A Timely Message: The View From A Distance
January 12, 1997
Scripture: Unison Reading #706, Hymnal
We only see a little of the ocean,
A few miles distance from the rocky shore;
But oh! out there beyond—beyond the eyes' horizon
There's more—there's more.
We only see a little of God's loving,
A few rich treasures from his mighty store;
But oh! out there beyond—beyond our life's horizon
There's more—there's more.
Moses spent 40 years in Egypt preparing to be called to ministry, 40 years in the desert preparing to carry out ministry, and 40 years in the desert carrying it out. But he never got out of the desert. This was a disappointment to him. He had some failures in his life like we all do. But he went the distance God required, and the distance he couldn’t go he saw by faith. I believe that this is when he wrote Psalm 90.
What about our failures that tend to drag us down? Will we see by faith, being confident of our part in God’s plan, or will we only be saddened by failure? There is hope for us as there was for Moses as he wrote Psalm 90. In that Psalm he took a view from a distance, being confident of God’s eternal nature and God’s eternal plan. Let us review the background that I believe led up to Psalm 90.
This psalm is a reflection on the brevity of life. It ponders the nature of life under God’s wrath and affirms the necessity of living rightly in the presence of the Lord. There is a connection here of the deep sense of life’s quick passing; the connection between sin, suffering, and the wrath of God; and the submission of man in prayer for God’s favor. The psalm is composed of three major parts:
I. A Hymn of Praise: The Lord is God (vv. 1-2)
II. A Lament on the Brevity of Life (vv. 3-12)
III. A Prayer for the Restoration of God’s Favor (vv. 13-17)
The psalm begins and ends with an affirmation of God as “the Lord,” the Creator and Ruler of the universe. The difference is that at the end, the general recognition of God as the Lord and as the shelter for His people is the basis for the prayer that He may again bless His people with His favor in the future.
I. A Hymn of Praise: The Lord is God
A. God exists throughout all ages
1 ¶ A prayer of Moses the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place (refuge) throughout all generations.
God exists throughout all ages of human history.
B. God exists outside of time
2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
God is not only the God of human history, He is also the God of all eternity.
II. A Lament on the Brevity of Life
A. God’s authority over man
1. God controls the lifespans of men
3 You turn men back to dust, saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men."
Dust to dust (Gen. 3:19).
They died in the desert.
2. God is not controlled by time
4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. (The night was divided up into three watches.)
God can afford to let them wander 40 years in the desert.
3. Man’s relationship to time
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.
a. Like debris from a flash flood
b. Like a short night’s sleep
c. Like new grass on parched earth
B. God’s wrath
1. Prompted by sin
a. The burden of our sin to God
7 ¶ We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation.
The nature of our fellowship with God changes.
b. The burden of our sin to our conscience
8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
The memories of our sins do not go away.
c. The burden of our sin to our lives
9 All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan (as a tale that is told).
The effects of our sins do not go away.
2. Limited by mercy
10 The length of our days is seventy years-- or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span (pride-or-the best of them) is but trouble and sorrow (emptiness), for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
The practical necessity of God’s “sundown clause.” God does not give us
more than we can bear. Precious in the sight of God is the death of His
C. Proper response to God’s wrath
1. Reverent fear
11 Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
2. Calculated wisdom
12 ¶ Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
III. A Prayer for the Restoration of God’s Favor
A. Prayer for God’s mercy: the eternal cry for Jesus Christ
1. The cry for compassion: to be restored to God
13 Relent, O LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants.
2. The cry for fellowship: to enjoy God
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love (befriending), that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
3. The cry for usefulness: to be used by God
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.
God is able to turn even a sinful past into a glorious future.
4. The cry for holiness: to see God
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.
B. May the Lord be our God
17 May the favor (beauty) of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us-- yes, establish the work of our hands.
This is a plea for salvation and the acceptable works that flow from salvation.
Rom. 5:1 ¶ Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.
1Cor. 15:58 ¶ Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
In other words, because the work of Christ is now established, we are established. And since we are established in Christ, our works are established in Christ. We have an enduring purpose. Only what is done for Christ will last.
John 4:34 Christ’s purpose (food) was to do the will of the Father by completing his work.
John 5:17 The Father is always at work, and Jesus also is working.
John 5:36 The Father has given work to Jesus which he is doing.
John 6:27 We are to work for food that endures to eternal life which Jesus gives us.
John 6:29 The work of God is to believe in Jesus.
John 9:3 The difficulties of life allow the work of God to be displayed in our lives.
John 9:4 We must do the work of God while we can.
John 14:10 God, living in Christ, does his work through Christ.
John 17:4 The work of God, through Christ, was completed on the cross.
1John 3:8 The reason Christ came was to destroy the devil’s work.
Jer. 48:10 We too, must not be lax in doing the Lord’s work.
Acts 20:35 Even Paul, at the beginning of the journey that would close his ministry, repeated the words he attributed to Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Because Jesus gave, we received. Because we received, we are able to give. And in giving, we receive again. It all relies upon Jesus. What will he enable you to do with your life this year?