Like Father, Like Son?
(5) He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel which he commanded our fathers to make known to their children (6) so that the next generation would know (them), children yet to be born, rise up, and relate them to their (own) children (7) so that they would place their confidence in God and not forget the works of God but keep his commandments (8) and not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast and whose spirit was not faithful to our God.
This four verse segment consists of one extended, complex sentence. Several repetitions point to its message. First, we find three occurrences of “children” (vss. 5 & 6). Then, “fathers” is used twice (vss. 5 & 8). “Generation” is mentioned three times (vss. 6 & 8). Finally, the psalmist uses the name of “God” three times (vss. 7 & 8). This passage essentially exhorts believers to communicate the truth of God from one generation to the next.
I. What God did: established his law in Israel so that each generation would know him and make him known to their offspring (5 & 6)
II. Why God did this: so that each generation would keep his commands unlike their rebellious forefathers (7 & 8)
God established his law with Israel so that each successive generation would know and obey him unlike their rebellious forefathers.
Ezekiel devoted an entire chapter of his prophecy to the following question: are fathers responsible for their children’s sins (Ch. 18)? His answer can be encapsulated in one statement: “The soul that sins is the one that will die” (Ez. 18:4). In other words, each individual must personally give account to God for his or her own actions whether they be righteous or sinful. Although parents play an important role in the lives of their children, they cannot ultimately claim credit for or be held responsible for the way their offspring behave.
This does not excuse parents from the responsibility of communicating God’s truth to the next generation, a vital task for which God holds fathers and mothers accountable as expressed in this segment of Psalm 78. There will always be those who respond positively to their parents’ upbringing and those who reject their instruction. Fathers and mothers will not be held responsible for how their offspring respond to their training, but they will be called to account for doing what they can to communicate the truth of God to their progeny.
There are many parents in today’s world who believe that they should not seek to impose their own religious views on their children but rather allow them to make their own faith decisions when they grow up. Such an attitude should be unthinkable for those who love the Lord. We should seek to create an atmosphere in our homes where God’s Word is shared and obeyed so that everyone is strongly encouraged to become part of God’s eternal family. Sadly, there will always be children, even in godly families, who rebel against the truth of God’s Word and in this way break their parents’ hearts. Fathers and mothers of such children can at least take comfort in knowing that they have made every effort to share their faith with their offspring. Once parents have done their best, they must leave the results in God’s hands.