June 23, 2021

June 23, 2021

Author: Pastor Gordon Cook
June 23, 2021

"Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!"

Psalm 90

If I asked most Christians, “What is your favorite psalm?” many would say Psalm 30 or Psalm 23. Maybe
Psalm 51, that great penitential psalm by David when he prays to God for forgiveness. Often times when we have a sense of our own sin that is a good place to go. So what about Psalm 90? We might wonder why anyone would make Psalm 90 their favorite psalm. It is overcast with dark shadows of sin, wrath and death. Most people don’t like to talk about sin, most people don’t like to talk about divine wrath and most people don’t like to talk about death. Those are the three unmentionables in our society. But those are realities that we can’t run from or escape from. We can’t escape from God’s wrath; we can’t escape from our own sin; we can’t escape death. But the great emphasis here is upon death. Death is unavoidable, inescapable, nobody gets a pass. It’s not a spectator sport. Psalm 90:3, “You return man to the dust.” That’s a picture that we had way back in Genesis 3 when God told man if he sinned against him he would judge him and when he did; he reminds him that this is what is going to happen to him.  

But Moses goes to great lengths here in Psalm 90 to remind us of how brief and short life is. He gives us the cold statistics in verse 10, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty.” Most people don’t live beyond their seventy or eighty years. Then he uses several graphic pictures to draw home the brevity or the momentary, the transient nature of life here upon the face of the earth. We’re here today and gone tomorrow. You can count four or five different pictures here: a watch in the night; a flood that quickly comes and goes; a dream; grass that grows up in the morning and by evening it fades and withers. You also have a story that is told quickly and it is over with.  

Most of Psalm 90 comes under a dark cloud. But at the same time there is a bright sunbeam or rainbow blast of truth in this psalm. Notice how it begins in verse 1 & 2. He starts off by praising and adoring God; by magnifying the eternal grandeur of Jehovah. He wants to know that God is the eternal refuge for his people. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. When things get scary in life that is where we go and we can be assured of God’s safety, his protection, he is our dwelling place.

It could be translated, God is our refuge, much like Psalm 46. He is our refuge from sin; he is our refuge from divine wrath; and he is our refuge from death.  The very three things that Moses draws attention to in Psalm 90, God is a refuge from all of those things: sin, wrath and death.  

When you go to the back end of the psalm, notice there are a few more bright shining rays of truth as he focuses upon God again. In verse 13 he reminds us this is a Lord who pities, “Return O Lord, how long? Have pity on your servants.” This is a God who satisfies us in the morning with steadfast love, verse 14. In verse 15 he makes us glad and then verse 17, “Let the favor of the Lord be upon us and establish the works of our hands.” 

What Moses teaches us in Psalm 90 is the essential truth for living life upon planet earth. To live life, we have to know God, the eternal God, the God of mercy, the God of grace, the God of wrath, the God of holiness, the God of righteousness. But we also have to know ourselves: we are sinners, we are dying transient creatures, we are like grass. If we know that and live in light of that we can live a life of wisdom. Verse 12, “So teach us to number our days that we might get a heart of wisdom.” 

The sad thing is most people don’t think that way, do they? God is not in their thoughts and they certainly don’t view themselves like grass. Lance Armstrong popularized the phrase, “Live strong.” Moses has a different philosophy of life, “Live wise.” Here is a great prayer, Brethren, to pray every day of our lives, vs 12, “Lord, teach me how to number my days and apply my heart to wisdom.”

Someone has described Moses’ prayer of Psalm 90 as an uncomfortable prayer. It begs the question, “Are you living a wise life?” On the other side of COVID 19, who were the wisest? Those who diversified their financial portfolio? Those who stocked up on masks? Those who stocked up on toilet paper? Those who got a vaccine? No, those who were very much aware of the brevity of life and that what’s done for Jesus Christ lasts forever. 

Moses reflection upon death and the transient nature of life drives him to desperate praying. “Teach us to number our days that we might apply our hearts to wisdom.” Life is short, Brethren, the older you get you realize the shorter it is. Wisdom recognizes who God is, the eternal God, my refuge; but also recognizes who we are: weak, transient, sinful creatures who are going to a grave. 

We were reminded this past Lord’s Day about wisdom. The reason I focused upon this psalm was the concept of wisdom. Remember the wise father of Proverbs teaching his wise son. We considered five pathways to wisdom: make good use of your Bible; make good use of prayer; make good use of the world; make good use of your tongue and make good use of wise companions;