DUNCAN/Moses’ Psalm

DUNCAN/Moses’ Psalm


If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to the first Psalm in the Fourth Book of the Psalms, Psalm 90. We live in a world that moves at breakneck speed. We are constantly bombarded by business, and we are pursued by the very technology that has made our lives comfortable in so many other ways. What is necessary in this kind of a context of constant distraction? What is necessary to put perspective on this busy life? It’s interesting to me that Moses answers that question here in this Psalm.

If you look at verses 1 – 6, it is a reflection upon the character of God. Then, second, in verses 7 – 12, Moses begins to reflect on suffering, and he draws a lesson from this about sin. And then, third, verses 13 – 17 give us a petition that Moses lifts up concerning grace, for we’re not only saved by grace, but we also live in constant dependence upon God’s grace every second of our lives. 

I. God is our Home 

First, in verses 1 – 6, Moses makes it clear that God Himself is our home, our refuge, our city, and the place where His people belong. Moses points us to the fact that God is His people’s refuge. Our refuge, our place of belonging, our place of safety is not found in anything that the world has to offer to us, but only in God himself; and God, unlike the ephemeral, transient, passing, instant-but-not-permanent world in which we live…God is eternal. He was, and is, and ever shall be. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world was made, He was already God. He has been the dwelling place not only to us, but generations before us, and He will be for generations to come. And Moses takes great comfort in that. It centers him in this crazy world.

You can imagine Moses in the wilderness under the constant pressure of shepherding hundreds of thousands – millions – of people. He could have been caught up in the moment, in the instantaneous, in the impermanent; but here he directs us to God, who is our home, refuge, city, and the place where His people belong. You know the motto of God’s people is, “Here we have no continuing city, but God is our dwelling place, and we seek a city to come.”

And so Moses points us to what? To theology, to ground us in the business and the transience of life. He points us to the eternality of God. He says if you want to be equipped and ready to cope with and to thrive in this crazy world of business and pressure around you, then you’re going to need to think about God, and you’re going to need to draw strength from who God is. God’s eternality is the answer to our transience. He is the hope amid this passing world. We have no continuing city here, but He is our dwelling place, and we seek a city to come.

II. Our Sin

But then Moses asks us to think about sin. The only problem we face is not simply the problem of transience, of passing away, of death. No, death is actually rooted in a deeper problem, and that problem is sin. And so in verses 7 – 12, Moses bids us think about suffering and about death, and about God’s judgment. And then he asks us to draw a line from those three things to sin.

Many of you know the name Bart Ehrman. He once was an evangelical Christian; he has now denied the faith. He no longer believes in Christianity. He doesn’t even believe in the existence of God. What was it that led Bart Ehrman to reject Christianity? Suffering. He looked out in the world, and he drew a deduction: If there is suffering like that in this world, there cannot be a God. Moses, when he looks out at suffering, doesn’t draw the deduction that there’s some problem with God. No, the deduction goes the opposite direction! Moses looks at suffering and he draws a line back to sin, for God has appointed suffering and death and judgment in response to sin. The logic of the Christian life is we always draw a line from all misery and all death back to sin, and we learn to hate sin and fear God thereby.

But in this busy world, even with all its suffering, we are so distracted that we rarely ever draw that line. In spite of all the signs of God’s displeasure around us, that message never registers until God brings it home. You know, part of the nature of sin is that men hardly ever realize the relationship between death and sin, and the reason is they’re always living for the moment. They’re never thinking about the last things, the final things, the permanent things. So does it surprise you that Moses says in verse 12, “Teach us to number our days.” What’s the message? Do not live constantly caught up in the here and now, in the moment. Number your days. Think of the eternal, and look around at suffering and death and judgment, and draw a line to sin, and learn to hate sin like God hates sin.

III. Grace 

And finally in verses 13 – 17, Moses points us to grace. He lifts up a petition: “Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us.” Now you may be thinking to yourself, “How did God answer this prayer for grace to Moses?” Moses may well have prayed this prayer after the incident of Numbers 20, when God told him that he would not enter the Promised Land. And in Deuteronomy 34, we’re told that at the end of his life, God took Moses up onto the mountain. He showed him the whole Promised Land of Canaan, and He said to Moses, “You will see it with your eyes, but you will never set foot in it.” And in the next verse, Moses is buried on a mountain outside the Promised Land.

Now you may ask yourself the question, how did God answer Moses’ prayer that He would make him glad for as many days as He had afflicted him? Moses had lived his life for the one purpose: to get the people of God into the Promised Land. And now God is saying, “Moses, you’re never going to set foot there.” Have you ever wondered whether God was a little unfair with Moses?

Well, where’s the next time you see Moses in the Bible? The next time you see Moses in the Bible is in Luke 9. There we find Moses on a mountain talking with Jesus. The Lord answered Moses’ prayer in a way that he never could have imagined, far beyond all that he could ask or think. Do not think that if you will go to the loving Lord, your refuge, that He will disappoint you in His answer of grace.

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