To watch this service, click in the link to our YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/rx4-7oOjuKk
Psalm 90: The Eternity of God, the Brevity of Man
This is the only psalm we have written by Moses. We have no idea of the context; possibly Moses was contemplating the death of Aaron or Miriam or his own departure. It is a description on the brevity of life.
At the outset, in verses 3-6, Moses is reminding us of how God made us (Genesis 2:7). In describing the brevity of life, Moses uses some vivid picture. In verse 5 he says, “You sweep them away as with a flood.” It is like a tsunami. He goes on, “they are like a dream.” A dream can seem so real, then we awake and in a moment it’s all vanished. Thirdly, Moses speaks of the brevity of life being, “like grass that is renewed in the morning,” a familiar description for those who live in dry, arid lands. The ground can seem so barren, then the rain comes, and a swathe of green appears. But if there is no more rain, the sun rises and quickly burns it off, and the ground it back to where it was before.
Moses says this is what life is like and yet that is not seemingly our experience. We say, as we get older, that time goes faster. We also speak of a life cut short as a shock, a sadness, a surprise. Growing up in the 1950s seems a different era. We can have a long service in church. When the Queen celebrated her Platinum Jubilee, everything was about how long she had served. Now, after her passing this week, we remember her long life of service. Why then does Moses write in this way?
Moses surrounds these words with great truths, which brings these words into focus.
“Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
These words confront us with the great difference between ourselves and God. The Sovereign, ruler of all things, above all created things, made all things. He has all power and all authority. Greater still, we are reminded this sovereign Lord is the only uncreated being. Before creation, He existed. There is no moment when He was not. The Triune God is the eternal, ever-present God. He needs no help, no support. The power to exist is in Him. At times, you can be overwhelmed the universe we live in, it’s vast size. How small we are. The universe is almost beyond our comprehension, yet it is nothing compared to God. It has a beginning and an end, but God is beyond the vastness of the universe, beyond time itself,
“For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.”
God is beyond all the constraints of time that we know. Who can grasp it? It’s far beyond human comprehension. He is the self-existent one. In God is the source of all other being. Without God, nothing exists. Moses, perhaps like no other man that has walked this earth, apart from Christ, had such a great sense of God’s greatness and God’s majesty. He saw something of that glory on Mount Sinai, when God met with him, face to face.
Moses writes these words in the light of the great truths of the God we worship, in the one who is from everlasting to everlasting. Moses reminds us that our lives are so frail, so quickly passed, but a vapour, a dream by comparison.
Moses’ contemplations don’t end there. He continues, verses 7-11, with a more fearful comparison – man’s sin and God’s wrath. Moses, author of Genesis, was given that inspiration of God, to record creation and Man’s Fall in the Garden of Eden. When Moses writes these words, he writes them with the full knowledge of Man’s fallenness and the curse of God upon sin (Genesis 3). Moses sees here all the consequences of Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden. Paul writes, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). This is the tragedy of mankind; lives are lived fully exposed, in all this rebellion, under the wrath of a holy God.
Had sin not entered the world, Adam and Eve would have lived curse free, joy-filled lives. But because of sin our lives now, as the psalmist tells us here, have been deeply affected.
“For all our days passed away in Your wrath;
We finish our years like a sigh.
The days of lur lives are seventy years;
and if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labour and sorrow;
For it is cut off, and we fly away.”
The New Testament reminds us it is appointed unto men to die once, and after that, God’s judgement. Our years are filled with sorrow and trial. Moses comes to this solemn question,
“Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?”
By nature, we don’t live in the light of the God’s anger, in the light of the fact that God is angry with sin and will punish it. The brevity of our lives becomes all the more serious when we realise that though our bodies are made of dust and will return to dust, God has breathed into us a living soul. Our soul had a beginning but it will never have an end. We have to give an account to the God of whom we have sinned against. In the light of these truths, we come finally to the enigma.The enigma, the puzzle of this psalm is found in verse 1,
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.”
How can this be? Moses is not just saying about God as our creator; he is declaring more than that. God has been our refuge in all generations. How can this God, who is angry with our sin, be our refuge?
In verses 12-17 Moses offers various petitions to God.
“So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
A heart of wisdom comes by hearing God’s words and the answer to our deepest needs and problems. True wisdom teaches us to see ourselves and the brevity of our lives as God sees it. Who knows what a day will bring forth? The Queen welcomed a new Prime Minister on Tuesday, yet she was gone on Thursday. It was unexpected. We all need to number our days. The only way we can do that is to live this day as the last, as the day we are going to meet God.
The wisdom of God teaches us to look away from ourselves,
“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
It is the love of God we need to look to. We find the fullness of this, His unfailing love, has been displayed in the steadfast love He had in sending His Son into the world. Who can grasp what this means? Jesus Christ came to dwell amongst men and take on a human body. Our God came down into this world and walked amongst men. How can the eternal God come down? Yet, He did. Paul tells us,
“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
vindicatedby the Spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world,
taken up in glory.”
1 Timothy 3:16
When we speak of Christmas, we speak of this great mystery of godliness. God was manifest in the flesh. The Lord of glory took the frailty of our human flesh and He lived amongst us, yet free from sin. He was the only One who didn’t deserve God’s judgement, to deserve the results of the curse and the fall. He was the One who came and stood in our place, the One who became a curse for us, to bear our sin, to suffer God’s wrath in our place.
Here alone is the answer to this puzzle. Where is that refuge in God? Where is that dwelling place for every believer? It is in Jesus Christ. It is in faith in Him. In Him we find this refuge from the storm. We discover Him to be the rock of ages. In Him we have a welcome from God, our Father and the promise of eternal security. This eternal security will last as long as God lasts. God is eternal, so our security is eternal.
In all generations He has been our dwelling place – past, present and future. Here is the promise of eternal life. In Christ we are anchored in God, safe from all the turmoil of life, until that everlasting home is gained in heaven.
The Old Testament patriarchs believed it (Hebrews 11). Paul proclaimed it,
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer selfis wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
But it was the Lord Jesus Christ who obtained it, “I Am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1)
So, the question is, ‘Do you have a heart of wisdom?’ Have you seen your life in the light of God’s eternity and God’s holiness? Have you looked away from yourself to that eternal refuge, which is only found in the Lord Jesus Christ? What fills your desires and your prayers?
The psalm ends with a series of prayers.
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Do you long daily for a deeper experience of that love? “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14). Are your prayers filled with great ambition? As Christians, we should be ambitious, “Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.” (Psalm 90:14). It is your ambition that this generation and the next generation, and the generation after, will know God’s word, will see God’s power poured out? “Let the favour of the beauty of our God be upon us.” Do you daily wake and long to be more like your Saviour? Do you long that the beauty of your Saviour might be more and more reflected in your life?
Finally, not that you will be praised by generations, but do you long that your life will be such a life that the church of God will be benefited, that your life will have established something for the people of God? “Establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:17b).
We’ve gone through a week of great change, but we are reminded our God is unchanging. Because of that, we are reminded that the gospel is unchanging. The gospel today is the same as it was in Paul’s days, and the same as it will be until that great day when Christ returns. The offer today, our Saviour says, is “Come unto me, all who labour and are heavy-laden. And I will give you rest.