Title: The Days Are Short, the Years Shorter
Text: Psalm 90
FCF: We often struggle allowing routine to steal our eternal perspective.
Prop: Because All Mankind is absolutely dependent on their creator, we must use our time on earth to be His people.
[Slide 1][ Turn in your bible to Psalm 90. As we close out another year and open a new one, it is natural for us to reflect on what has been and what will be. As we do this it is pivotal that we turn to God’s word to help us reflect on the right things and in the right way. Psalm 90 is a wonderful little psalm packed with meaning and is quite appropriate for heading into a new year – or assessing the previous one. So without further ado. Let’s dig in. I’m reading from the CSB but follow along in whatever version you prefer.
So what does this psalm say and what does it mean? And how do we live based on what it says and what it means?
I.) God is our Eternal Refuge, so we must use our time to be His people. (1,2)
a. [Slide 2] A prayer of Moses, The Man of God
i. Some suggest that this is a prayer from the perspective of Moses
ii. Others insist that this is an actual prayer from Moses Himself.
iii. In any case, we would do well to understand the context of this Psalm to be just before the Israelites cross over the Jordan into the promised land. Having been delivered from Egypt, forsaking God, complaining, wandering in the dessert, and finally, with a new generation, following God to the land He promised their fathers.
iv. In this, Moses reflects on some important truths as He prays to the almighty
b. 1 – Lord, you have been our refuge in every generation
i. We have seen several generations of Israel come and go.
ii. God has been the only stability in all that time.
iii. He has always been a refuge – a protector – The word here means dwelling place.
iv. When you say there is no place like home, are you talking about God? Moses is.
c. 2 – Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity you are God.
i. God is eternal – He has no beginning and He has no end.
ii. For being home, protection, or a refuge – that is a wonderful quality. It means that we will fail before He does.
d. In this opening stanza we see the prayer reflecting on the true nature of God. That He has always been what the nation of Israel needed. And it is only when they were in Him, With Him, that they were truly safe. That they were home. – That He was their promised Land.
e. [Slide 3] As we reflect back on this past year – can we say the same? Did we find security, safety, refuge in Him or in something else? Family, friends, money, a literal home – all these things fail. But God does not. As we move toward 2018, May we find safety and refuge only in God.
f. May we say there is no place like home – and be referring to the comfort of His wings.
[Slide 4 (blank)] But this was only the opening stanza. The prayer goes on to speak more about our God. What other wonders does He have for us to see?
II.) God is our Omnipresent Sovereign, so we must use our time to be His people. (3-6)
a. [Slide 5] 3 – You return mankind to the dust saying “return descendants of Adam”
i. God is not simply the facilitator of man’s death, but the administrator.
ii. He commands both life and death. He decrees the last day of each man.
iii. A product of the curse of God on sinful men. Yet still a comfort to know that our refuge is also the master of our deaths
iv. But why? Why is it this way?
b. 4 – For in your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that passes by, like a few hours of the night
i. A glimpse into the timelessness of God.
ii. God can decree the death of men because God does not travel in time as we do.
iii. If God would walk through time moment by moment as we do, when He deems it right for men to die, we may suppose Him heartless. But if 1000 years are but a few hours, it shows us that God is not bound to this moment by moment elapsing of time. He can accelerate or slow it.
iv. This communicates the broader truth that God is omnipresent. He is everywhere and everywhen at once.
v. Suddenly His decree for men to die seems to make perfect sense, because He is operating at the moment of our death to no less degree, and at the same time as the moment of our birth.
c. [Slide 6] 5-6 – You end their lives; they sleep. They are like grass that grows in the morning – in the morning it sprouts and grows by evening it withers and dries up.
i. The actual expression here has the idea of being swept away by a flood, but the meaning is made clear by the CSB. God decrees to end life and they end.
ii. By direct comparison to the Omnipresent Sovereign over life and death, men’s lives are quite short. They, like grass, are measured in days – in moments.
iii. Grass usually doesn’t sprout in the morning and die in the evening. I believe Moses is using hyperbole to emphasize how short the lifespan of men truly is.
iv. And again all this is woven to the curse of God for sin which is upon all men. That they, having sin woven to their natures, cannot live forever, but must die.
d. At this point in the song, there is no indication of God’s displeasure. We infer that death comes because of the curse – which we must – But there is no indication that personal sin is the result of this death. Thus, at least for now in Moses’ prayer, God is simply the master of life and death over all mankind regardless of their spiritual status or condition.
e. [Slide 7] And at this point, I think it is a difficult application for us. Not only do we struggle seeing God as our refuge and our place to call home, but we also tend to worry and fear over harm and death to ourselves and others. If God is in complete control over life and death – while it doesn’t mean we are foolish or negligent with life – it certainly does mean that we have absolutely nothing to fear.
f. So how fearful and worried were you in 2017? Did you grieve without hope? Did you Fear what may befall you or your loved ones. Moses’ prayer is a soft rebuke to us to trust this Eternal and Sovereign Lord.
[Slide 8 (blank)] Yet his prayer is not done. There is still more that Moses includes. And as he moves on to the next stanza, he recognizes a sad reality to men with short lives…
III.) God is our Forgotten Judge, so we must use our time to be His people. (7-12)
a. [Slide 9] 7-8 – For we are consumed by your anger; we are terrified by your wrath. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
i. Moses is speaking of men generally here, but we must also keep in mind that he is saying this with first hand knowledge that all this is true.
ii. Our sins cannot be hidden from a Omniscient God. Which wouldn’t be a problem except…
iii. That God is also our judge. He is the One whose anger and wrath will come down on all wickedness.
b. [Silde 10] 9-10 – For all our days ebb away under your wrath; we end our years like a sigh. Our lives last seventy years or; if we are strong, eighty years. Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and fly away.
i. In contrast to God’s eternality and omniscience
ii. We live our days under His wrath and before we reach the end of it, we are dead. Gone like a lazy exhale.
iii. God’s wrath of our sin lives longer than we do.
iv. Our days are 80 years at best, and if not for medicine, it would be a great deal shorter.
v. And every day, even the best of them, are lived in sin riddled bodies, that are breaking down and decaying even as we speak.
c. [Slide 11] 11 – Who understands the power of your anger? Your wrath matches the fear that is due you.
i. If it is true that the end of God’s wrath for our sin could not be found in our lifetime, then it is absolutely clear that no one truly understands God’s wrath. No one can truly grasp the depth of his hatred of sin. No one can truly understand.
ii. Moses attempts to measure it. If you take the amount of fear that is due to God by human beings, and you would measure that fear by yard or pound, you would then have the exact length and weight of the wrath of God.
iii. The trouble is that no man offers such fear to Him. And men, having such short lives, have a tendency to excuse their sin, dismiss God’s wrath and anger, undermine His Holy Justice, and paint Him as a fluffy God that cares little about what is said or done with our lives. He only wishes to shower us with blessings and mercy, and isn’t all that concerned about our wickedness.
iv. This is why Moses makes his first request of God in this prayer. Up to this point Moses has asked for nothing. He has simply compared God to man – and has found that mankind comes up embarrassingly short of God.
v. So what does He ask God?
d. [Slide 12] 12 – Teach us to number our days carefully, so we may develop wisdom in our hearts.
i. Teach us. Teach us what?
ii. To number our days carefully. What does he mean by this?
1. Mankind does not fear God’s wrath. Why?
2. Because they live in a moment by moment and second by second delusion that life will always be as it is and then you die and come to nothing.
3. Also, people who call themselves Christians live out their lives as if it will never be any different. They take no stock in the shortness of time they have on earth, they take no thought on the absolutely terrifying thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God.
4. They whether because they have gone to church, prayed a prayer, or concluded that this life is all there is, they are comfortable to continue to go on as if there is no urgency.
5. Even genuine followers of Christ often get distracted by day to day pressures and do not take account of the great urgency it is to be about the business of the King.
6. Moses’ prayer – is for God to show us that our days are short – our years are shorter. And there is simply no time to waste.
7. But what would be the purpose in being taught that our days are limited? That our time is limited?
iii. So that we can develop wisdom in our hearts.
1. Wisdom in this passage resonates with the Proverbs.
2. Defined, It is understanding of truth and applying that truth.
3. But it is more specific than that in Proverbs and here. To be honest the word wisdom and love could be almost interchangeable.
4. Love being a loyal and unconditional choice and wisdom being an understanding of truth and acting upon it.
5. Jesus says if you love me you will obey me, and wisdom in the proverbs says to listen and to learn. Both have this aspect of a choice producing obedience.
6. It leads us to conclude that wisdom is a deep and intimate connection with the truth giver to the extent that we live as He would have us live.
7. And an interesting parallel here is that Moses just said, who understands how to fear the Lord properly? And Solomon says – the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord.
8. So if you put the pieces together Moses is saying – teach us that we are frail and finite – humble us so that we can fear you, because if we can fear you – we can develop wisdom and love for you.
e. [Slide 13]But mankind does not naturally fear God. Instead we try our hardest to leave the wrath and anger of God against sin out of everything we do. Some brands of Christianity leave it out of their preaching, teaching and evangelism. Their reasoning is that telling a lost person that they are under the wrath of God will not lead them to God. They need love and God is offering love. But Moses says just the opposite. He says – essentially – the only way that we can ever love God is to fear Him first. Not just fear as in honor – but fear as in being terrified. He is a fierce and untamable God that hates sin, your sin, my sin.
[Slide 14 (blank)] What more is there to say really? Moses could have ended there – but perhaps it is the realization of his own finiteness that brings him to a sudden and desperate understanding of his dependence on God. So Moses begs God for more.
IV.) We are irretrievably dependent on God, so we must use our time to be His people. (13-17)
a. [Slide 15] 13 – Lord – how long? Turn and have compassion on your servants
i. Even Moses, standing on the edge of the promised land, feels the distance of God from His people.
ii. Even only 40 years prior God was more intimately connected to His people. There is a distance because of His people’s sin.
iii. Moses is asking God to restore the intimacy
b. [Slide 16] 14-15 – Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days. Make us rejoice for as many days as you have humbled us for as many years as we have seen adversity.
i. In the morning is an expression that means – quickly or first thing. So he is saying satisfy us now. Don’t wait. Show us your loyal love so we can have joy.
ii. Even joy that looks upon the days of trouble and turmoil because of our sin, but sees your hand guiding us to this point.
c. [Slide 17] 16-17 – Let your work be seen by your servants and your splendor by their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands – establish the work of our hands.
i. The last two requests revolve around the idea of work.
ii. The first is that God would not hide, but would display his splendor to the point that it would be obvious that He is with them and their children. That He would not leave them. That He would keep showing that loyal love.
iii. The final request is that God would grant them favor – or grace – to establish the work of their hands
iv. Then he repeats, as if to beg, establish the work of our hands.
v. What does this phrase mean? It is probably important if he prayed it twice.
vi. It means to make our lives matter. It means to make our work effective. It means to allow them to fulfill their calling. Their purpose. Their destiny.
vii. Moses is begging God to make them into successful image bearers. Ambassadors.
viii. PLEASE GOD-- MAKE US USEFUL AND THEN USE US!
Which leads quite naturally to our application for today.
There is no real reason to linger long on it. Mostly it is questions.
[Slide 18 (end) ] Was it your desire in 2017 to be useful to and be used by God?
What led Moses to this desire?
Well He understood God’s eternality, his holiness and infinite nature. He understood the frail and finite condition of man. He understood man’s propensity to undermine the despicability of their own sin. He understood that God’s wrath outlasts the lifetime of a man. And He desires things of God.
To be taught the brevity of life. To grow in the fear of God, so he can grow in wisdom of God and love for God. To have God near, to be satisfied with Him and only Him. To see His works and marvel in His splendor – not just for him but for all the people and their children.
All this led Moses to ask God to use them. To break them and spill them out that they may offer something of worth for Him in their short lives.
And friend every truth of this psalm should lead us to the exact same conclusion if you are a Christ follower. There is no other possible answer. To understand the depth of God’s wrath and eternity, the sinfulness and frailty of your own heart – it should lead you to repentance and belief. It should lead you to beg to be taught about life’s brevity, and to depend on God for everything – even to be used for His work.
The wonderful thing is, that even if 2017 was all about you. Even if you used the entire year to focus on this world, this life, this existence – thinking that this life, this world, this existence means a great deal. Even if you lived as if you always will. Even if you gave no thought to God’s infinity and great wrath over your wickedness.
You can start today. Today you can repent and believe. Today you can beg with Moses, teach me and use me oh God.
Let me be of some use to you for your kingdom, in the next 365 days – if I have that many.
But don’t make a New Years Resolution and try your hardest to be useful to God. Because that just won’t work.
Instead, Pray to God and beg Him and Keep begging Him to establish the work of your hands.
Because in that – you have discovered the secret of genuine, and real, belief. Absolute Need of Him.