5 For 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;
6 That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born,
That they may arise and declare them to their children,
7 That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments;
8 And may not be like their fathers,
A stubborn and rebellious generation,
A generation that did not set its heart aright,
And whose spirit was not faithful to God.
I am horrible with names. If I don’t see someone often, then it takes a conscious effort for me to really set someone’s name in my memory. I will be introduced to someone at work or at church, and within minutes their name will have left my memory. However, if I write their name down, then I probably WILL remember it. In fact, my memory is such that if I write almost anything down, I have a much better chance of remembering it–even without going back and reading the note. There seems to be some connection in my brain between the act of writing and the remembering of names and ideas.
As a whole, we are a society of such visual information. Much of what we learn or remember comes from what we’ve seen–either on the printed page or in other visual media like television or the internet. I think most of humanity is like that: we remember best the things that are written down. However, because our memories are imperfect, the things we need to remember the most are written in permanent records so we can refer to them again and again. Laws, scientific research, histories, mathematics, names and dates and events from our own lives are all written down so we will not forget, and so that there is no question of faulty memories or imperfect transmission.
God knew that fact about us when with His own hand He wrote the tablets of the law and commanded Moses to write down the testimonies of God. Our Father knew we would tend to forget what He had done and how He wanted us to live, and so He inspired Moses and dozens of other men across more than a thousand years to write down what His Spirit spoke to them. And so here beside me today is this Bible, this Word of God set down in the words of men just as God ordained. Here I have before me the law and statutes and commandments and testimonies and covenants of God, all laid out in black and red and white for me to read and to refer to when I wish.
As Asaph wrote in today’s verses, God did not set these things down just so that we would not forget. God established this testimony:
• “That the generation to come might know them…” He knew we might forget a thing or two along the way, perhaps even put things in OUR words rather than His. So He wrote them down permanently, that we would be able to pass on His Word to each succeeding generation without fail, complete and divine, just as it was when Moses brought those first tablets down from Sinai to a rebellious generation. It is ours to teach to our children and to discuss among ourselves, so that it becomes an integral part of our lives. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
• “That they may set their hope in God…” Where is our hope today? In presidents or lawmakers? In local or high courts? In bishops and popes or pastors and priests? In markets or communities? In weather or machines? Upon what or whom do we rest the hope of our future? God set down His Word so that we would understand that He alone should be our hope. He is the one dependable, faithful, immovable Rock, the foundation of our faith, the Father of our Savior. The Psalmist wrote “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” (Psalms 121:2) It is upon God that we should rest all our hope, for He alone loves perfectly, forgives abundantly, saves mercifully, rewards gracefully.
• “And not forget the works of God…” We often DO forget the works of God, and with our modern inclination to believe in science over faith, we have taken the works of God and demoted them to happenstance and random chance. The foundations of the universe were laid by the Word of God, and the laws of science were silently written by His hand across the atoms and suns and living things He created. He has saved millions, even billions, from certain death. He redeemed Israel from slavery not once but TWICE, and He has raised up and cast down kings and queens and armies and mighty nations. His strength was in the hand of David, and His grace was in the blood of Christ. He drew more than just my miserable life from the miry pit, and He has been faithful to bless more than just my life. Oh, please, Lord, let us not forget Your works!
• “But keep His commandments…” That word “keep” in Hebrew is “nâtsar,” which means both to guard or protect and also to observe or maintain. God entrusted His Word to US to maintain and guard and protect for future generations. Yes, His Spirit would be right there with us as we kept His Word, but the onus for preserving the Bible for our children has always been upon us. It is a great responsibility, and yet, as I am sure many of us have found, we often do our best when someone entrusts us with something precious. Unfortunately, some others rebel and fail in this responsibility, and they DO forget and they DON’T keep His Word.
• “And may not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation…” God’s Word is with us so we can change our lives, so we can turn to it with hope and seeking righteousness, and we will no longer have to follow in the footsteps of those who do not love God. The Bible is a tool for us to use to break from the traditions of rebellious and prideful men, and for us to allow God to melt our stony hearts and give us hearts of flesh that are filled with His Word and His Spirit. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
• “And may not be like their fathers… A generation that did not set its heart aright…” The Word of God will enable us to set our hearts aright by getting our focus back on loving God and His righteousness. The Bible is the testament of God’s love and of His covenant to save us from our own sin and rebellion. So long as we depart from His Word, our hearts will never be right nor happy nor even content. But when our “delight is in the law of the LORD,” then we will be blessed and will prosper and bear fruit for God’s kingdom. (Psalms 1:1-3) The gospel of Christ exists to bring us to salvation, and the Scripture needs to be read and understood and opened up before us, so that our eyes will see and ears will hear the truth of the Lord. Paul wrote to the Romans: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17) The Word of God fuels the faith which Jesus created in us, and that faith is what sets our hearts rightly upon God.
• “And may not be like their fathers… whose spirit was not faithful to God.” The Word of God is good for our spirit, for not only does it show us God’s faithfulness, it also inspires us to BE faithful. Knowing that we have a loving and merciful God, we can ourselves be loving and merciful in His name and to His glory. The Bible can draw us closer to God, enable us to be more faithful as we learn more about Him. And when we doubt or when we fear, when turmoil and trials arise, we can return again and again to the Bible to see how great and glorious and sovereign and loving is our God.
We have before us the written Word of God, and all around us is the Creation brought forth by the spoken Word of God. Most blessed of all is the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came among us to die for our sins so that we might live. This Bible is all about that Word–the voice of God, His mighty works, and the blessed Lamb of our salvation. It is set here in words we can read and understand and REMEMBER, so that we can break from our past rebellion and doubt, draw closer to God, and learn to love God with all our heart and soul and mind. Let not this Word of God sit upon your shelf and never be opened. How then can we ever hope in God if we have not read His Word? How can we remember His works and keep His commandments if we do not know them? How can we ever believe that we can be renewed and reborn without having heard the gospel of Christ?
God established a testimony in Jacob so that future generations would know and love Him as Abraham and Isaac and Jacob once did. He set a law in Israel so that you and I would see His faithfulness and righteousness and want to know that God. Therefore, let us keep and preserve the Word of God in our lives and in our homes. Let us read this Bible and set God’s Word in our hearts. Let us be a people whose God is the Lord, and a people whose first love is ever the living God who spoke His Word so that we might live in Him.
Blessed Father, Holy God, I thank You for setting down Your Word. Every day that I come to it, I learn more about You–and also about myself. I learn about Your faithfulness and my rebellion, Your love and my doubt, Your salvation and my sin, Your grace and my hope. Lord God, help me to keep Your Word in my life and to teach it to my children, so that we need no longer be rebellious and faithless and stubborn, but instead be obedient and humble and always loving toward You. Amen.