Asaph begins by reminding his readers of the important duty that is placed on parents, which is to pass on to their children the account of the wonderful deeds of God (vv. 3-4). As far as Israel was concerned, the highest requirement was that parents should teach their children about the Ten Commandments, not merely in the sense of a set of rules, but rather how they could show their gratitude to God on a daily basis. If one set of parents did not do this, they were unfaithful to what their own parents passed on to them, and they were also depriving their children and subsequent generations of spiritual knowledge. I wonder how many grandparents of those currently living in Inverness failed to pass on the knowledge of God to their families when they were young. We are seeing the consequences now.
The accounts that God wants us to pass on are not only the stories that describe how persons served God faithfully. Asaph also refers to people who were unfaithful, such as the Ephraimites (vv. 9-11). What was so wrong with them that they became cowards in the day of battle? They had not kept God’s law because they had forgotten about the great events he had performed at the Exodus.
What had they forgotten? They forgot the miracles in Egypt, the deliverance at the Red Sea, and the provision given to their ancestors in the desert. Instead these ancestors had turned against God despite the miraculous way he had fed them with quail and manna. Yet the occasions when he rebuked them were ignored and they persisted in their rebellion and even attempted to deceive God. Still he often showed his compassion and did not deal with them as their sins deserved.
Instead, the Lord who had defeated Egypt brought his people to Canaan. Yet there the children of Israel turned away again from God and this time adopted pagan worship practices. The outcome was that God judged them severely and gave them into the hands of their enemies, particularly the Philistines. None of the levels in society were spared from the slaughter. It all looked as if God was asleep, indifferent to them.
Then suddenly the Lord became involved and defeated his opponents. He chose David as king and arranged for him to build a sanctuary. Further, as the shepherd of his people he cared for them and taught them the right way to live.
The lesson to be handed on from one generation to another is that the Lord will take sin seriously and punish it. Yet he will also suddenly show mercy and deliver them by leading them to repentance.