Keeping Your Balance in an Unbalanced World
January 8, 2006 Pastor: Don Green
Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Psalm 90
One of the more haunting conversations that I have ever had in my entire life came a few years ago when I introduced myself to an older couple in a Christian environment while I was on a trip. I found out that they were celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary together after a lifetime of missionary service in the Far East. We chatted for a little while and enjoyed those kinds of pleasantries. And in an effort to be gracious, I looked at the man and expressed gratitude to him for his service to the Lord because he had spent many years on a difficult mission field and I said “I’m grateful for your service”. I wasn’t thinking much about it, I was just trying to be pleasant. But he took me seriously and quickly shook his head no and he quickly waved me off. He went on to tell me a very sad story. He said “I went about it all wrong. I was gone all the time when my teenaged daughter needed me the most. Her life got really messed up. I would do it all differently if I had it to do it all over again.” The worst part of that conversation as he was talking to me was I looked over at his wife to see how she was reacting to it. She had her arms folded across her chest and was nodding in affirmation of all the self-condemnation that he was heaping upon himself. She had no sympathy for him because she knew what he was saying was true. Somewhere along the line, that precious couple began tasting the bitter fruit of having lived an unbalanced life.
I don’t play much golf, I really don’t enjoy golf that much, although I realize this is the wrong place to say that for some people, it limits my opportunities of fellowship with other people that are around. I’ll live with that as oppose to the frustration of chasing after a golf ball that has gone in to the woods again. But in golf they have a thing called the mulligan—at least I think I am understanding this properly. When you are just kind of out playing casually, if you hit a bad shot, you can take a mulligan, you have hit the same shot again and it doesn’t count against your score. As I think about my missionary friends, I realize that in life you don’t get a mulligan. If you live life wrongly, you don’t get to do it over again. There are no second chances when you come to the end of the line. You get that one chance to live life and if you live it right, praise the Lord, if you let your priorities go astray and you have gone in to sin or you have neglected your family or whatever the case may be, you come to the end of your life, you don’t get to do it over again and that’s a tragic waste. It is something we as believers should never come to at the end of our lives and be faced with that because in the word of God, we have been given everything that is necessary for life and godliness. We have been given everything that we need for the opportunity to live our life well, to be able to approach death and be able to anticipate the Lord saying those blessed words to us “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
But I am here to tell you today that I don’t think that happens by accident. I don’t think you come in to that kind of affirmation without having thought through life and approaching it and having a thoughtful conscious approach to life that causes you to live by the priorities that you would profess to possess.
So today what I want to do in this single message is to do something to help you keep your balance as you live out your life before the Lord. Or even better yet, give you some tools that you can help someone else bring some balance in to their life, and to do that, I want to turn your attention to Psalm 90, the psalm that I read just a few moments ago. Moses is at the end of his life and he is reflecting on its brevity and gives us thoughts and approach that is useful for us today.
I realize that there are many in our group today that you are already in your 70’s or 80’s and you are already toward the end of the days, you are on the back side of 50 as it were and that’s okay. All I would say to you is that this makes this message even more urgent to you. That doesn’t make this message irrelevant to you, it simply makes it all the more urgent. The fewer years we have, the more urgent it is that we would use our time well, and so that’s what this is about.
Psalm 90 can be summarized in one paragraph. I am going to summarize it, but I am not going to close in prayer after I say this—that would be foolish.
Here is what is happening in Psalm 90. Moses is opening up and is meditating on the eternal nature of God and he contrasts that nature of God with the mortal nature of man. God is eternal dwelling beyond time, man is brief in his life and destined to return to dust. And as Moses works through that contrast in his mind, it does this to him, it causes him to turn to God in humble prayer for God’s blessing on the labor of his hands. That’s the general flow, that’s an overview of what this psalm is doing. Moses is thinking about the character of God, he says by contrast to God, our life is so brief and that he says, God, in light of those truths oh God, have mercy on me, show favor to me.
And in the process of that meditation, as Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit looks at life from the big picture, he gives us three fundamental features of the balance of the godly life and that’s what we are going to look at this morning.
The title of this psalm says A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God. Many scholars deny as they often do the other pertinent parts of scripture, ungodly men denying that Moses was the author of this despite the clear statement in the scriptures. (I’m not going to go in to all of that, I just want to state that I accept what the Bible says that Moses wrote this psalm and I’m going to explain the text from that assumption.) It is very helpful for us as we think about the context of Moses’ life to understand what he is saying. You will recall that Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt by the mighty power of the hand of God, that he led them through the Red Sea and he was leading them to the Promised Land, but because of the sin and the rebellion of the people, God brought judgment upon them, He said that you spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness and you will not see the Promised Land. And Moses is probably writing this psalm toward the end of his life and at the end of those 40 years of wandering. Even Moses had been told that he would not see the Promised Land despite the great leadership that he had given to Israel. You can read about that in Numbers chapter 20. And so Moses had led a people that were destined for death, he was facing his own mortality as he wrote this. There was a lot of death and difficulty during those 40 years of wandering without much in the way of encouragement for those people.
If you do the math on the hundreds of thousands of people that the Bible says were left Egypt and were looking for the Promised Land, if you multiply it out to roughly 50 deaths a day in the nation of Israel as they wandered about, and so day after day after day was filled with grave after grave after grave and the reality of death and the reality of the consequences of their rebellion was always fresh in their face. Moses looks at that situation honestly, he doesn’t try to deny it, he looks at the truth full in the face as it were and he comes to God and he deals with that situation and finds encouragement and finds grace and finds balance even in the midst of that which would overwhelm lesser men.
And as he begins this psalm here in Psalm 90, he gives the first feature of maintaining godly balance in your life and it is this, I will put it this way:
1. Balance Requires an Eternal Perspective
I have said things like this throughout the past year and I am going to continue to say this in so many different ways from so many different angles because I really want you to get this point and embrace it for the rest of your life is that when you think about life and think about where you are going in life and what you are doing in life, your thinking always has to start with the character of God. That is the starting point of how you assess your life. You start with the character of God, you start with His eternality, you start with His greatness, you start with His faithfulness. And then from there you start to work out what the implications of life are—that’s exactly what Moses does here in Psalm 90. He is taking an eternal perspective on that situation that I just described to you. Look at verses 1-2 with me again where he says:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.
(2) Before the mountains were born or you gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God.
What he is doing here as he sees death all around him, as he sees December 31st on his own life coming up on the calendar, he draws forth on the eternality of God as he begins his meditation. He doesn’t start thinking and bewailing the sadness of his life. He goes outside of himself, he goes to the character of God and he remembers who this God is. He ties his own life and he ties the people of Israel to the people of faith who had gone before them. God had called Abraham more than 2000 years before Christ and generation after generation after generation, even in the midst of severe bondage in the land of Egypt, God was preserving His people. He was keeping them preserved and He was accomplishing His purposes even though there was little from an external perspective to give them hope of that. And now, 600 years after the time of Abraham, Moses is writing and he is calling back on that faithfulness of God and he says, Lord, you have been our dwelling place, you have been our refuge, you have been our source of strength through all of those generations.
And so immediately, as he faces the difficulties of his life, he puts himself in a historical perspective that transcends everyone’s life, transcends his life. Throughout all of those centuries, God had been the dwelling place for those people of faith. Even though their lives were about to end, even though Moses was approaching the end, he was in the context of an eternal God who had not changed. This was the immutable God, the unchanging God, He was the one who had done all of this. And the fact that life was passing by did not change one iota the bigger picture. God was the dwelling place of His people.
And then he goes even further back in time. He goes to the earliest point in earthly time in verse 2, the creation of the world and the mountains on it. Look again at verse 2 where he says:
Before the mountains were born or you gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God
He works back through the history of Israel, back to the creation of the world, back in to the eternity past and says God, you have been the same throughout all of those generations, you were the powerful one when you created the world, you were the powerful one that sustained us through all those centuries. What he is doing here is he is setting the back drop that is necessary to evaluate life. This beloved is where you need to begin also, especially for those of you that know the Lord Jesus Christ through faith in Him and His death and resurrection. Sure our life is passing by, sure we have our ups and downs, sure we say good bye at times that seem premature and we grieve over that and it is appropriate that we would. But beloved, you have to step beyond that, you have to think back beyond that and say “Everything that I am experiencing, everything that I am facing doesn’t change anything about God, doesn’t change anything about the greatness of His character. His purposes are still going to be fulfilled, He will carry on His plan long after I am gone.” When you sub ordered your interests to the Lord Jesus Christ, you realize that the thing that is most important to you will continue unhindered no matter what happens to you.
This eternal, unchanging God existed in all His glory before the beginning of the universe, He dwells over time and beyond it, and He reigns over all in unchallenged supremacy. And so while we are affected by change and death and tragedy, God is unaffected by it.
And I would say to you beloved that that eternal nature of God is the place that you need to begin as you seek balance in your life and as you seek to establish the right priorities for how you live. His character is the refuge of your soul even as life changes all around you and you find in Him an anchor that will keep you in the place that you need to be, a place where your soul is in equilibrium, a place where your soul is settled and at rest even though the winds blow about you—that is where it begins.
As we say good bye to people we love, as circumstances go against us, we always beloved, must come back to this point and say “This eternal God, this God in whom I have taken refuge in the Lord Jesus Christ is the unchanging constant in my life.” And that brings to you a permanence and stability to your thinking even though external circumstances may change traumatically.
I want to give you a practical way to apply this in your life on a day to day bases, it is almost not worthy of the eternal realities that we are talking about, but I think it is helpful. I know I thought about it as I worked this material. If you had ever noticed, if you are the one that watches television news or listen to radio news, you know or you should know that they are masters at throwing you off balance. They will tell you a story, they will give you a report, may be about something important, and they will inject a strong emotional element in to it, and before you know it, you are all upset and agitated about something that you didn’t even know about five minutes earlier. Think about it. I was watching a show this week and the host was talking about how the library in Memphis was not allowing the manger scene to be displayed and going on and on about how that was an indication that the culture was falling apart. You find yourself being kind of swept up and say that’s an outrage. Well, listen beloved, you and I have to live beyond that kind of manipulation and that’s exactly what it is, it is just manipulation. And you have to understand and you have to preach to yourself (I use that term again) you have to come back and say “You know what, no matter what they say to me, this doesn’t change anything about the character of God. I have an eternal perspective of these things. God is in control, God reigns, His character surpasses all of these things and I am finding my rest and my confidence and my stability right there. And so you tell me the little pettily circumstances that will never affect my life or changing? I don’t care, I know the eternal God, I am one of His children, I am bound for heaven. Why are you trying to trouble me with such earthly trifles?” And you view those kinds of shifting circumstances of the world from that perspective. Come back to this eternal perspective that Moses sets forth here and rise about it, rise about the earthly things that distract us. You know it really does not matter how unjust what they are reporting on may seem to be at the moment, are you shocked that the world that is falling in to sin is filled with injustice? Why do you let it throw your soul off when you hear the reports of it. God is still your eternal refuge, God is still in control. It is from that anchor, it is from that cornerstone, it is from that foundation that you anchor your mind and you don’t let yourself get tossed about on the waves of what the media or the world around you tries to throw at you. You look at those things and say “I live above this.”
So balance requires an eternal perspective, you start at that point. But as you seek to live the life of balance and you seek to take everything in to account, there is a second contrasting point that you need to keep in mind and that is this, and this is where we will spend most of our time this morning:
2. Balance Requires an Earthly Perspective
Look at verse 3, we will notice the change in emphasis as Moses writes for us here. He is still praying to God in verse 3, but his focus is now on what happens to man. He says in verse 3:
You turn man back in to dust and say, “Return O children of men.”
(4) For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night.
(5) you 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.
Here in this section what Moses is doing is this, he is realistically facing the brevity of life. He is realistically facing the reality of our mortality as men and he makes a sharp contrast to the eternality of God, this God who has dwelt in heavenly glory and has been a refuge of His people for ages and ages, on end, on changing, immutable, the same God today as He was yesterday and will be the same God in the future. By contrast to that God, the life of men, your life and my life, brief, mortal, transient, passing away like a flower that grows up in the morning and is wilted by evening.
What Moses is doing here is he is giving us a perspective on our lives by viewing them from God’s perspective. God in His eternal, unchanging character looks down and sees the life of men as a whisper, as a vaper. The time span of our lives is insignificant. Look at verse 4, Moses says to God, from your perspective:
…a thousand years is like yesterday when it passes by…
A thousand years is like a four hour watch in the night O God, when it is gone, it is gone and it is like it never even happened. God sees time differently than we do. And you might ask why is that important in my ability to maintain balance. Why is that important for me to live life well?
What Moses says to us here puts our world in to the proper context, it humbles our pride and (get this) it keeps us from being deceived by the sameness of day to day living. Day to day, week to week, our lives usually don’t change very much and we get walled in to this false sense of security that the way it was yesterday is the way it will be tomorrow and the way it will be next week and the month after that and the year after that, life just looks the same. And until the death comes in to our life, for most of us, time just rushes by like a waterfall over the cliffs of time and we don’t even notice it. And we are swept up in that current and we don’t even appreciate it on a day to day basis. Moses looks at that from God’s perspective and sees that our lives would seem so enduring and unchanging, like a flower that blooms in the morning and withers by evening.
If you have ever taken the time to walk around unhurried in a cemetery, you have seen silent testimony to that fact. You are going to think I am morbid, but I actually enjoy doing that, it helps my perspective. I’ll look at these grave stones from either 50 years ago or 100 years ago or whatever it is and see etched in stone a man’s name, etched in stone his 80 years of life. I look at that and I think you know, he had many of the same desires and aspirations that I did. There for a time, it must have seen to him like he was going to live for ever. And yet, what the scripture says is that “It is destined for man to die once and then face judgment” came true for this guy and he was planted in the ground in 1928. And there was another like him in 1930 next row and beside them, and on and on it goes. And you start to realize that “You know what, I’m not going to escape that cycle myself. It’s my own life that is short and mortal, it is my own life. One day it is going to be my name etched in stone.”
That may seem morbid to some of you because I know some of you don’t like to think about the reality of death and all of that. But I want you to see here in the scriptures that that’s exactly what Moses is doing. And through the scriptures and through the inspired word of God, God would call you today to contemplate your own mortality and (here’s the key thing) take that in to account in the way that you live your life. The fact that we are rushing toward this destination, this appointment with death should change the way that we live, it should alter our priorities, it should inject passion in to our prayer, it has got to change things beloved. And if you have not factored the reality of your death in to the way that you live life, you are probably not living by the right priorities.
I want you to see something important. Moses is not writing from despair here, he opened with an eternal perspective. He was anchored in the character of God as he wrote this, he is not despairing here, he is simply being very realistic in understanding life. He says this is brief, it is passing and he is right, that’s true, this is just the scriptures.
And so what do we do with it? Well, before Moses gets too far along, he stops and gives a spiritual diagnosis for why it is this way—this is the other side of his earthly perspective. He says life is brief and then he goes and answers the question, why is life brief. Look at verse 7, he says “For” he is explaining what he has just said in the prior four verses about the brevity of life, he says “For” this is why life is brief:
For we have been consumed by your anger and by your wrath we have been dismayed.
(8) You have placed our inequities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
(9) For all our days have declined in your fury. We have finished our years like a sigh.
(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.
Moses understands that life is short and death is in the world because of God’s judgment on sin. It started with Adam and we have inherited that since then and were guilty of our own sinful thoughts and words and actions. And what Moses is saying here is the New Testament teaching that sin leads to death. And we have to look at death and understand that this is God’s judgment on humanity—this is why our life is brief, it is because of sin, God’s judgment. Our sins invoke His wrath, His wrath brings forth judgment and His judgment brings forth death.
And as I said before, Moses saw that abundantly in the wilderness. And here he was standing as one of the men at the end of that generation, dealing with the weariness of death, but vindicating the righteousness of God as he does so and says, God, your judgment has fallen upon our sins, your fury and your wrath are against us because of our inequities, and he says God, I understand why it is like this, it is a spiritual problem that you are righteously dealing with. Moses, unlike us, did not have the benefit of being on this side of the cross.
As the way to God’s judgment and the way to death falls upon your ears and upon your heart as you hear these words from Psalm 90, it should make you all the more glad that God sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins which turns away His wrath because if He had not done that, this would be our end and then eternal judgment would come. So even from this perspective, reading Psalm 90 from the New Testament perspective, we recognize the wrath of God on sin and then we heave a sigh of relief as believers in Christ and say “O, God, thank you so much that you sent Christ to deliver us from such a wretched condition.” But still, we are left with the after-shocks of the death earthquake as it were. Even in this earthly life, we are still set with the fact that we no more than get started in life and then death comes and takes it all away.
Now beloved, here is the point, this is an unseen dynamic, but it governs all of life, in an earthly sense, it cannot be escaped. And because of your spiritual dullness, you don’t calculate this rightly in to your thinking about how you approach life. The day to day sameness makes you unaware of what is coming, you don’t have it in the front of your mind like you should and therefore, you don’t live life in light of that reality. What Moses does here in verse 12 in light of that, in light of everything that we talked about here is that he prays a prayer in verse 12 and this really gets to the heart of what I want you to see today is Moses’ prayer, he says Lord, in light of all of that, in light of your eternal character, in light of the brevity of life, in light of your judgment on sin, O God:
Teach us to number our days so that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.
We got a lot of presents when we got married. The only one that I remember was not the tea set that I don’t think we got, because I don’t remember, but I remember one that a humble woman gave to us was a frame of this verse—she probably spent $10 or $12 bucks on it because it was all she had, there was a frame of this very verse (Teach us to number our days so that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.” That has never gone far from my thinking. Moses is praying and in essence what he is saying is Lord, help us to see the brevity of our lives so that we would use our days wisely, according to the priorities that you would set for us. Moses understands that we would not do that if we were left to our own devices. He understands that we are dull spiritually and that we lose sight, we lose perspective of eternal things. And so he prays and says God, help us overcome that weakness and that failure in our thinking so that we can live rightly.
David prayed a similar prayer in Psalm 39:4 when he said:
Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am.
God, I only have one shot at this and it is a short shot, would you help me do it right is the essence in the prayer there.
I want to give you a practical way to number your days as this verse says, it is one that I found helpful and has profoundly influenced the direction of my life and helped me make what in retrospect were good decisions when I was at forks in the road. Periodically you face those major decisions that will alter the course of your life—those decisions about who you will marry or what job you will take or whether you will make a big more, or maybe it is a medical decision that you have to deal with, whatever the case. When you are addressing those kinds of issues, I would encourage you to spend some time doing this. Think ahead to the end of your life, just kind of create a mental picture in your mind and think ahead to the end of your life and picture yourself sitting on a rocking chair on a front porch in the country some place, and you have got time to think back on life, you have time to reflect on the life that you lived. You are an old man or an old woman in that picture and you are looking back and you don’t have a chance to do life over again, you don’t get to take a life mulligan and say “Lord, I blew it this time, let me take another one.” And here is the question that you ask yourself as you think about, sitting in that rocking chair, what is going to be important to you at that time, when you are at death’s door, when you are about to stand before God and give an account for your life, what do you going to want to show for yourself.
Beloved, I speak to you as your pastor and I plead with you to hear me on this, you do not want to be in that rocking chair, having neglected eternal priorities, you don’t want to be in that rocking chair having shredded your family with excessive devotion to business or even ministry or even worse, having lived a life of sinful indulgence and coming to the end saying “O, my God, I’ve wasted it all!” Beloved, you don’t want to be in that position, and yet some of you, that’s exactly what you are headed for because of the way you are living your life. And I am pleading with you to recognize the danger of that spiritual catastrophe and get off that boat before it enters in to the port. Beloved, lay hold of what Moses says here and say “God, help me to number my days so that I may present to you a heart of wisdom because that day of reckoning is coming.” You may not even get a chance to sit in a rocking chair and reflect on it. Death can swoop down any time and you have to be ready for that and it begins by faith in Christ. But as a Christian you say “I’m going to live my life by the priorities of God’s word, I’m going to live my life in a way that I can give an account for it at the end.” You don’t want to be that man who looked back on his life and said “O, if I’ve only done it differently.”
When you think through those issues beloved, it is not enough to think upon them, you have to act upon them. You have to act upon your conclusion and say “You know as best as I can tell, this is what is going to be important to me. This is what now I devote my life to so that I can sit in that rocking chair, look back at my life with the sense of satisfaction, with the sense of gratitude to God for the grace that He showed to me and say God, bless your name for your goodness to me. When you are ready to take me, I’m ready to come.” And joyfully anticipate entering in to His eternal presence.
You would say “Don, I’m already in that rocking chair, it’s too late.” It’s not too late, I don’t care how old you are, it’s not too late. God is still giving you time. All that means if you are on the back side of 70 or the back side of 80, all that means is that this kind of thinking is even more urgent for you. You say “God, I may only have two years left, how can I use these two years to the best of my ability? How can I use these two years to advance your kingdom? O God, restore the years that locust have eaten. The locust have eaten up all of my life to this point, but God, I detect in the fact that I’m still here, a measure of you grace and mercy, a measure of your goodness, that there is still spiritual opportunity for me to take advantage of here. God, let me recognize it and act upon it today because the time is so short.” And you may not have time to call upon, but you have something better in that position, you have the grace and goodness of the loving and gracious God to call upon. And so if your time is really short, that just means that it becomes all the more urgent. Moses was writing this at the end of his life, he probably had a year or two of his own left when he was writing this and praying this way.
But for you young people, do it now, do it while there is time and shift your life in directions that will give you the opportunity to fulfill the fullness of what God has put you on earth here to do and stop messing around and stop wasting your time on things that don’t matter, things that you are going to regret when you are sitting on that porch some day.
Well, that’s an earthly perspective. We have looked at the eternal perspective that Moses gives us, we have looked at this earthly perspective. But now here we come to the third feature of this life and I have already hinted at it. There is a third feature of the life with godly balance and it is this, and I will explain what I mean by it:
3. Balance Requires an Earnest Perspective
An earnest perspective, referring to an earnestness in prayer as I say this, that’s what I’m referring to with earnest. I could have said a prayer of perspective, but it didn’t alliterate properly. When you process the eternal perspective of God’s character and the earthly perspective of your own mortality, here is what you do, you do exactly what Moses did. When you understand these things and say life is brief and life is short and I don’t have much time here, you lay hold of God beloved and you plead with Him, you beg of Him, you pray to Him to establish something of lasting value from your temporary life. You say “God, I see the entire perspective here. You are eternal and I am not and I am going to be off this earth before I know it. God, I just have this little vapor of the life to live. God, would you give me joy and would you establish something of lasting value through this time you have given to me? Because God, if you don’t build the house, I am going to labor in vain as I do it.” So you pray and ask God to bless the labor of your hands and ask Him for grace. Look at verse 13, he breaks this section down in to three basic prayers or three basic topics of prayer. In verse 13 you see an appeal to God for His mercy, where in verse 13 Moses prays:
Do return O Lord; how long will it be? And be sorry for your servants.
He is appealing to grace, he is appealing to the mercy of God and he is saying God, look at my situation, look at my brief life, look at my futility, look at my stupidity, look at the sins that I have committed O God. I am in a pathetic situation O God, my God, do you understand how miserable this condition is that I am in? I am not like you in eternal glory, I am in this earthly tent that is going to be torn down so soon and it is going to be over before I know O Lord and it is a sad state for me to be in.
In light of that, he goes beyond himself and says O God, return. What he is saying is God, show your favor to me so that I might be delivered from the natural results of this sorry condition. He is saying God, intervene, not by anything, any merit of my own, but according to your grace, according to your mercy, be sorry for me, be sorry for us and do something that would deliver us from the natural results of the condition we find ourselves. So he appeals for mercy from this earnest perspective in his prayer. In verses 14-15 you see a second prayer. It is an appeal for internal satisfaction, look at verse 14 with me, again keeping in mind everything that has gone on before, he says:
O God, satisfy us in the morning with your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
(14) Make us glad according the days you have afflicted us, and the years we have seen evil.
He is saying, God, I don’t want to live in despair here. I don’t want to live in a depressed state of mind as a result of this sad condition, I want to transcend it, and God, you can make that happen.
So he prays for an experiential satisfaction with the lovingkindness of God. He says God, we would be depressed by the weakness and brevity of our lives. Help us to see your faithful love, help us to know your faithful love in the midst of this so that we could transcend that despair, turn it upside down O God. Turn the despair upside down and in accordance with the despair that we would ordinarily feel, make us know gladness and joy in you to even greater depths than what the despair of our miserable condition would lead us to. It is a prayer not unlike what Habakkuk prayed that we looked at last month:
I will exalt in the Lord my God; I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.
Over and over and over again beloved, the scriptures take us to that point where they tell us in the plainest of language and in the clearest of terms that the character of God, the love and the goodness and the faithfulness and the strength and the omnipotence and the omnipresence and the greatness of God is enough to satisfy our hearts and say “God, I know who you are, that’s all I need. God, you are who you are, who cares about my life? You are God and that makes me glad.” Moses is praying to God that he would know that kind of internal satisfaction.
And then in his third prayer in this section, he has made appeal for mercy and appeal for him to get internal satisfaction, and then he concludes it and brings it full circle, he makes an appeal for external success. May be better stated, for lasting results, look at verse 16 where he says:
Let your work appear to your servants and your majesty to your children.
(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.
It could be translated, give permanence to the work of our hands. What Moses is saying is, Lord, I don’t want my earthly life to be a waste. I want the labor and the sorrow that I have done to turn out to be something of value. And so God, even though I can’t make that happen on my own, God, you use your power to establish what I have done so that there would be lasting permanent results that would be a blessing to generations to come. And as the Bible fills our revelation in the New Testament, it would be worthy of an eternal reward when I stand before you face to face.
Beloved, these prayers show you how to set your brief life in to true relationship before this eternal God. Satisfaction, gladness, success in our labors must all come from the right relations of a frail man to his eternal Lord. And I would ask you whether your prayer life reflects the kind of urgency on these issues that Moses has reflected here in Psalm 90. For many of us, we have to say, no, I’ve never taken it seriously enough—you need to.
One writer summed all of this up well, he said “So long as we are here, God requires us to do something. Let us therefore find out what that is and do it. And while we do it, let us pray that God may establish it so that it may remain to bless posterity.”
Your brief life is something you need to take in to account. But beloved, as a believer in Christ, you can look at that from the position of strength, you can look at that brief life, you can look at your brief remaining years and say “I know something about God’s eternal grandeur, His eternal love and His eternal power and I’m going to trust Him and I’m going to plead with Him to bring something out of it that transcends it all.”
Well, we would fail in our understanding if you neglected to say, even if it is all too briefly, that the ultimate fulfilment of the Lord’s help in this matter came to His people through the Lord Jesus Christ. Looking at that, listen to what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:50. What Moses saw only dimly, we can now see in fullness. Paul said this, he said:
Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
(51) Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed,
(52) in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed.
There is the ultimate answer to Moses’ prayer:
(53) For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
(54) But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.
(55) O death, where is your victory, O death, where is your sting?”
(56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;
(57) but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
And here beloved, note the concluding exhortation in verse 58:
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.
Let’s pray. Our Father, grant us grace to take these things to heart and to live by them. I pray for those that need to make significant changes in their life to take account for these perspectives. Always give us grace to view life from eternal perspective. Help us to see how brief our lives are and give us wisdom to use those lives according to the priorities that you have set forth in your word. And as we live out our days O God, grant us satisfaction in your person and establish the work of our hands so that one day we can stand before you and hear those cherished words “Well done thou good and faithful servant, enter in to the joy of your Master.” May that be true for each one of us Lord. In Christ’s name. Amen.