers will be judged more harshly, and I for one do not want to be called to account for what I have “hidden” from the future generation. We serve an awesome God. His wonders, miracles and deeds are richly recorded in scripture and on the pages of our own lives. We are duty bound to pass those on to the next generation!
Charles Spurgeon summarizes:
“It is the duty of the church of God to maintain, in fullest rigour, every agency intended for the religious education of the young; to them we must look for the church of the future, and as we sow towards them so shall we reap. Children are to be taught to magnify the Lord; they ought to be well informed as to his wonderful doings in ages past…The best education is education in the best things. The first lesson for a child should be concerning his mother’s God. Teach him what you will, if he learn not the fear of the Lord, he will perish for lack of knowledge. Grammar is poor food for the soul if it be not flavoured with grace. Every satchel should have a Bible in it. The world may teach secular knowledge alone, ’tis all she has a heart to know, but the church must not deal so with her offspring; she should look well to every Timothy, and see to it that from a child he knows the Holy Scriptures. Around the fire-side fathers should repeat not only the Bible records, but the deeds of the martyrs and reformers, and moreover the dealings of the Lord with themselves both in providence and grace. …What happy hours and pleasant evenings have children had at their parents’ knees as they have listened to some “sweet story of old.” Reader, if you have children, mind you do not fail in this duty.”
5. God Commands It
In addition to the duty created by our love for God, the Psalmist reminds us in verse 5 that God commands that this knowledge be passed from one generation to the next. Frankly, I would have put this one first if it had not flowed the way it does in the Psalm. After all, the Bible is clear that we demonstrate our love for God in obedience to his commands.
6. Work With Children Impacts Future Generations
The time we spend with children investing in them spiritually and building disciples from a young age affects not only those children but future generations of kids. The Psalmist stresses that passing knowledge of God along to kids impacts children not yet born and children after them. How many people wandering the halls of our churches today can still tell you about their favorite Sunday School teacher as a child and the impact that teacher had on their lives? As workers in Children’s Ministry, we should pray for that kind of impact.
7. Children’s Ministry has Eternal Implications
We do not work with kids to ensure that they can merely recite the ten commandments or memorize hundreds of verses of scripture. That may be a result of our work, but our goal is to impart in these children the eternal hope of God. Our ultimate goal is to lead kids to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ and into obedience to their God. There are a multitude of things we can fill our time with that are fleeting and pass away, but the impact of working with kids can be eternal. The Psalmist makes it clear that a firm foundation in the knowledge of the works of God is essential to a child’s relationship with his savior. It is harder to stray from the faith when the works of God our foremost in our thoughts.
8. In Children’s Ministry You May Be the Only Voice for God in a Child’s Life
There are many children of unbelieving parents who may find their way to your Children’s Ministry some day. One of the greatest gifts God gives us in Children’s Ministry is allowing us to be his light to a child who may never otherwise hear the truth of God. This privilege alone is reason enough to get involved in Children’s Ministry.
Originally posted: June 10, 2009