Happy New Year! The book has been closed on another year. While the news in this country was dominated by the presidential election process, around the world millions of people dealt with poverty, famine, and disease. While we are frustrated over an increasingly politically correct society, hundreds of thousands of people around the world faced torture and even death for their faith in Christ. What hope does the world have for a better year ahead?
Psalm 90 contains a message that reminds us that sometimes, like at the beginning of a New Year, that it is good to just put everything into perspective. This Psalm is “A prayer of Moses,” which in itself is somewhat unique, considering that the vast majority of the Psalms were written by David or one of David’s musicians. In this Psalm, Moses prays, or at least is quoted, in a prayer over the Hebrew nation. The simple but powerful points of this Psalm are appropriate for us as we contemplate the year 2017, because it places into perspective how we relate to our God, to time, and to the future.
“Lord, through all generations you have been our home. Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God. Psalm 90:1-2. In these verses we are reminded that there is a great difference between us and God regarding time, because we are finite and God is everlasting.
One of my favorite sports movies of all times is “Rudi”, which is about a young man whose goal of attending the University of Notre Dame and playing football for them seemed ridiculous to everyone else except for him. In the movie Rudi met with a priest and asked him why, after sacrificing, studying, and preparing himself, God had not helped him be accepted into Notre Dame so he could fulfill his goal of playing football for the Irish. The explanation that the priest gave Rudi was simple but profound. He said, “In 35 years of theological training I’ve come to only two conclusions. There is a God, and I’m not him.” Moses advice was not so different than Rudi’s priest. In this Psalm it simply says, “from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” The fact is, as we anticipate a new year, God’s plans for us are from His perspective, not ours. He is not limited by time like we are, “For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night,” Psalms 90:4. Man’s time is short, especially in comparison to that of God. God is eternal. God lives forever. He is from everlasting to everlasting. He had no beginning. He will have no end. The reality is that, since we are not God, our days on earth are limited and are subject to “trouble and sorrow.” As we begin this year, it is good to remember who we are and who God is.
In this Psalm Moses acknowledges the sin of the Jewish people and the brevity of their existence and opportunity to follow His plan for their lives. “We wither beneath your anger; we are overwhelmed by your fury; You spread out our sins before you, our secret sins, and you see them all. We live our lives beneath your wrath, ending our years with a groan; Seventy years are given to us, some even live eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear and we fly away.” Psalms 90:7-10. The point for us is that our failure to obey God in the past year or our failure to choose to fulfill His will in our personal lives should serve to remind us that we are responsible to an awesome God who holds us accountable. “Who can comprehend the power of your anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.” Psalms 90:11.
This prayer of Moses concludes, like all of God’s communication with man, with words of encouragement and hope. “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. O Lord, come back to us! How long will you delay? Take pity on your servants! Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. Give us gladness, in proportion to our former misery! Replace the evil years with good. Let us, your servants, see you work again; let our children see your glory. And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!” Psalms 90:12-17.
An important Christian word is repentance. Often people say that it means that we are sorry for the wrong things that we have done. While this is true, it means more than this. It means that we see things as God sees them. Verse 12 says “teach us…so that we may grow in wisdom,” or more precisely, teach us to think as God thinks. Seeing things as God sees them makes us want to obey his rules and not do wrong things again. It means that we agree with Rudi’s priest, that we aren’t God, but we can have God’s approval on our life as we learn to be more like Him.