A man went in for his annual checkup and received a phone call from his physician a couple of days later. The doctor said, "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you." "What's the news?" the man asked. "Well, you have only 48 hours to live." "That is bad news!" said the shocked patient. "I'm afraid I have even worse news," the doctor continued. "What could be worse than what you've already told me?" the patient stammered. "I've been trying to call you since yesterday."
That’s not a message that any of us would want to hear. But we all do ourselves a service if we remember that our time here is limited. All of us have a limited number of days. They may seem endless, but they’re not. One of the wisest things we can do is to live in light of this perspective.
A Prayer of Moses, the Man of God
Notice that this psalm was written by Moses. It was written in the wilderness during the 40 years that Israel was wandering in the desert. A whole generation of people died as they made that 40-year trek. There would have been constant funerals. You could track the course of the nation by the graves they left behind. In the middle of this, Moses reflects on realities that were true then, and that are still true today.
A The Eternal God & Our Security (90:1-2)
Praise – Thesis Statement: Our eternal God gives lasting security to our lives (1-2).
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.
Moses helps us to see time from an eternal perspective. Before Egypt, before there were any mountains, before there was even an earth, God was God. God has no beginning. He was God before the mountains were brought forth. He is God from everlasting to everlasting, with no beginning and no end. God exists from eternity and to eternity.
Not only that but enormous periods of time are insignificant to God. Verse 4 states:
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
Moses wants us to grasp the eternality of God. The past year has gone fast for a lot of us. No one knows what this year is going to bring. But God stands outside of time, and a thousand years is insignificant to him. For people living in tents in Moses’ day, or for people living in homes today, God can be our dwelling place in all generations, because God never changes.
B Our Physical Life under the Curse (90:3-6)
Plight – Turn/Return: We live a short and hard life in a world under the curse (3-6).
You return man to dust
and say,“Return, O children of man!”
Moses invites us to consider our lives. In contrast to God, who is eternal, Moses says that our lives are short. Verses 5 and 6 say:
You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.
A human life - even the longest of human lives - is brief. It’s like a flood, a dream, or some grass that sprouts in the morning and dies at night. Our lives are brief. God is eternal, but we’re only here for a fleeting moment, and then we’re gone.
God is forever. Man is “dust in the wind.” We are only a moment. Death is certain. God is forever and we are not.
C God’s Wrath & Our Wise Response (90:7-12)
Plight – Under Wrath: Our lives are short and hard because of God’s wrath over our sin (7-9).
For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
Moses says that our lives are hard. And they’re hard for a reason. Why? Because of God’s anger! Remember why so many were dying in the wilderness. They had rebelled against God after the spies had returned from Canaan, saying that they could not enter. God said, “I, the Lord, have spoken. Surely this will I do to all this wicked congregation who are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall come to a full end, and there they shall die.” (Num. 14:35). They were living and dying in tents in the wilderness as the consequence of sin. We’re not living in tents and dying in the wilderness, but life is still hard. We are still dealing with the results of human sin, and the mess it has made in this world. We are still dealing with God’s righteous anger against human rebellion.
Why is there death? Human sin and divine justice are the answers. God’s steady and constant opposition to sin consumes us. God sees and knows all our sin. Our secret sins, the things we do in the privacy of our thought life and personal life are in plain view to God. Our days are quick, even shortened, because of God’s judgment on sin. They simply “pass away.” Our years come to an end like a “sigh” or “moan”.
Consider these two things, and you’ll be much better for it. Consider that God is eternal, and that your life is short and hard.
Proper Response – Acquiring Wisdom: Our proper response to God’s wrath is to implore God for wisdom in living out our days (10-12).
Nobody really wants to be told that God is eternal and that our life is short and hard, unless it’s for a reason. And in Psalm 90 it is for a reason. This psalm is meant to get us to take action.
Verses 10-12 say:
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Moses notes that a normal life can be measured to about 70 years, and an extended life about 80. Remember that your life is short. Number your limited days. Ask God for wisdom in living out your limited days.
Steve Jobs once said, “Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
B’ Our Spiritual Life above the Curse (90:13-15)
Plea 1 – Do Return: We can pray that God would turn to us in compassion (13).
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
In light of the brevity and difficulty of life, Moses asks for several things:
First, he prays that God would relent in his anger. Look at verse 13. This is a prayer that God’s anger would not be the final word; that God would not pay us as we deserve. It’s a prayer that God would show us grace. It’s a prayer that has been answered in Jesus Christ, who bore the punishment for our sins and has given us grace upon grace. If you haven’t yet believed his promise for eternal life, then do so today.
Plea 2: We can pray that God would turn our sorrow into joy (14-15).
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Second, he prays that he would be satisfied by God’s loyal love. This is one of the best prayers you could ever pray. Our hearts were meant to find their ultimate delight in God. So pray that you will find your heart’s deepest hungers met in God, because he is the only one who can truly satisfy. God gives gladness and joy. Such joy and gladness and satisfaction can accompany us “all our days”.
A’ The Eternal God & Our Significance (90:16-17)
Prayer for the Lord’s Favor: Our eternal God gives lasting significance to our labors (16-17).
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
Finally, Moses prays that God’s favor would rest upon his life and work. Pray that God would show you his favor in the coming year. Ask for God’s blessing on your life, that God would establish the work of your hands. Without his help, you can do nothing.
There is no better way to end 2014 and begin 2015 than by considering two things: that God is eternal, and that our lives are short and hard. And then there’s no better way to respond than by numbering your days and praying for God’s mercy on your life. God’s eternal, and you’re not. So make the most of your limited time, and receive God’s mercy. Number your days and present to God a wise heart.
Numbering our Days
• 25 years old . . . 16,200 days left to live
• 35 years old . . . 12,775 days left to live
• 45 years old . . . 9,175 days left to live
• 65 years old . . . 1,925 days left to live
• 70 years old . . . You’re in grace time