Psalm 90:10

As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.

I was taught an important lesson in seminary regarding the proper study of God’s Word:

  1. What are the three essential things to understand to properly interpret the Bible?
  2. Context, context, and…context!

It’s important to consider the context (the background, basically, in a wide variety of aspects) of everything we study.  So, as we read of Moses’ seeming dour assessment of human life, particularly in consideration of its length and experience, we must remember that we are in a portion of a Psalm written by a man who would soon face the end of his own life, and this particular portion is a part of a meditation on the fleeting nature of human life, as it stands in its natural state—guilty of sin and deserving of the wrath of God upon it.  Don’t run away from this verse; encouraging verses are coming, but they are only encouraging when considered in the context of the one’s the preceded it—verses like this one.

According to Moses, the quantity of our lives has very little, nothing as a matter of fact, to do with the quality of our lives.  Even the culture around us sees the content of human life to be of infinitely greater value than its mere length.  “Just do it!”  “Go for the gusto” “You only live once”  Madison Avenue has stepped right up to the plate here, actually making the claim to be able to provide content to human life in the form of perishable goods and fleeting experiences of pleasure.  The actual word pride is formed from a root word that describes a battle, as in the storming of the wall of a city.  “Even so,” Moses would say, “at the end of your life the great battles a person wins are more costly and less profitable than he or she ever imagined, for we all die and disappear from the earth.” Like a bird, we fly away at the moment of our death.  This is the ultimate meaninglessness and futility of the life that is lived in the context of unforgiven sin and endless alienation from God, the source of all life.

Father, the years of my life are in Your hand.  They will not end earlier than You desire, nor will they continue longer than You’ve planned for them.  Thank that our lives need not end on a note of difficult labor and inevitable sorrow, but that by Your grace we can know true rest and purpose here and now—we can have eternal life by turning to You.  Today, turn my heart and my mind to You, and increase my faith and confidence that I will not simply fly away at the moment of my death, but that I will fly to You, my home.  Amen.

Blessings,

Pastor Ken

Psalm 90:9

For all our days have declined in Your fury; We have finished our years like a sigh.

I suppose this is one of those verses in the Bible that makes us cringe a little.  Sometimes it’s verses like this one that make pastors feel they need to defend God, reminding their people that He’s really not such a mean person after all, is full of love, and we’re all saved from His wrath, and Moses was perhaps having a really bad day the day he wrote this, etc.  I certainly don’t like to think of God’s people (or, me) finishing up this life under the glare of a God whose chief feelings toward me (at least according to this verse) is fury!  Do you?  And I don’t want to finish my years like a sigh; I want to live a very full, healthy, productive life, both physically and spiritually, that ends with the warm and grateful recognition of a benevolent God.  As Moses prepared to depart this life, he reflected on the heartache, disappointment and persistent failure that had robbed his people, God’s people (!), of the life of blessing and meaning that they could have had.  As he looked back across the decades and the desert miles, he saw not the villages, synagogue, farms and schools built by Israel, the new people of God, delivered from the bondage of slavery in Egypt.  He saw….graves.  That’s why there are no archaeological remains of the 40 year sojourn of the nation of Israel in the wilderness; all they left behind were makeshift graves in the shifting sands of the desert, for although they bore the name Israel—the people of God, and were a redeemed, saved people of God—they resisted following God, and seemed to distrust and disobey Him at every turn.  And so, instead of occupying cities and villages and beginning new lives as free men and free women, they wandered as punishment for their treason against their God.  And instead of that generation of former slaves building a culture of learning, achievement, and witness to the power and mercy of God—they became a nation of grave diggers, as each of them who left Egypt, save a faithful few, died off in the wilderness, day by day, year by year, barely noticed, like a sigh.

I don’t live under the fury of God today–not because He has stopped being furious at sin, but because He has stopped being furious at me.  Another has stood before that fury in my place.  I hope you, too, have been delivered from that fury.  If you haven’t, or if you are not sure, you must flee to the Man who bore the wrath of God in your place, for your sins.  You must do it this day, before your final day approaches, the day of your final breath.  And that final breath will simply be a sigh.

Lord, today, give me eyes to look to the days ahead; to acknowledged that, short of Christ’s gathering of His own, living and dead, I will certainly die one day.  Help me to appreciate the sacrifice for my sins made by the Lord Jesus, and please bring me opportunities to share the hope and forgiveness of gospel with any person who comes into my life today.  Please make it very clear to me, what I should do and say and please make me very clear in what I say!  Amen.

Pastor Ken

Psalm 90:7-8

For we have been consumed by Your anger And by Your wrath we have been dismayed. You have placed our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.

Moses has explained both the time-lessness of God and the time-boundedness of man in the first six verses of this Psalm.  God is eternal, the one Cause and Precedent of all, and man is finite, prone to disease, decline, and eventually, death.  But it is not simply the difference between an eternal God and finite creatures that Moses calls our attention to; there is a state of alienation between God and man that needs to be acknowledged, and in some manner addressed, if the two are ever to be united in fellowship.  In short, something has come between God and every human being who’s every lived—and that something is sin itself.  This tragic state of affairs evokes a sense of dismay in us.  This word is used in the bible to describe sudden panic, such as King Saul experienced at the appearance of the prophet Samuel…from the grave (1 Sam. 28:21)!  The reason for this dismay is the sudden exposure of our deepest, most secret sins.  God knows everything that we have ever done, said, or thought that falls short of His perfect standard of righteousness—and He is not neutral about it all.  He does not look the other way, or say, (as we often do), “Well, who’s to judge?  No one’s perfect!”  God is the judge, and He is perfect!  Did Moses have secret sins?  Apparently so.  Do you and I have secret sins?  Of course.  In light of the blazing scrutiny of a God who is continually angry over all sin, we don’t stand a chance, it seems.

But the psalm is not over; Moses has more to say in the coming verses; about the mercy of God, and the possibility of forgiveness and divine favor given to a loving Father to His flawed and sinful children.  We’ll get there, but for today, let’s simply meditate on this holy God of ours, who knows our every impure thought and base, hurtful deed, and who is rightfully offended by our sins.  And then, let us think of the only Person able to bear the punishment of such wrath, such anger—in such a way that the righteousness judgment of God would be poured out on human sin and rebellion, and yet in a manner that offers pardon for sin, and even freedom from punishment and bondage to sin.  The death of Jesus of Nazareth was not simply a brilliant, divinely concocted scheme to give the go-ahead for God to forgive you and I, and for you and I to gain eternal life.  It was the bloody work of a Son and His Father to win back something precious that had been stolen, to find something that had been lost, to restore something that had been rendered (seemingly) forever ruined.  It was the grueling, torturous path walked by the Son through the darkness of His own grave so that you and I might walk in the marvelous light of God’s presence.

Today, look to your Savior, Jesus Christ, the One who stood in your place to face the wrath of God to receive the punishment due for your sin.  Thank God today for the simple fact of the gospel—that Jesus came to the earth to die in the place of people just like you and me, and to bear the consuming heat of the anger of God, so that we need never fear being discovered and rejected by this holy God who knows our deepest, darkest, hidden sins—and has forgiven them through the death of His Son.

Your brother,

Pastor Ken

Psalm 90:5-6

5 You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. 6 In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; Toward evening it fades and withers away. 

Moses continues his no-holds-barred consideration of the timelessness of God and the time-boundedness of man.  In today’s verses of our meditation, Moses recognizes the fact that human life is unfailingly, consistently transitory.  No life lasts longer than its allotted time.  In fact, from the grand, divine view of things, every human life can be compared to the variety of the desert grass of the Middle East that Moses observed would sprout early in the morning, watered by the precious dew of the evening, flourish for a few short hours, and then whither under the ruthless heat of the mid-day sun.  By nighttime, each blade of grass was gone.  We are not exactly like that grass—we are much more precious to the Lord than a blade of grass.  But we are like it, in that we do not last.  We can exercise five days a week, eat no red meat, but only organic food, pop vitamins like candy, religiously wear our seatbelts, and never take a second piece of pie, but we still are more like a single, thready little blade of grass than a redwood, according to these verses.  If we were seed packets, we’d be found in the Annuals section of the rack, not the Perennials.  No life-coach, plastic surgeon, or motivational speaker can change the fact that in the end of this earthly life, we are swept away as if by a flood at its fullest, raging strength.

But Moses slips in a phrase here that brings me much encouragement:  They fall asleep.  Did you see that?  I believe that Moses was the first writer of Scripture to use of the word sleep to describe physical death.  David wrote of his fear of “sleeping the sleep of death.” (Psalm 13:3)  Daniel wrote of those who “sleep in the dust” awaking to life. (Daniel 12:2)  The prophet Jeremiah wrote of the Babylonians sleeping a “perpetual sleep.” (Jeremiah 51:57)  Our Lord once approached the lifeless body of a little girl and pronounced that she was “only sleeping,” and was mocked by the professional death mourners.  When someone is dead, we don’t say, “Oh, he’s only sleeping,” because he is NOT sleeping, he is dead.  Likewise, when someone is sleeping, we don’t say, “She is dead,” because she is certainly not dead, but is only sleeping.  When we reach the end of our short, earthly lives, we are not dead forever, but will one day be brought back to life, and therefore Moses calls it sleep, for we will one Day be awakened by the voice of the King of Life.

Pray today the prayer of thanks for your eternal life—that the day of your death is in the hands of the Lord, as is the day of your resurrection from the dead.  Pray for your friends and your family members who do not know your kindhearted, forgiving Lord, that they would make peace with Him now, so that their resurrection would be to eternal life, not punishment.

Blessings,

Pastor Ken

Psalm 90:4

For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or as a watch in the night.

“In a hundred years no one will not the difference, anyway…”  How many times have I heard that or something like it said to explain the relative insignificance of an event or condition? Paint you house with the wrong color of paint?  In a hundred years who will know the difference?  Build a deck with untreated 4X4’s?  Treated or untreated, in a thousand years, the deck will be dust anyway.   Cheat on your taxes?  In a hundred years, it’s a safe bet to say that no one will be coming after you.  But according this verse, the passage of time does not erase the events of time; time is quite irrelevant to God.  A thousand years are like yesterday…or as a watch in the night. The word like is key here—it is a signal to the reader that what follows is a metaphorical presentation given so that the reader can better understand the subject.  In other words, the thousand years is not equal to yesterday or a watch in the night, it is similar to them, in that it is just as clear and immediate in the awareness of God as if they had all occurred, at once, yesterday.  Events, circumstances, actions, and lives that existed a thousand years ago are just as fresh and clear to God as if they’d existed yesterday, or even a few hours ago in the night.  They are relevant, in the same way you are aware of (and may care about) he things that happened yesterday.  You may even live your life differently today because of something that happened yesterday.  The things that happened yesterday are also remembered.  Besides not remembering things that happened a thousand years ago, we have trouble recalling things that happened last week!  But in the same way that we do remember yesterday—what we did, where we went, who we met, etc., God even more clearly remembers everything that has ever occurred, be it one, ten, a hundred, or a thousand years ago.  And as the things that happened yesterday remain into today, so with God the unfinished business and plans begun but not finished, remain before Him.  The lawn that you left half-mowed yesterday awaits you today, the project that you left unfinished on your desk yesterday awaits you today, etc.  In the same way, the lives, generational habits and qualities, and personal and governmental movements begun a thousand years ago continue to unfold in their effects and results before the eyes of God today.  And so do the works of faith, noticed or unnoticed in their time, remain in the mind and heart of God; precious, unforgotten, and one Day to be commended and publicly recognized.

Thank the Lord today that all that you do today out of a heart of faith will not be forgotten, and will not fade with time, but will remain treasured and precious to Him.  Let us live our lives as if there were no calendars governing our days, but only the watchful, ever-remembering eye of a loving, righteous God.

Blessings!

Pastor Ken

Psalm 90:3

You turn man back into dust And say, “Return, O children of men.” 

Who ultimately makes the decision of the exact moment when a person dies?  Doctors? Soldiers? Police? The person themselves?  According to this verse, the Lord Himself decides the point at which our spirits leave our bodies, and we begin a process of biological decay that sends our material elements back into the earth from which they came and from which they grew.  But looking at the newspapers, it would appear that God has very little to do anymore with the death of human beings.  Homicide, disease, traumatic accidents, combat, physician assisted suicide…the list goes on of ways that humans seem to be the final judges of who dies, why they die, and the moment at which they die.  As I’ve written, the Bible says otherwise, that God actually determines these things.  I used to hate that idea—God arbitrarily deciding the moment of my death, as if I had nothing to do with it.  Now, I think to myself, “Who better to have the fate of my earthly, physical existence in His hands than God Himself.  Do I want such the decision to rest wholly in the will of any person, group, or fate, or (perhaps the worse of them all) me myself?!”  Death is hateful to humans (particularly our own death!), but not precious.  To most of us, it is certainly not a divine-human transaction that precludes physical resurrection to an eternal life.  Perhaps that is why we haven’t been able to fight, kill, legislate, or simply rip, the ultimate control over death out of the hands of God.  Our lives are in His hands, and to simply rest and trust in this truth is one of the deepest expressions of faith I have ever been challenged to live.  Psalm 90 is a poem Moses wrote about time; all time, including the timing of your own death.  May we look at the verse from the viewpoint that allows us to rejoice that as our death is in the hands of God, so are our continued, blessed lives.

Let’s pray to day for the wisdom and humility to live as people who do not know the moment of death, and so live each moment of life in wisdom and obedience to our Lord.  Look around you—today; you will probably see people who will not be alive in 20 years, 10 years, perhaps even a year.  When He calls them to “Return” to the dust, will they have had the opportunity to know and be saved by the One who will one day call into the dust, “Arise,” and command it to give up its dead?  Any that you know who are sick, ill, or injured; suffering in any way today, please pray for both their physical and spiritual health and healing.

Blessings,

Pastor Ken

Psalm 90:1-2

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

Scholars have suggested that Moses wrote this Psalm soon after the events of Numbers 20, while leading the nation of Israel to the Promised Land.  In that chapter, we read of four heartbreaks that Moses, the man of God, endured.  His sister, Miriam died, He failed to obey the instruction of God in the miracle of producing water from a rock, and was told he would not enter into the Promised Land himself, he was denied travel through the land of Edom (ethnically cousins of Israel), and so was forced to continued leading the nation through the wastelands of modern-day Jordan, instead of along a well-groomed, direct road.  And his dearest, forty-year partner in minsitry, his brother Aaron, died.  The death of dear family members, the death of a 40 year dream, and the denial of immediate needs to proceed in the task God gave him to accomplish; No wonder this is one of the most somber Psalms in the Bible, often read at funerals!

How does a man (or woman) “of God” respond to such loss, failure, and disappointment?  Moses began by resting his hope in what he knew to be true about God:  You have been our dwelling place in all generations…  Profound words from a man who had spent at least one third of his life living in tents.  A dwelling place is not simply a place with four walls and a roof, where people can go at the end of the day; it is a place marked by safety, protection, and peace.  Moses had no such place left on earth.  No people to share his life with, no place to call home, and finally, no earthly dream of such a blessed land anymore.  All of those dreams and opportunities had flown from him like leaves in the wind.  Even the land he stood on was not his own, and never would be in his earthly life.  But from eternity past, God is God, wrote Moses.  Before there were any mountains to climb or hills to own, or lands to conquer or houses to build, there was a lasting place of rest and safety—in God Himself.  Before your dreams, whatever they may be, even existed, there was God.

Let’s pray that we would see beyond the present, temporary, difficulties and heartbreaks of this life, and cast our faith upon the only safe and secure Person there is—God Himself.  Through obedient, joyful trust, do things His way, by His leading, today, and see if you don’t find yourself in a dwelling in His place, with God Himself.  I hear there are all kinds of troubled people in that place; including a man who spent 40 years pursuing a dream of a Promised Land, only to find his promise was not in any particular land, but in the Lord of the land.  You’ll be in good company.

Pastor Ken