The following message is based on Psalm 90 and discusses our God’s eternality and humankind’s mortality, as we see in another year. It was given on December 30, 2012.
This week I had the pleasure of having family in from California and Missouri. We had a great time with our favorite foods, playing games, opening presents, touring Philadelphia, etc. They all left yesterday and I have to admit, it was a bit of a letdown. Life must return to normal. Everybody must go back to work; kids must go back to school. Reality sets in. When all of this fun, goodwill and joy come to a screeching halt, if you’re like me, you could experience Post Christmas Blues.
Although we love these things, like food, family and fun, we are also reminded that the true meaning of Christmas is something that should last long past the holiday. Jesus gives us reason to celebrate with those things we count as blessings. He is life’s main blessing: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.”
One of the methods in dealing with post Christmas blues is by having a plan, goal or direction for the new year. As a new year dawns, what do we want for 2013? What is life all about? What direction do we want for our lives? What is our vision as individuals and as a church? For part of that answer, we turn to Psalm 90, which speaks of the eternality of God and the frailty of man. It reminds us that the years are given to us as a gift. Each one is precious. We must make the most of them. How do we do that?
Let’s consider some observations from Psalm 90. Thought to be written after the tragedy at Kadesh- Barnea, when God denied the Israelites entrance into the Promised Land because of their lack of faith, it is the oldest psalm in the book of Psalms. Even though the Israelites had to wander in the wilderness, they needed to be reminded of some important lessons. Man is limited in many ways. The first of which is…
WE ARE LIMITED BY SPACE, WHILE GOD IS OMNIPRESENT.
This psalm forms the start of book four of the Psalms. Psalm 90 is entitled: “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.” Interesting to note that this is the only psalm that is ascribed to Moses. It “contrasts God’s eternity and human mortality. Moses seems to pray for God’s blessing on his own generation, doomed to wander in the wilderness.”
Notice verse one: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. 2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Ironically enough, Moses wrote this psalm during or around the time of the exodus and wilderness wandering. At a time when the people of God did not have an established home or a place where they could literally “hang their hat,” the prophet sang of how God was their dwelling place, “throughout all generations.” In His character, in His love and in His identity as their Creator and Father, the Israelites did not have to have an established place, at least for the time being. This led them to depend on God for everything. Egypt was a source of food, even though the labor was harsh. Now, God would be their source of sustenance.
There were several reasons why God took His people through the wilderness. Consider the following:
- He would lead them with the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Exodus 13:21-22
- He would part the Red Sea for them on their way into the wilderness journey. Exodus 14:13-14
- They would experience the bitter waters of Marah and then the 12 springs of Elim. Exodus 15:22-27
- He would show them his provision through the manna and quail. Exodus 16
- He would give them the 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai as well as other laws I call “respect and responsibility” laws. Exodus 20
Some people are nomadic by nature. The Kurdish people in the Middle East have no country to call their own. They have been pushed out of countries such as Turkey and Iraq, so they live in pockets wherever they can. Others have to leave their homeland because they are forced out. Maybe it is religious reasons, maybe it is economic reasons. I remember meeting a man named Abraham from Egypt. He had made his way to Greece. I asked him why he left his home country. He said it was because he could not find work. He was trying to support his family.
This reminds us that sometimes we can get too attached to what is around us. We don’t stop and consider that the only source of real stability in our lives is God. It is only through a relationship with Him that the fear about the future can be taken away.
I was reminded of the reason why I celebrate Christmas in the words of Norval Geldenhuys: “Without the coming of Christ we should have no assurance that God really exists as a personal God, perfect in love and mercy, and we should still have been overcome with fear as regards the invisible, the hereafter, the divine and eternal. But thanks be to God that His Son gave Himself to the world in condescending love and became Man, bringing a perfect revelation of God as the Holy and Merciful Lord.”
God is our dwelling place. Therefore Jesus must be our focus. Jesus said in John 15:5: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” WE ARE LIMITED BY SPACE, WHILE GOD IS OMNIPRESENT. Secondly…
WE ARE LIMITED BY TIME, WHILE GOD IS ETERNAL.
This passage also reveals how mankind is incredibly finite. Notice verse three: “You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. 5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning– 6 though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.”
Compared to God, our existence is limited by time and ability. The book of James describes us as a vapor that is here only for a short while. James 4:14 tells us: “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Psalm 90:10 says: “The length of our days is seventy years– or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.”
In contrast, God is unlimited by time and space. Notice the way that Peter puts it in 2 Peter 3:8: “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” Keil and Delitzsch put it this way: “He is however exalted above all time, inasmuch as the longest period appears to Him very short, and in the shortest period the greatest work can be executed by Him. …A whole millennium appears to God, when He glances over it, just as the yesterday does to us… .”
In other words, adopt Paul’s statement in Philippians 1:21: “For to me to live is Christ, to die is gain.” Paul saw His life as a commodity for Christ. He wanted to live on for the sake of his spiritual children, for those in Philippi. But he knew with these imprisonments, he could, or maybe even would lose His life. Joy is mentioned in this letter no less than 13 times. His focus was ministry; ours should be as well. Tim Tebow recently put things in good perspective when he said: “Your character is who you are as a man and that’s a lot more important… “It’s a football game. That’s one thing, if you’re good or bad at football, but your character and integrity, that’s who you are as a man. That’s a lot more important. … I take that way more serious than I’ll ever take a football game.” Since our lives are short, how should we make the most of it? Consider our church’s mission: To love God, serve others and grow disciples. So I invite you this year to…
- Make the glory of God your goal.
- Make the love of others your mission.
- Make your spiritual growth and that of others your passion.
This morning, we are limited by space, but God is omnipresent. Secondly, we are limited by time, but God is eternal. Consider the following poem as you prepare to start off this year:
Another new year now awaits us,
A page that is spotless and white;
New grace, dear Lord, wilt Thou give us,
To watch each new day what we write
Thine all-seeing eye is upon us,
Thine ear hears the words which we speak,
Thy heart knows the impulse which moves us,
Thy mind knows the object we seek.
The days Thou shalt give us in mercy,
We promise to spend to Thy praise;
And may honor, and power and glory
Be Thine, O Thou Ancient of Days!
 NGSB, 854.
 Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 5: Psalms.
 —Author Unknown, Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.