J.Calvin on Psalm 78

To also help lead us into the worship of our God through contemplating Psalm 78, we quote and consider these words of John Calvin on v.7. They too are wise words for us fathers – and children. May we listen and learn from these comments as well.


7.That they might set their hope in God. Here the Psalmist points out the use to which the doctrine which he had stated should be applied. In the first place, the fathers, when they find that on the one hand they are instrumental in maintaining the pure worship of God, and that on the other, they are the means of providing for the salvation of their children, should, by such a precious result of their labors, be the more powerfully stirred up to instruct their children. In the second place, the children on their part, being inflamed with greater zeal, should eagerly press forward in the acquisition of divine knowledge, and not suffer their minds to wander in vain speculations, but should aim at, or keep their eyes directed to, the right mark. It is unhappy and wretched toil to be

“ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of
the truth,” (2 Timothy 3:7.)

When, therefore, we hear for what purpose the law was given, we may easily learn what is the true and most successful method of deriving benefit from it. The inspired writer places trust first, assigning it the highest rank. He then requires the observance of the holy commandments of God; and he puts in the middle the remembrance of the works of God, which serves to confirm and strengthen faith. In short, what he means is, that the sum of heavenly wisdom consists in this, that men, having their hearts fixed on God by a true and unfeigned faith, call upon him, and that, for the purpose of maintaining and cherishing their confidence in him, they exercise themselves in meditating in good earnest upon his benefits; and that then they yield to him an unfeigned and devoted obedience. We may learn from this, that the true service of God begins with faith. If we transfer our trust and confidence to any other object, we defraud him of the chief part of his honor.

This quote is taken from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 78 (Especially for Fathers)

To help guide us in our worship readiness this Lord’s Day, we turn to Psalm 78, another in the series of psalms written by Asaph, the man called by God and appointed by David to lead Israel in worship. Psalm 78 is a “maschil (Hebrew), according to the title, which indicates that it is a song to instruct us and to lead us to contemplate both the ways of God and our own ways. And so we should start by reading the psalm carefully and prayerfully in its entirety. I am not going to quote of all of the psalm here – just verses 1-8, which is the introduction to the psalm.

Give ear, O my people, to my law: incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old:

3Which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.

4We will not hide them from their children, shewing to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.

5For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children:

6That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children:

7That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments:

8And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not stedfast with God.

Here Asaph gives the purpose of this particular Word of God, and on this Father’s Day 2012, it is a very relevant word. For the purpose of this maschil is to remind us fathers of our responsibility to teach our children (the “generation to come”) “the praises of the LORD, and his strength, and his wonderful works” (v.4). We must not hide these things from them, but show it to them and make it known to them, because this is the “testimony” that God established (v.5). And the purpose of that, in turn, is that our children (the next generation) may go on to teach their children these same things – “arise and declare them to their children” (v.6).

But this instruction we fathers must give to our children is not an end in itself. It too has a purpose. We must instruct our children in the knowledge of God and His works “that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments” (v.7). How important and necessary that we be reminded of this! Our education and training of them has as its goal their faith and godly walk with the Lord. And that in contrast to other fathers. Yes, there is a negative purpose in our instruction too: read verse 8 again (and then the rest of the psalm for concrete examples!). That one pains our souls, not only because there are examples of bad fathers around us but also because we know that such sinful fathers are within each of us. We have fallen and failed as fathers in many ways.

But what makes godly fathers different from other fathers (unbelieving) is that they repent and return to the Lord and His Word again and again. So that with the godly desire to perform our calling, we strive to be faithful to the Lord’s command to teach our sons and daughters. And by God’s grace we do. Not perfectly, not without faults; but we do show our children the Lord and His works. And by His amazing grace they do learn to put their hope in Him and keep His commandments.  And then we get to see the blessing of seeing our grandchildren taught these things too. And we see the fruit of their faith in and walk with the Lord – what an incredible blessing and joy!

Today, I am thankful for my father and his obedience to God’s call to teach me as Psalm 78 reminds us. He has given me the greatest gift a son could have – the knowledge of God in Christ and of His works and ways. As a son-turned-father, I had a wonderful example of what to do with my own children. By God’s grace (alone), and with my wife’s faithful assistance, I taught them these things also. And now, by God’s grace (alone) I get to see them teach their children (our nine grandchildren) these same truths. On this Father’s Day I (and my father) am/are full of humble joy and thanks.

Joy in and thanks to the God of our salvation – the Father of all fathers. For when you read the rest of Psalm 78 you realize that it could never have been our faithfulness that resulted in a godly generation. The story-line of Israel’s history when it comes to earthly fathers is sin and rebellion, sin and rebellion. And that’s what gets passed on to the next generation. BUT, that’s not the whole story, nor the end of the story. The rest of the story is the Father Who so loves His people in Christ (the sheep of His pasture), that He NEVER fails them and NEVER forsakes them. He KEEPS covenant with His sheep, and in compassion forgives them for their fatherly failures, and in patience leads them on to perfection.How? Through His own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ! Whom He sent to death for us! Whom He raised to life for us!

What a Father! He’s the Father we especially remember today. He’s the Father to be worshiped today and every Sunday; indeed, every day of our lives. Shall we contemplate this Father today? Shall we reverence this faithful God today? Shall we bow before Him and adore Him for His mercy to us fathers and mothers and children and grandchildren and great grandchildren? Yes, let us who belong to this faithful Father of the covenant give Him all thanks and praise this day.