BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY…. “The men of Ephraim, well-equipped with bows and arrows, turned and ran on the day of battle. They had not been faithful to God’s promise. They refused to follow his teachings.
They forgot what he had done—the miracles that he had shown them.” Psalm 78:9-11 GW
These verses are ones that I have referenced over the years of my ministry. However, as I was reading Psalm 78 once again, I noticed the connection to preceding verses, underscoring the psalmists challenge.
Psalm 78, is a seminal passage when it comes to the call to “pass the faith” to the next generation. It is not just what to believe, it is the story of God’s faithfulness, power and trustworthiness.
Take note of these verses with some key words highlighted.
“[The Lord] established written instructions for Jacob’s people. He gave his teachings to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to make them known to their children so that the next generation would know them. Children yet to be born would learn them. They will grow up and tell their children to trust God, to remember what he has done, and to obey his commands.” (Psalm 78:5-7 GW)
The stated intent in the verses after these is so the next generation will avoid the failings and idolatry of their ancestors. So their hearts will not be hard. So they will be faithful to the Lord and His commands.
Then the psalmist seems to change his focus. That’s at least how I used to read this psalm. Even with the wording of the verses, I failed to see how the reference to the cowardliness of Ephraim was connect to the whole focus of this psalm. Ephraim’s failure in battle is an example of what happens when the Lord’s instructions are not just ignored, but when they are not passed from one generation to the next.
The history of God’s people reveals how the Lord had won many great victories for His people. Though outnumbered, they were conquerors. But when God’s people forgot that it was the Lord who was, “The Lord of hosts, The Lord mighty in battle” (Psalm 24:8), when they began to trust in their own resources and strength, they were defeated. Worse than that, they ran even before engaging in the battle.
Forgetting the Lord’s instructions and His provision not only leads to defeat before enemies, it is the road to idolatry and destruction. We see this in Moses’ message as God’s people prepared to enter the promised land in Deuteronomy 8.
“Be careful that you don’t forget the Lord your God. Don’t fail to obey his commands, rules, and laws that I’m giving you today…be careful that you don’t become arrogant and forget the Lord your God… I warn you today that if you forget the Lord your God and follow other gods, and if you serve them and bow down to them, you will certainly be destroyed.” (Deuteronomy 8:11-19 GW)
And that is what happened as is revealed in the history of God’s people. They became complacent, self-reliant, failed to be a people who kept the Lord in the center of their lives. As a result, the Lord was gradually pushed to out or at least to the periphery of their lives and was viewed like any other god of Canaan.
They failed to remember what Paul in his sermon on Mars Hill reminded his listeners, “…nor is He [God] served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;” (Acts 17:25)
In the words of the old song of Andre’ Crouch from the 1970’s, we need to remember and pass this truth on to the next generation: “All that I am and ever hope to be, I owe it all to Thee. To God be the glory, for the things He has done.”