Psalm 90 (vs. 1,2,8,9,10,12,17)
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. The length of our days is seventy years– or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us– yes, establish the work of our hands.
Recently at two memorial services that we have held, the words from Psalm 90 were quoted and I want to take a few moments today to consider several phrases from this psalm. It’s a very appropriate word for us today…. As we consider our current situation – as individuals, as a church, as a nation.
Psalm 90 is said to be written by Moses, the man of God. It is a prayer divided roughly in 3 sections:
- Verses 1-6 God as Creator and as our dwelling place
- Verses 7-11 God as judge / our fragile lives under judgment
- Verses 12-17 God as our help / Prayer for wisdom
1. God, as Creator – God as our “Dwelling Place” (vs. 1-6)
Moses reflects on the fact that God, himself is “our dwelling place”. The people of Israel had various houses of God – the tabernacle in the wilderness, the first temple in Jerusalem built by Solomon, and the second temple that was built by Nehemiah and Ezra. But their identity as a people was NEVER in those places ultimately. It was in God, alone.
As we’ve counted days this spring and summer – days of COVID, days of separation, days of rioting and unrest, days of not being able to gather in our own church building – we, too, are being forced to re-think our identity, and the fact that our true home, our dwelling place, is not in any of these places – but in God alone.
2. Our world, under sin and judgment – a fragile existence (vs. 7-11)
Moses goes on to reflect on our fallen world, one where God’s judgment has come. Sickness and death – once NOT a part of creation, now are all around us. Our existence is, in many ways, extremely fragile. We’re compared to the grass of the field, growing up new in the morning but by evening – dried and dead! Our age is 70 – or maybe 80 if we’re lucky – but those years pass by like a blink – and we return to dust!
As we hear and see the news of our rapidly changing environment – with its floods and fires this year; our systemic racism – so difficult to even admit, much less eradicate; our political infighting and polarization; the gap in wealth and resources which continues to grow between the “haves” and “have nots”- all of these are part and parcel with our “fallen world” that is described here in Psalm 90. Until the Lord comes again to redeem the creation – these struggles will be part of our existence. Jesus himself said to his disciples prior to leaving them – “while you’re in this world you will have tribulations – but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
3. A Prayer for Wisdom (vs. 12-17)
So what are we to do with these truths? That God is our home, our dwelling place, but that we live in a broken and fallen world? Moses concludes this psalm by praying for wisdom – “teach us to number our days correctly, that we may have a heart of wisdom.” In light of your greatness God, and in light of our own fragility – teach us to know how to value and use all that you’ve given us. Help us to realize the preciousness of life and the time that you give us. In verses 13-17 Moses also asks for the following:
- Have compassion on us.
- Satisfy us in the morning with your love, and give us gladness!
- Continue to show us your great deeds, and let our children see it too.
- May your favor rest on us, and make certain the work of our hands
I always find that last phrase in the prayer amazing. The psalmist has just lamented over the brevity of human life, the apparent fragility of all life. You would think that this would lead to a sense of hopelessness in moving forward. Yet, in the end, the plea to God is to make our lives and work meaningful! Because, in fact, our lives are short – let us live them to the fullest. Let us keep the eternal nature of our life in full view.
As we continue to count our days, to count our COVID time, to count our blessings, why not consider the following as we head into a new week?
- Include eternity in your plans (what is your end game?)
- In light of that, reorganize your present (temporal) life priorities (time, talents, treasure)
- Yes, life is fragile, but it is precious! Live like it.
(the above is a summary of the message given during our worship time on Sunday, October 4th)