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Sermon, August 11, 2019 | Grace Reformed Church

The God of Time
Sermon Series: 
Psalm 90
2 Peter 3:1-10
Date: 
Sunday, August 11, 2019

We continue today our looking at this great treasury that is the Psalms. We’ve looked specifically at 1, 2, 51, and today 90, and I hope that if that study hasn’t already inspired you to dive more deeply into the whole book, I pray that it will. I’ve said several times how great it is to just live in the Psalms. In them we find so many great truths, such solid doctrine. If you’re one that likes to look ahead, we have four more weeks, and in those we will hear from 110, 114, 22, and finally, on September 8, 150.

Now, Psalm 90. If you can remember back that far, about a year ago I filled in for Mark at about this time of year. He was doing a series, as he often did in August, on the songs that we sing, looking at the theology of a hymn each week. In that pattern, I chose #30 in our hymnal, “O God our Help in Ages Past,” one of my favorites, and big surprise, I picked it as the opening hymn today. If you remember, that is Isaac Watts’ versification of this exact Psalm, Psalm 90. So actually, I’ve already preached through this Psalm with you. But, that time we were walking through the verses of the hymn and how Watts drew those truths out of the Psalm. So don’t worry, this isn’t recycled – all new content!

 

Let’s read Psalm 90. This is God’s holy word.

 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place

    in all generations.

2 Before the mountains were brought forth,

    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You return man to dust

    and say, “Return, O children of man!”

4 For a thousand years in your sight

    are but as yesterday when it is past,

    or as a watch in the night.

5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,

    like grass that is renewed in the morning:

6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;

    in the evening it fades and withers.

7 For we are brought to an end by your anger;

    by your wrath we are dismayed.

8 You have set our iniquities before you,

    our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9 For all our days pass away under your wrath;

    we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10 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.

11 Who considers the power of your anger,

    and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12 So teach us to number our days

    that we may get a heart of wisdom.

13 Return, O Lord! How long?

    Have pity on your servants!

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,

    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,

    and for as many years as we have seen evil.

16 Let your work be shown to your servants,

    and your glorious power to their children.

17 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!

 

This is the word of the Lord

 

What a glorious Psalm this is! We find so much gospel truth right here. I’ve known some pastors who invariably have three points to their sermons, without fail. I’m not sure if that’s some Trinitarian reference or something, but it seems that is the number I should be aiming for all the time. So, here are three points that we’ll look at today! First, the reality of God’s infinity compared to our finiteness. Second, the reality of God’s steadfastness. And third, our response to that reality, which Moses prays about at the end of the Psalm.

 

  1. God the infinite, we the finite    
    1. A few weeks ago I was watching a travel show that appeared on the streaming service. Didn’t know until we started watching it that it was from the 1980s, clearly. Particular episode about the mountain west, visiting some places that are right in our backyard, Yellowstone, Tetons, etc. So I saw this person about 30 years ago getting interviewed in front of mountains that are familiar to me, and they hadn’t changed, but it struck me that that person, probably about my age on the video, was now probably around 70 years old. And I thought about what it must have been like to be a person in their late 30s during the 1980s. What a different time that must have been to be my age!
    2. I was struck by that! I thought, I will never actually know what it’s like to be a 30-something, except in the decade 2010 years after Christ’s birth, and only living in Wyoming! I’ll never know even what it was like to live at this time in a city on the other side of the country, much less the other side of the world!
    3. I shared this profound realization with Meagan and she shook her head and said that she doesn’t understand how my brain works, but I was struck by the unbelievably limited, small, miniscule size of my human experience.
    4. It made me think of my kids differently. No matter how many times I say “when I was a kid” (you’ve said it a few times, I know!) they will never know what it was actually like to be their age, at my time, in my family, in Alaska. Incredible!
    5. I’ve already said I way too many times in this sermon, and I am not a fan of long stories in sermons, but I share that because it is profound how small our experience, our context is.
    6. And this is what Moses is talking about for the bulk of this Psalm, talking to God about how infinite he is and how small we are, and he uses some amazing language.
    7. Verse 2
      1. Before the mountains were brought forth or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
      2. Wow. Unpack that. You are God, when? From everlasting to everlasting. Our languages have a difficult time expressing the infinite, and here is one attempt – from everlasting to everlasting.
      3. When is that? Before the mountains were made, before the earth even (which is just the container for the mountains). Everlasting to everlasting.
      4. We have to work our way up to imagining that. You’ve heard the expression, “if these walls could talk.” The idea is that a building, or a room has seen so much in its life, figuratively. Especially when you step into an older building, an old mansion, or an 80yo sanctuary. What has happened here!
      5. Thinking back to that documentary, the mountains in the background of the interviewee – I’ve been there! What have those mountains seen! They have sat there, looking the same, for thousands of years!
    8. But compare that to the view of God! Verse 4 –
      1. For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
      2. God has 1000 years in his view more completely than we have yesterday. And not just 1000 years of a particular context, 1000 years of complete knowledge. I will never truly know what it’s like to be a teenager anywhere except in the 1990s in Anchorage, Alaska. But God knows every person better than they know or knew themselves. He knows what it’s like for every person in all time to live where they are, in their exact environment. He knows you better than you do, and he knew it before you existed.
      3. This unsearchable knowledge! Psalm 139:13-16

For you formed my inward parts;  you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them

  1. Even your best friend, if they knew you that well, it might be a little unsettling. But what a friend we have in Jesus. He knows you that well, and loves you.
  2. God the infinite. Knowledge unsearchable.
  3. Compare that to us. Moses does!
    1. Verse 5 – three images, metaphors for the reality of our condition next to God’s infinity.
      1. Swept away by a flood, like a dream, like grass.
    2. More specifically in verses 9 and 10 – May live 70 or 80 years, and that’s it. Our days pass away like a sigh
    3. Moses here refers to living 70 years, and that they’re toil and trouble. He says if you’re strong enough, you may live to 80, but by then, you know life gets substantially more difficult.
  4. A lot more language here about God’s anger and wrath, our iniquities and all that, and it helps to step back and consider the context.
    1. The people who have studied this the most assume because of a few things Moses says that he wrote this prayer after God had told the Israelites that the current generation was not going to enter the promised land.
    2. That could account for Moses mentioning God’s wrath at their iniquities. And it was something to be dismayed over! For their unbelief, their lack of faith, God was going to have the entire generation of men, everyone 20 and older, die in the wilderness before the nation was going to enter Canaan. Certainly years of toil and trouble! It is noted that there is no record of these 40 years in the life of Israel.
    3. To them it was an entire generation, to God it was one small period of time in the life of the people he was saving for himself.
  5. So ends point 1. God is infinite in his knowledge, his understanding. Our individual lives are in that context little blips.
  1. So point 2: The steadfastness of God.
    1. You might react to what I just said, us being blips, and say What then, are we meaningless? By no means!
    2. This is the glorious truth! When we look at ourselves and each of our lives, or in Moses’ time a generation of people in a nation, in the proper context, as so tiny in significance – how much grander does God’s love become!
    3. You may notice that I skipped over verse 1, which is kind of the heart of this Psalm – Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations, echoed in verse 14, Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love.
    4. What Moses says here is incredible, and it’s our prayer today:
      1. Even though we are insignificant – but further than that – not only are we insignificant, but also hostile, we’ve sinned against you! How should a holy, all-knowing God deal with that! You can imagine.
      2. I have the distinction of being someone who is uniquely gifted at attracting mosquitos. To me, a mosquito is insignificant. And when it bites me, I feel that it has wronged me. What do I do with that? Squash it. End it. No one blames me for that.
      3. And that’s what we are, but so much more extremely! Here’s Moses’ prayer, in a nutshell – Lord, you are our dwelling place always, You are so big, we are so small, we have wronged you, but you love us steadfastly. We labored the point because we need to understand it, how big God is and how small we are, but that reality only serves to deepen our awe of the bigger reality – God is our dwelling place.
    5. Moses prays for what he knows God is – Israel’s, our dwelling place. A God who is our Rock of Ages. God as an unchangeable rock is a great picture. He is unmoving, he is unchangeable. He doesn’t change his mind. But a rock is an incomplete picture, isn’t it. A rock just sits there. What Moses also prays for is the satisfaction of God’s steadfast love. The rock sits, but God’ love is actively, steadfastly poured out in our lives each and every day. Moses knows this, you should know it too. This God of justice is also a God of mercy. After recognizing the grandeur of God’s infinity and man’s humility, does Moses cower for the rest of the Psalm. No!
    6. In verse 12-13 he says, because our days are so brief, teach us to number them, that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! Have pity on your servants!
  2. Which brings us to the third point, our response to this – God is infinite, we are not, God is steadfastly loving us when we don’t deserve it.
    1. We don’t have to make it up, it’s right here in the Psalm.
    2. Read again 14-17
    3. Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,

    that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

  1. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,

 and for as many years as we have seen evil.

  1. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants,

  and your glorious power to their children.

  1. 17 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!

  1. Let’s unpack our response as delivered to us through Moses:
  2. Make us rejoice and be glad for as many days as you give us. Every day is a gift.
    1. Q and A #1 Chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy him forever.
    2. Is this how we live each day? Is that our chief end? There is no greater thing that we can do than bring glory to God.
    3. We don’t want to spend each day wallowing in the evil around us, keep us focused on you, on your glory!
  3. And that rejoicing is linked to what Moses prays for next – Let your work be shown to your servants. Show me constantly, remind me constantly of your great work in my life! As I am reminded, it encourages me to turn that gift immediately back to God! Reading the Psalms, living in the Word, meditating on the law, are these not things that God uses to remind us constantly of His great work!
  4. This brings us to another facet of our response – why do we do the things we do, the spiritual disciplines of reading, praying, being here in worship? Why? The answer for every other religion is either fear of retribution, or some other self-centered reward, whether that’s man’s glory or some sort of self-help. The answer for us is to heap more and more and more glory on the only one who deserves it. God. Reading, praying, coming together in worship and fellowship, does this not just remind us daily of God’s work, his glorious power, as Moses says here. Turn it all back to him!
  5. And in that context, we can read the final verse “Establish the work of our hands upon us, establish the work of our hands.” The message is not, be thankful for all the days you’ve been given, so work hard. We can get very bogged down in that kind of thinking. God gave me this day, so I should work hard. Not a bad thing, but it’s not the ultimate thing. God gave me this day, so I’m going to bring him glory by doing work.
  6. This is what Paul is talking about in Phil 2:12-13, sometimes a confusing verse: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
  7. This is not, work harder so that you are saved. If you just read the first half of that verse that’s where you go, but Paul says for it is God who works in you. Moses says remind us of all your work! So that our work may bring you glory! For it is God who works in you!
  8. It’s always about God. May my work, may your work, always be directed upward. God gave you, gave me, only a few days, in only a few places, a breath, a sigh. Use every moment for God’s glory. How? Start with the Word, with prayer, and with thanksgiving. Because he is your dwelling place in all generations.

Heavenly Father, thank you for bringing this word to us today, once again a Psalm, a prayer born out of a time of difficulty, hardship in the lives of your people. It is in these times of humiliation that we can see you most clearly, as all of the things that distract us from you fall away, whether they be wealth, health, security. Thank you for your servant Moses, and we pray that you establish your work through our hands. Make us willing servants, keep our hearts focused on your glory in every day and all our lives.

 

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834 Wolcott, Casper, WY - MAP
Ph: (307) 237-9509
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