God Has Set the Standard for Spiritual Instruction (He Created the Baton) – – Psalms 78:1-3
Being a Bible teacher, I have always loved Psalm 78. If I had to pick a favorite Psalm pertaining to ministry – well, without a doubt, nor a second of hesitation, I would choose this Psalm. It’s been the motivation in my teaching and mentoring ministry to children and women for over 40 years now. I love this Psalm!
In fact, I am of the opinion that every pastor, teacher, missionary and parent should spend some time with this inspirational Psalm. I call it “The Parent-Teacher Psalm” for within its every word, we read about an exciting challenge from God to pass on, to the next generation, the spiritual instruction that we, ourselves, have received. The challenge comes from within the pages of Israel’s history and straight from the very heart of God and His Word (The Scriptures or Bible). It’s a somewhat lengthy psalm. So, if you don’t mind, I would like to break it down into four different parts.
Let’s get started with Part One, shall we?
I love to watch relay racing at a sports track event. The relay course can be set for any variety of lengths. Usually four runners make up a team in a given relay race. A baton is passed between them to mark a change in the runners. There is usually set rules that each runner must follow in order to successfully pass the baton from one runner to the next. It must be passed without dropping the baton. The goal is to cross the finish line with the baton in hand.
Watching all that in action actually reminds me of the art of teaching. A skilled teacher takes what information or knowledge they have and they “pass the baton” – pass that information or knowledge on to their students. Dropping that baton simply means that lessons are not taught, nor learned, which, in the end, results in a tragic loss for the students.
A long time ago, God set the standard of how He wanted His information or knowledge, His instructions and His teachings passed on. He chose to use people as the conduit (the instrument) through which that knowledge is to be passed on. The “baton” holds all the things that we have learned from God that should be passed on to the next generation. And as we make our journey through life, we run the race, knowing that we are sharing God’s information, knowledge, instructions and teachings with those running the race with us. We have to pick up the baton from God, and run with it for a time, striving not to drop it, until we cross the finish line. That’s what I think about as I read this particular Psalm. Passing the baton. That image of runners racing to the finish line, passing the baton from one to another, is very vivid in my mind as I read Psalm 78.
Psalms 78:1-3 tells us about the standard of spiritual instruction as it was set out for us by God Himself. Here’s what it says:
“Give ear, O my people, to my law; Incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us.”
We will learn God’s standard of spiritual instruction by hearing and listening. God says, “Hear my teaching.” and “Listen to my words.” Sounds simple, right? Perhaps not so simple, my friend.
Think about your communication with your spouse, with your kids, or with a coworker. Do they always hear and listen to what you say? My guess is probably not. You see, there is a big difference between hearing and listening. They may hear your words – hear what you are saying. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they listened to what you said. While they were hearing you talk, they easily could have been thinking of something else altogether. Thus, they weren’t listening to you at all. They heard, but they didn’t listen.
Oh, how often I am guilty of doing that same thing with God. I hear His words. I read them from the pages of my Bible. I hear His voice at times responding to my prayers. But that doesn’t mean that I listened to what He was saying. Not hearing, not listening leads to not understanding and not obeying. I miss what God intended for me to know. Please, tell me that someone else out there does that same thing ?
In these verses, God tells us four things that He wants us to hear, or to listen to. I actually like the way He says it in the New King James Version of the Bible, “Incline your ears to the words of my mouth,” In other words, “listen up!”
Hear and listen to these four things: (1) “spoken parables” – to the stories that are being told to you, (2) “the hidden things of old” – I like to think of these as the family secrets, stories only your loved ones would know about, (3) “things others have heard and known” – truths that have been handed down from one generation to another, and (4) “what our fathers have told us” – Dads and Granddads have some pretty good stories to tell their children.
The Scriptures, God’s Word, or the Bible, are full of those four things. Through them all, God has clearly spoken. We are to hear and listen to those things from God (read them in His Word). Hear them read out loud, hear them told in our homes, in our churches; really hear them. Listen carefully to them, so that you will be able to remember and recount them at a later time. Listen to them over and over again. Hear the very heart of God coming out of the words. Listen to His instructions and learn from Him.
God’s standard of spiritual instruction is really quite simple: hear and listen to His words! He has created the baton for us – His Word! He has set the race before us – the race of life. The finish line is just ahead. But, where are the runners? Who will hear? Who will listen? Who will take an interest in the baton God created for His people?
Will it be YOU?