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God’s Word for You

Psalm 90:12-17 Establish the work of our hands

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, September 17, 2021

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your mercy,
  so that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
  for as many years as we have seen trouble.

Here Moses describes what the faithful believer truly has in mind when we ask God for mercy: Life in heaven. “All our days” is not just the rest of the years left until we reach our seventieth or eightieth year, but forever.

Moses prays, “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us.” He is talking about all of the afflictions that cling to man from birth and even from conception. Moses is praying for a release from the lifelong burden of original sin. This inherited sin comes directly to us all, from Adam’s flesh to that of his sons, and their sons. This is clear from the genealogy in Genesis 5, where Moses reports: “When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image, and he named him Seth” (Genesis 5:3). Since the fall, mankind is no longer fashioned in the image of God, but in the image of each man’s father. Adam was sinful, and therefore Cain and Abel and Seth and all of Adam’s descendants are sinful, including Moses and me, and you, too. Moses prays for a release from inherited, original sin, and the only remedy from sin and all its punishments is the release of forgiveness and the eternal life promised to Eve and the Patriarchs on down. Moses is praying, in veiled words, for Christ to come.

16 Let your deeds be seen by your servants
  and your majesty by their children.

“Deeds” here is the word poal, a thing done to deliver or reward (Ruth 2:12; Job 34:11; Habakkuk 3:2). Consider that for the rest of time, the Jews thought of the deliverance from Egypt as the greatest deliverance God could possibly have enacted for his people. The Exodus is the one event that, in the memory of God’s Old Testament people, could not be surpassed. Yet here prays Moses, the leader of that expedition, the one who held up his own hand for the Lord to drive back and part the Red Sea so that Israel could walk across on dry land (Exodus 14:21), and he is asking for a greater deed of deliverance. He is asking, praying, yearning, and begging for Christ to come and rescue us all from our sins. And more than that, he asks: “Let this be seen by us.” God’s people need to be rescued, but precisely because they (we) are sinners, we need to see that rescue, to behold it, to be made aware of it. He is asking for Christ to come in the flesh, to live among his people, and for his people to see his majesty, his glory. The Apostle John answers Moses as if thinking of this verse in particular, and with joy in his heart: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). God answers our prayers, even if it takes time, but he always gives us his answer.

17 May the kindness of the LORD our God rest upon us.
  Establish the work of our hands for us.
  Yes, establish the work of our hands.

The word “kindness” is a poetic term (noam) usually meaning “pleasant(ness).” For example, wisdom’s ways “are pleasant ways” (Proverbs 3:17); the thoughts of the pure are pleasant to God (Proverbs 15:26), and pleasant words in general are sweet and healing (Proverbs 16:24). Moses understands that God’s grace comes to us without our deserving it. In terms of his grace and forgiveness, God is active and we are passive. We do nothing to merit his grace, and we do nothing to bring his grace from God to us. But having received this blessing, we want to serve him, and so Moses finishes his Psalm by saying, “Establish the work of our hands.” This is the Christian’s life of giving thanks and of giving glory to God with the things we say, think and do. Paul used his good Greek to put it another way: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). And Peter had his own way of expressing the same thing: “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). And Jude, along with many examples of Christian living, says: “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life” Jude 1:21). The hand is not the only part of a person that serves God, but the whole body, the whole mind, our innermost thoughts, and our very will, all work together with the guidance of the Holy Spirit to serve God. Serve the Lord as Jesus said: “With all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). And this thoughtful, loving devotion grows from the joyful knowledge that just as Moses prayed, the forgiveness of our sins have come to us through Jesus Christ our Lord, who has also given us the joy surpassing all joy, everlasting life.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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