Thirsty Thursday – Psalm 90 – Being at Home with God

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.

(Psalm 90:1, 12, 17)

Being at home with God

Flashback to 2020—that date alone has taken on notorious meaning in our collective culture! The worst pandemic in our lifetimes, followed by the most divisive election in American history. We witnessed the horrific ravages of illness and death, we endured “shelter-in-place” orders, travel restrictions, mask mandates and working from home. For the sake of everyone’s public health, governments and institutions were forced to impose strict limitations on everyone’s behaviors and actions. Most of us went along reluctantly, others complained loudly, and a few even revolted violently. Let’s face it, we hate being told what to do, where we can go, and how to behave. Even when we get to vote and decide things for ourselves, we end up disagreeing and disagreeable. We want to have things our way. We long for unfettered freedoms and unaccountable lives…it’s the American way! 

In Psalm 90, Moses “the man of God” composes a song of prayer in the midst of his own shelter-in-place order…an order issued by God Himself! Throughout their 40-year desert experience, the people of God weren’t really “wandering,” as if they had some say in the matter. Rather, they were always being told where to go, what to do, and exactly how and when to do it (Read Numbers 9:17-23). Many of them also resented and protested being told what to do, some even revolted violently. They may have been delivered from slavery in Egypt, but all that meant was they had exchanged a ruthless and unloving master (Pharaoh) for a benevolent and kind one (Yahweh). What they had really longed for was unfettered freedoms and unaccountable lives. 

Moses starts his song with, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations” (vs. 1). That sounds like a wonderful and comforting thought, to have God Himself as our House…that is until you realize God’s House has rules. After acknowledging God’s timelessness and limitless power, Moses is obligated to point out that God’s houseguests are “consumed” by His anger and “terrified” by His indignation. God exposes their sin and failures in the light of His presence. “All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.” (vs. 7-9)

The life God has offered His people is most certainly a better life, but it is hardly one of unfettered and unaccountable freedom!  

And so, Moses concludes, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (vs. 12). What does it mean to “number our days?”

A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), the renowned pastor & author (whose birthday we just celebrated this week) wrote of this Psalm, “It is important that we remember that all our days come to us out of the sheer mercy of God, unearned, undeserved and, I fear, mostly unappreciated. By sin our lives stand under forfeit; God owes us nothing… [It is] only by God’s infinite goodness are we yet alive to see each other’s face. Each year is a gift of grace and each day an unearned bonus.

It sounds like Moses and Tozer are saying that all God wants from us is to shut up and appreciate every terrifying and consuming day! After all, it’s not about us! God who created the world (vs. 2); God determines whether we live or die (vs. 5). And yet, Moses’ song/prayer ends with a petition. He boldly asks God to “relent…have compassion…satisfy us with your unfailing love…make us glad” (vs. 13-15), and to “establish the work of OUR HANDS.” 

Yes, God is in control. Yes, every day we live is a gift of grace and an unearned bonus. But that doesn’t mean the “work of our hands” is meaningless or insignificant. On the contrary, our days and our work find their meaning and significance when they are established under God’s authority. It’s like Jesus told his disciples, “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). 

If we’re being honest, we don’t like being told what to do by ANYONE…even God! But Moses reminds us to number our days…to receive each day as a bonus…to sing along with another psalmist “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24) Every day is a gift from God, and worthy of rejoicing. Why? Because God is our permanent dwelling place; God is the one who establishes and prospers the work of our hands…if (and only if) we remain in Him. 

We will never know true freedom and life unless we agree to “dwell.”  We can only hope to find significance and meaning when we choose to “remain.” As St. Augustine concluded centuries ago, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless, until they find rest in you.” So, let us learn to number our days…to trust our benevolent Master and allow Him to be Lord. He alone is rest for your soul; he alone is meaning in your life; he alone is Living Water. Always stay thirsty for him!

Pastor Philip

SONG: Abide With Me

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