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Learn from the Past

Read Psalm 78

O my people, listen to my instructions. Open your ears to what I am saying, for I will speak to you in a parable. I will teach you hidden lessons from our past—stories we have heard and known, stories our ancestors handed down to us.

We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders. For he issued his laws to Jacob; he gave his instructions to Israel. He commanded our ancestors to teach them to their children, so the next generation might know them— even the children not yet born— and they in turn will teach their own children.

So each generation should set its hope anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands. Then they will not be like their ancestors— stubborn, rebellious, and unfaithful, refusing to give their hearts to God. The warriors of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned their backs and fled on the day of battle. They did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his instructions.
(Psalm 78:1-10)


Ephraim was the most prominent tribe of Israel from the days of Moses to Saul’s time. The Tabernacle was set up in its territory. There is no other biblical record of Ephraim’s soldiers turning back from battle, so the mention of Ephraim is probably a metaphor referring to Ephraim’s failure to provide strong leadership during those years. When David became king, the tribe of Judah gained prominence. Because of David’s faith and obedience, God chose Jerusalem in Judah to be the place for the new Temple and rejected Ephraim (78:67). This caused tension between the two tribes. This psalm may have been written because of that tension in order to demonstrate once again why God chose Judah. God works through those who are faithful to him.


God commanded that the stories of his mighty acts in Israel’s history and his laws be passed on from parents to children. This shows the purpose and importance of religious education—to help each generation obey God and set their hope on him. It is important to keep children from repeating the same mistakes as their ancestors. What are you doing to pass on the history of God’s work to the next generation?

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