Psalm 78 is a wake up call. Asaph is bold before the fathers of Israel. He calls them to break free of old patterns… the patterns of their fathers. He commands them, do “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.”
In other words, Don’t be like your fathers. This is the central message of Psalm 78. It is an appeal to break free from the chains of the bad patterns of the fathers of the past.
But the true beauty of Psalm 78 is not simply in the command. Asaph unfolds an alternative lifestyle. A powerful one. A happy one.
Breaking the inferior patterns of our fathers can be a challenge. Our imperfect fathers left marks on us. Sometimes, teeth marks! Scars. Even the best fathers pass on flaws to their offspring. The tough part about this is that breaking with the past and making new patterns can be a confusing, painful, slow going, and often frustrating business.
Amos reveals how devastating this problem can be. He said of the men in his day,
“Their lies lead them astray,lies which their fathers followed.” Amos 2:4b
We are the walking wounded. We live with the frustrations, roadblocks, and punishments that came from trying to build a life on the lies of our fathers, as they did in the days of Amos. Zechariah cried out, “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, saying, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.” Zechariah 1:4-6
Every man needs to understand for himself what it means to “not follow your father’s idols”. Simply put, he must avoid his father’s “idols”. A man must ask himself, “What bad patterns in my father’s life should I eliminate?” Yes, we must honor our fathers, but we must also be honest (and merciful) about what is not worthy in their lives. They did things that need repentance not reproduction. We need to recognize those things which were a part of our father’s lives that we don’t want in ours.
What are the bad patterns you picked up? What do you need to overcome?
Not only does the Lord encourage us to break with the bad patterns of our fathers, He also offers powerful instruction for how a father can be a constant source of encouragement and inspiration to his family.
Psalm 78 issues commands to fathers to communicate certain kinds of things to their children and their grandchildren. Asaph calls them out of an uncommunicative lifestyle, and into a life of personal discipleship.
The uncommunicative father is death to a family. Asaph’s helps fathers to break that pattern.
When you turn around, when you break free… it works. Something happens. Moses declares God’s mercy toward those who turn away from the sins of their fathers,
'But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, 41 and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt-- 42 then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land. Lev 26:40-42
Men who accept their guilt and then renounce their sins are the kinds of men who can become the fathers they were meant to be.