Psalm 90:17

17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.

In 2006 I travelled to Jordan with a group of friends.  I had the opportunity of standing atop Mt. Nebo, the highest portion of the mountain range opposite Jericho where Moses stood and surveyed the land of Canaan before he died and was buried in a secret place on that mountain.  I gave a short message, looking into the faces of my friends, including my wife and my parents.  I told them that we were on a spiritual journey, following in the footsteps of Moses himself.

“Not because we drove from Petra to Nebo, loosely following the route that Israel would have trekked through ancient Moab, but because we’ve been saved from the slavery of sin and guilt, are in a wilderness, and expect to enter a land promised to us—heaven itself.”

After peering through the clouds that hovered over the mountain range that day I asked the group to look down at the ground beneath their feet.  “As much as Moses stood here and saw the land of Canaan stretching out before him, from “Beersheba to Dan,” he also saw what you see right now, the earth he lived on, and would die on.  That land, on the other side of the Jordan, was still promised to him, but this land is where he would ie.  Only a person on a genuine and therefore divine, spiritual journey is able to reconcile those two truths.”

Our Jordanian guide had paid rapt attention, and was visibly moved.  He later told me this was the first time he had ever heard a touring pastor speak of the relationship of the two lands—Moab beneath Moses feet, the promised land before his eyes.  Most of the time, he told me, religious tourists stand on that spot, on tip toe, leaning forward, cameras on landscape settings, fully zoomed to capture pictures of the city of Jericho, the hills of Judea, and the northernmost tip of the Dead Sea.  They are not concerned about the land beneath their feet, but are wholly fixed on the land beyond.  I know Moses saw that land, too.  I think he must have looked down at some point, too, and seen that reddish, gravelly, loam of Moab beneath his feet.  It was land, but not the land he’d spent the past four decades travelling to.  He could see that Promised Land, but had been told it was not yet to be his.  His heart was over there; he’d spent the past 38 years assuming he’d die there, but the Lord who saved a baby in a wicker basket, a murderer from the law, and a nation from slavery would not save his leader from death outside the land of promise.  Moses’ feet would touch that land on another day, in another time, but on that day, he could only see where he would one day live.  He died there, in Moab, outside of the land, in the wilderness—along with his stubborn-hearted, troublesome, rebellious, law-breaking, idol worshiping, Moabite-loving people.

We all stand on this lump of clay called earth, and one day we will return to the dust from which we came—the earth will receive our bodies.  Our part in God’s great work will be suspended for a season, and then resumed when He awakens us.  There will be no immediately discernible difference between those who were blessed with simple longevity of physical life and those who chose to persevere in a life of following Jesus,  but upon a closer look you’ll be able to tell those who persevered:  Their hands and feet will bear all the marks, grime, and scars of a long wilderness journey, and their eyes will burn with a glow that comes from a lifetime of gazing intently into a distant, but Promised Land.

Father, show me Your favor today–as You already have in saving me in Christ, so continue to save me today from sin and all that would take my eyes off of You, and the wonderful promise of eternal life You have given me.  let my actions and words today be the kind that You can confirm as good and righteous, and able to be used by You for Your glory and for the blessing of those around me!  Amen.

Psalm 90:16

 16 Let Your work appear to Your servants And Your majesty to their children.

 We often know more about what God has done in the past, and are often much more certain of what He will do in the prophetic future than we are convinced of what He is doing around us, before our very eyes.  We miss the obvious, or at least, we are often blind to the fact that what is happening is a result that began in the endless, inscrutable mind of God.  We are by nature overlookers of the obvious.  Rarely do we see the forest through the trees, unless it is pointed out to us.   The word work refers to the acts of God in human history, not particularly of His act of creation itself.  As Moses ends his song of praise, confession, and supplication, he goes as far as to ask that those servants of the Lord who follow him would have the spiritual eyesight to see the hand of God behind the workings, events, and movements of the world around them.  That is the kind of revelation that Moses asked for.  That is the kind of revelation we still need today.  We believe God is always at work, always moving and arranging and completing His perfect will in the world around us, and in our own lives…but how often do we get specific as to identifying His fingerprints on our lives and experiences?

Gracious Father, please show me something of what You are doing today in the world around me.  Let me see in my life, my friends and family’s lives, and in my community—all the things that You are accomplishing, and give me a heart to join in where I might be a part of Your great work.  Please open my eyes to You today!  Amen.

Psalm 90:15

15 Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, And the years we have seen evil.

We’ve all prayed for gladness, in one form or another, and probably hear our friends ask for it at every prayer meeting.  I am struck that Moses’ request included a qualification, that the  requested gladness be proportionate to the days and years in which the Lord had afflicted them.  What were these days and years that Moses asks the Lord to use as a type of standard by which to determine the proportion of His blessing on His people?  It is none other than the wilderness years of Israel’s discipline for its unbelief and faithlessness to her God.  Remember the 12 spies sent into the Land to assess its agriculture, the military strength of its cities and villages, and the nature of the people who lived in it?  Ten of the twelve returned with a discouraging report to the people, robbing them of their desire and courage to fight for the land, and so the Lord consigned them all to wander until they all died in the desert of fear they preferred to promised land, with its need for great conquest and struggle (Numbers 13:1-1-33, 14:34, Deut 2:14-15).

For their faithless, stubborn insistence on doing things their way instead of following the Lord’s command, they were sentenced to wander in the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula for an additional thirty-eight years, bringing the total number of years of their nomadic, rootless existence to forty years—one year for each day that their own spies had spent in the land of Canaan.

When Moses asked God to bring gladness according to the days God had afflicted—he placed a specific qualification on the gladness.  He asked that it be commensurate, according to the years of painful, heart-wrenching, seemingly endless suffering and discipline endured by the sons and daughters of Abraham in their tent community of the desert wastelands.  To his last day, Moses never forgot the wilderness, even when he stood at its edge and viewed the land of promise.  To him, the gladness requested would not be fully appreciated if it were detached from pain remembered.

Father, give me grace today to face difficulties and challenges in faithful resolve, and not in a frantic desire to escape whatever challenges You bring to me. Bring me a gladness of heart today that arises out of the memory of You carrying me through the hard times I’ve faced in life.  I trust You in the good days, and I trust You in the troubled ones, too.  Amen.

Psalm 2

1 Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, 6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. 9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.'” 10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. 11 Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

Psalm 2 is considered one of the foremost Psalms that relate to the life of Jesus Christ—and it is therefore called a Messianic Psalm.  A Messianic Psalm serves to either prophesy or allude to the life, suffering, death, resurrection, and even the nature of Jesus Christ.  While the Messianic Psalms speak directly to the lives and experiences of King David and his sons—these gems also serve as a type of prophetic telescope through which the coming Messiah was observed.  The book of Psalms is also one of the books of the Old Testament books frequently quoted by our Lord—His last words on the cross were a quote of Psalm 22 (Psalm 22:1, Matthew 27:46).  As the boy Jesus grew up in Nazareth, learning to read just like any other person—I wonder what it must have been like for Him to begin to understand His life and purpose as He found Himself written of in the Scriptures written centuries before He was born. I wonder what it was like for Him to see the specific things written about Him in the bible unfold before His eyes during the thirty plus years that He walked this earth.

In Psalm 2 we are let into the relationship that the rulers of the nations of the earth have to the Lord Jesus.  Rulers do not appreciate being challenged, and they do not readily bow the knee to anyone!  The writer of this Psalm is well-aware of the privileged position of power that the world’s leaders enjoy, and therefore he describes their general opposition to the ultimate rule of Jesus, the certainty of their defeat should they persist in opposing Him, and the divine affirmation He receives from His Father, who lovingly refers to Him as “My Son.  Finally, the rulers and judges of the nations of the earth are given a warning—they are to think very deeply and with wisdom about their response to the Son of God. They themselves are to worship the Son, aware of His great, greater worthiness than their own, and of the day when He will forcefully secure the unchallenged rule of the entire earth to Himself.  And yet, before that day arrives, there is the magnificent opportunity of finding blessing by simply “taking refuge in Him.”  What is this refuge that the writer speaks of?  It is refuge from a day of judgment for one’s response to the Son—simply, whether or not the Son of God is recognized, submitted to, and worshipped.

My dear King,  at this very moment I bow my knee to You alone as My sovereign, rightful King, and I only ask that I would prove to be a loyal and loving citizen of Your kingdom while I await Your return.  I also ask that all who not come to terms with You—have not decided to adore, worship, and take refuge in You—would do so before Your return.  From the greatest of all on this earth, to the lowliest person, let all seek Your favor and mercy, and be spared Your judgment for their sins.  Amen

Psalm 1

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers! 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers. 4 The wicked are not so, But they are like chaff which the wind drives away. 5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, Nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. 6 For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the wicked will perish.

The book of Psalms begins with a meditation on the differences between a life lived in righteousness, and one lived in wickedness.  The blessed person is one who both avoids the wicked, and (instead) invests himself in the law (or, the written word of God, the bible).  This takes place when they meditate on the law “day and night.”  What might this look like?  I imagine it to be a deliberate act of keeping the Scriptures in front of you, as often and consistently as you can.  Some people memorize the Word, some read it as a daily discipline, some write it on 3X5’s and sticky notes that are then placed in places that will result in regular contact, some listen to it on MP3s and discs. Some study the word of God in great chunks, digesting entire books.  Others chew on a verse or two, sometimes for days—eager to see what insights the Lord might give them.  But my idea here is, the blessed person avoids a certain kind of other person (an evil person), and that person’s ideas and suggestion.  Instead, a blessed person takes in the Scriptures in a regular way, making them a part of his or her very life and thought processes.  To do so brings the productivity and prosperity so desired by all of us.

The wicked do not prosper in life, and ultimately, they find failure when their lives are judged.  In the bible, righteousness is used to describe two conditions in the life of a believer.  First, a person is considered righteous by God simply for believing in God’s promises—namely, the promise of forgiveness and life through faith in Jesus.  This type of righteous standing before God is not earned, but is simply, wonderfully, forever received when a person believes in Him.  Second, all believers are encouraged to work hard to live righteous lives—ones marked by the respectful, fair, loving treatment of others, with a sincere and driving desire to please God.  (This aspect of the word is by far its most common meaning in the bible.)  So, first of all, let’s trust in the death of Jesus Christ on our behalf, and thereby be forgiven of sin, and forever considered righteous by God.  The perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross has paid the full price to God for our sins against Him.  Then, let’s aspire to choose to live righteous lives today.  No one will bat 1.000 on this—we all stumble and make mistakes, mistreat others, and do wrong things.  But, the deeper we allow ourselves to become saturated by the word of God, the more certain it is that we will prosper in life, which is really to say, live a life that pleases God.

Father, today please bring this Psalm to mind, and remind me to avoid any thought, ideas, and behaviors that displease you.  Instead, help me to plant your word deeper into my heart—and then to enjoy the blessings of having it there.  And when You do answer this prayer today and speak to me about my actions, attitudes, and word, please give me the strength and desire to listen to what You are saying to me.  Amen

A Divine Distraction, Today

I have a friend who told me a story from his childhood of how his father would help him pass away the boredom of the endless miles that my friend suffered on long, cross-state roadtrips.  Before departure, while in the drive-way, Big John would take a crayon and draw a small circle on the inside of the windshield, right in front of where my buddy would be sitting for hours.  (This was way back in the days when children would ride in the front seat of the car.)

“’Son, on this trip, every time a bug hits the window in that circle, I’ll give you a quarter.” 

I imagine my friend surviving the endless highways of those trips with a singular, quarter-sized focus, with laser-sharp attention to the circle his Dad had drawn, just waiting for any old bug to hit the windshield in that pay-day circle on the dashboard!  Big John distracted his boy from the uncomfortable present with a promise of a quarter-flushed future.

Whether it’s counting mileposts, looking at roadmaps, “collecting” various state license plates seen on the highway, counting cows, or simply playing the games found in a child’s travel book of games sold at every interstate gas-station and truck stop, such distractions seem to shorten the hours and the miles, and make a long trip a bit more tolerable for both kids and parents.  Sometimes parents really are geniuses!

I think God uses distraction, too, to get His kids through the tough times.  I’m not thinking of boredom here, but the dark times of life; the anxious, troubled, unknowing, fearful hours and days of not knowing what’s ahead, and the suspicion that it’s going to be bad.  But the distraction that our Father uses isn’t like the mere tricks and games that our folks may have used in our travels.  God’s distraction is simply His own overwhelming, calming, tenderhearted presence, with us, on the journey of life.  It’s the blessed distraction of our attention being drawn away from danger, hurt, pain, fear, etc., and instead drawn toward a deeper awareness of His presence with us as we face those evils.

It’s His presence with Paul in a hateful, hostile city that encouraged the apostle to stay and build a church.

It’s His presence with inmate Peter that lifted the fisherman’s eyes off of his chains (which now lay at his feet), and to the now-opened jail doors.

It’s His presence with the prisoner John on the island of Patmos that made the old disciple fall flat on his face in worship, and prepared him to write one of the most astounding, mind-blowing books of the Bible—while living in a prison colony.

Whatever trouble, suffering, fear, or hopelessness you are facing—ask God to distract you with something bigger, Someone bigger and better, who will stay close to you through the whole mess, whatever that mess may be.  Ask Him to let you know, personally, that He’s there, that He’s already shown up, and He won’t leave you. I don’t hope that you forget your troubles—that has never really helped anyone.  But I do hope that you and I can face suffering with a deepening assurance of the presence of a loving Shepherd-God who became a man and lived among us, and promises still to walk alongside us.

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me… 

Father, today I am coming undone because of ______________________________.  Before I can take another step in this journey, I must know that You are here, close, and with me for my good and blessing.  I ask not for understanding, or the removal of the burden, but only that You would show Yourself more clearly to be with me, right by my side through it all.  Do it however You wish, but today, please do it, God! Amen.

Blessings,

Pastor Ken

Psalm 90:14

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

We associate mornings with the start of our day, when we awaken and begin our activities, but in the book of Genesis we are given a clue in the first chapter of the different manner in which Moses understood what a day was.  Six times he writes, “…and so there was evening and there was morning, one day.” It appears that to Moses, and subsequently to the nation of Israel, the day ended, and the next day began, at sunset!  This concept of a day being comprised of a time of darkness followed by light (precisely opposite the way we think define a day) is consistently found in the Old Testament, particularly in the prophetic writings, where the Day of the Lord describes a time of national darkness (war, suffering, discipline of God, etc.) followed by a time of light (blessing, Messianic rule, reception of promises, etc.)  In verse 14 Moses asked that the Lord would Himself bring satisfaction (a sense of fullness and lack of want or need) in the morning—after the darkness of night has passed.   And he asks that this satisfaction would be of a sort that lasted forever, for “all our days.”

After the darkness of the sufferings that you face in this earthly life; those of your own doing, those resulting from the mistreatment by others, and those experienced simply by your residency in a fallen, sin-ravaged creation—your hope of deliverance and joy is only found in God.  Satisfaction, joy, and lasting gladness are gifts from God.  Beginning at the cross of His Son, and continuing into the very fabric of our daily experiences—physically, emotionally, and spiritually, the Lord remains our source of satisfaction and joy.  Remember, Moses was “saved” when he wrote these words, and yet he prayed for these blessings.  As you read this, you very well may be a Christian, having trusted in Jesus for forgiveness of your sins, and yet you (like Moses, and certainly like me!) have great, frequent need for joy and gladness in your life. For we still see our world shrouded in a dreadful darkness, and we often suffer through many seemingly endless nightmares, and still, despite the certainty of our hope in Christ, still we have need of daily deliverance.   Though saved, we need to be saved.  Today, let your soul look to the Lord in the same way your eyes look to the east for each day’s sunrise—for more surely than the sun rises daily, the Lord loves and restores the spirits of His children.  Just ask.

Father, I often find myself in circumstances, of my own making and inflicted on me by others, where I feel I am alone, and in the dark.  Please, let the light of Your Son shine into our darkness today, and every day, for all our days.  We trust in You and You alone.  Amen 

Blessings,

Pastor Ken

 

Psalm 90:13

Do return, O LORD; how long will it be?  And be sorry for Your servants. 

Underlying this anxious plea for the return of God, and for His compassion for His servants, there is a profound experience that I have often felt, but been hesitant to identify because it seemed to challenge some of the wonderful truths that I learned about God in my earliest lessons of the Christian faith.  The experience is a sense of abandonment by God, impatience for Him to care enough to return (…how long?), and a desire that He would feel a certain way about me (…be sorry…).  I don’t just want God to return and rescue me; I want Him to want to rescue me, because he sees my experience and feels something about it.  The Hebrew word for return here is the same one often translated repent—even when it speaks of God.  The implications of the very idea of God repenting of anything usually rates at least a page in any good theology—why would God ever change His mind about anything?  And yet, Moses here asks God to do so.  There are, as I wrote, plenty of theologians who are more than willing to let God off the hook here, and explain to us why Moses wasn’t really asking God to change, it just seemed that way.  I’m not so sure.

I can’t solve the problem in today’s reading, or in a thousand days’ readings, because I am (in this sense, anyway) a Moses; I wonder where God is, why He is taking so long to help me, and if He is in anyway moved by my particular problems and feelings.  According to the Bible, He is with me, is not late in showing up in my life, and cares about me.  You are a Moses, too, if you’ve ever felt that way, had those questions, and yet still cried out to this LORD who seemed distant, late, and unconcerned.  I hope you’re a Moses in this regard, not because I think you’re going to do great things for God, or because I don’t want to feel alone, but because I want for both me and you to keep crying out to God when He seems far away, seems in no great hurry to be here, and even appears to be detached from our feelings.  For when we cry to God for his presence and compassion we are actually demonstrating faith in Him–a confidence not only that He hears us, but cares about our experiences, too.

Father, please give me the assurance of your presence and compassion that I so desperately need today.  Please, don’t delay!  By the end of this day, please let me look back on it and see that You are not only “with” me, but are also deeply and perfectly concerned for everything that I am going through, and all that I am feeling.  I trust You with all of that, Father!  Amen.

Blessings,

Pastor Ken

Psalm 90:12

So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.

Verse 12 introduces the only solution to the desperate plight of human beings that Moses has described so vividly in the preceding verses.  Under the glaring wrath of a holy and offended God, and suffering the physical effect of death as a consequence of the presence of sin in our lives—what are we to do?  How are we to find any hope of life and deliverance given our utter inability to achieve a righteousness of our own that will assuage the anger of an offended God?  The remaining verses of this Psalm point us to the ultimate, personal answer to the plight of humanity—and that answer is the mercy of God shown to people.

Given what has been said of the sinfulness of man, and the shortness of his days, we need outside help.  We require an act of mercy from God if we are to be rescued from ourselves.  We must be taught, by God, to properly assess and manage our days.  To number something means to consider it in association with other things, and assign it a value or significance.  For example, if I number the books in my library, I am assigning each one of the individual books a number, a place, recognition of its existence and significance in relation to the others.  This is not the way most people naturally live their lives, or think of the passing of one day after another.  We tend to dismiss the days of the past because they are fixed, and cannot be profited from. We neglect the present because we have not planned for it, and it is gone so fast, and we daydream of the future, because we think we can prepare for its every possibility in such a manner that we will not be caught off-guard or “miss out” on any opportunities that it may bring.  Our usual ways of viewing time itself can be quite frustrating–and unfruitful:  No one knows the future, for it has not happened yet—so there is nothing that can be learned from it.  Few of us value and treasure the present, because we are too worried about the future, and almost none of us learn from the one source of information that is unchanging, and provides endless test-cases to evaluate the effects of habits, goals, and choices—the past.  This is why we desperately need the Lord to teach us to know, evaluate, assign specific meaning to, our days.  We truly do not even know how to think rightly without Him choosing to teach us!

Father, please teach us how to think about our lives, so that we may decide how to best live them before You.  Deliver us today from the superficiality that marks our lives, the preferred simplicity that rejects learning from the past and presumes to know the future.  Instead, teach us to judge our days correctly, according to how You would have us evaluate and learn from them.  

Blessings,

Pastor Ken

Psalm 90:11

Who understands the power of Your anger And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You? 

It’s almost a required lecture given to each new Christian, that yes; we are to fear God, but only in the right way.  We are to desire to please and obey Him, being mindful of the certainty that what a man sows he shall reap, etc., but we are not to be gripped with any real sense of fear in His presence.  I have heard countless comments, in formal presentations, sermons, published works, and in informal prayer meetings, that we must not fear God in the wrong way.  I beleive we put too much energy and effort into making sure no one is afraid of God.  We like the God of love, but the God that is due our fear…well, we don’t let Him out of the closet very often.  Of course, we’re His children now, no longer objects of wrath for our sins, but now accepted, adopted, eternally loved, saved.  But also, I assure you, many of our deepest problems would not exist if only we had feared the Lord, instead of…you can fill in the blank!

So I think we should be much more afraid of God than we are.  We should fear to fall into His discipline, should we not repent of sin.  We should fear to stand before Him in worship with hearts that are unresolved, or harboring animosity and disdain for our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We should, like the Corinthians that Paul wrote to, judge ourselves rightly (1 Corinthians 11:31), lest we incur that judgment of God in response to our actions and attitudes.  Can I remind you today that the fear of the Lord is not the last vestiges of an immature, archaic, unenlightened faith, but is instead the beginning of wisdom?  Perhaps if we cared more about understanding His power and less about appropriating it for our own desires and agendas, we would be a people who rightly fear the Lord, and we would be observed by an alienated, miserable, dying culture as a truly fearless people, because we truly feared the only One worthy of our fear.

Let’s pray today for the right kind of fear of our Lord.  Let’s ask Him that we would not simply fear Him as some sort of theological exercise or creedal statement, but that our lives would bear the marks of a sober, committed, obedient people who know, love, and yes, fear their God.

Blessings to you,

Pastor Ken