God’s Word for You
Psalm 90:1-4 from eternity to eternity
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, September 9, 2021
Psalm 90 is the first Psalm of Book IV of the Psalms. This is by far the shortest collection in the Psalms, with just 17 chapters, Psalms 90-106. Six of these refer directly to Moses of the experience of the Israelites in the wilderness, and others refer to the creation (92, 93, 96, 100, 102, 104), angels (91, 103) or God in the pillar of cloud (97, 99); so the collection is sometimes known as the ‘Mosaic Psalms.”
A prayer of Moses, the man of God.
This is the only Psalm ascribed directly to Moses. He was a humble man, “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3), and as always this shows. Israel was in a difficult time. All of the adults over the age of twenty at the time of the rebellion at Kadesh were condemned to die in the wilderness over the course of forty years. Only two of the spies, Caleb and Joshua, would survive. Even Aaron the high priest and Moses himself would die before Israel entered the promised land. I often ask my Confirmation Class to calculate the number of funerals Moses officiated at during the forty years. The number is around 96 funerals per day, although Moses himself surely did not preach at each burial. Under that heavy pall of death, Moses prays and praises God.
1 LORD, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born,
before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
from eternity to eternity you are God.
How hard it is to understand that God is eternal! He was there, always there, before the earth was. Does God describe eternity for us, or a way for us to understand it, when he says of himself, “I Am”? We might comprehend what it is to exist in eternity by saying that “now” is not really a time in itself, but the beginning of the future and the end of the past. Abraham Calov (Lutheran pastor, 1612-1686) described eternity as an endless present; there is nothing in God that is not eternal in this way.
3 You grind people to dust,
and you say, “Return, children of Adam.”
4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day,
like yesterday that has gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
After expressing the fact of God’s eternal nature, Moses turns to man’s brief existence. What does “return” mean in the second line of verse 3? The first line has the answer: “to dust.” Man returns to the dust from which God made Adam. “All come from dust, and to dust all return” (Ecclesiastes 3:20). “For dust you are and to dust you will return” (Genesis 3:19). This is the destination of the human body, lying in the dust as dust until the resurrection when we are called out of the earth or sea to be reunited with our spirit.
Moses does try to help us wriggle out from underneath this death sentence. He shows us how to accept it, with repentance and faith in Christ. Yes, yes indeed, I am condemned to die and to be pulverized by time or some other tool in the Lord’s toolbox, so that nothing of me remains. What does it matter? Heaven is my home. Only a Christian can look at death that way. For an unbeliever, death is horrifying. It is, if nothing else, the beginning of non-existence. We all are subject to death because of God’s wrath over sin. But in the resurrection I will be made whole again. God teaches us that death comes first and life comes second.
“A thousand years in your sight are like a day.” Moses says this on account of the quickness with which life flits past. God just doesn’t see time the way that we do. For him, time is a tool, or a fence line, just as the skies are a tool and the firmament a fence line. Our lives fall within the boundaries God has set. For us this seems short; too short. But it is the time we have been given.
For God, a thousand years goes past, and for him it is like a single day. Yet he cuts human life short because of our sins, some after a few decades, others after a few short moments. We must not judge God because he gives more life to one person and less to another. My mother had forty years, and I only shared the last fifteen of those with her. My youngest son likewise shared only fifteen years with his mother. What lessons do we learn from this?
First: Use whatever time you have in the world to learn about God, to meditate on his word and to study it so that you understand it as well as you possibly can. We pray, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105), but we’re talking about the way we live, not just the sidewalk beneath our feet. God’s holy word lights up the decisions and the choices we make. Will I be giving God glory, or sinning with what I do? “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
Second: Use whatever time you have to appreciate and love the people with whom God has placed you. Tomorrow, perhaps either you or they may be gone. If you have a question, ask it. If you have a feeling, share it. If you have wisdom, be so bold as to teach it. Never leave a loved one wondering whether you love them. Never ever think, “They should know how I feel.” Tell them and show them, and they will respond to the delight of your heart (2 Corinthians 6:12).
Third: Consider the time you are likely to have (Moses is going to tell us this is seventy or eighty years in verse 10) and plan how you will accomplish the tasks the Lord has set before you. There is a certain sadness in thinking about the “should haves” in life. Plow when it’s time to plow, and harvest when it’s time to harvest (Proverbs 20:4).
Fourth: Don’t waste the days God gives. Put him first, do his work right away, and if he chooses he will give you time to put your feet up later. Do not waste your Sundays by avoiding church. Collect them and treasure them. Each time we worship it is more precious to our souls than a pile of rare coins or a shelf filled with jade or alabaster. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).
Our days are brief because of the infection of sin. Praise God that he sent his Son to cure that infection, so that when we rise from the sleep of death we have glory and triumph ahead, heaven and all of its blessings, not the least of which is the union we will have with God in person for the eternal “now” of Paradise.
Pastor Timothy Smith