Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Psalm 90:13 You shall surpass every joy

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, September 16, 2021

13 Turn, O LORD! How long!
  Change your mind toward your servants.

The question is, how long before you turn from wrath to mercy? David says something similar: “My soul is in anguish. How long, O LORD, how long?” (Psalm 6:3). Since these things do not depend on us, but on God’s good pleasure, we can’t predict whether God’s wrath will turn away quickly or slowly, but he will have a reason for either answer. He might consider whether we are sincerely repentant, or whether we have more to repent of than we let on. Or the Lord may have something else in mind for us. But for the Christian, it is not wrong to pray and to ask. He invites us to pray and to rely on him, and that’s something we should consider as we pray.

Do not think that Moses is only talking about our situation in life getting better or easier. How could he pray about God’s wrath and eternal punishment, and then ask the Lord to “change your mind” only about a few fleeting days on earth before hell’s jaws open to swallow us up and grind us into dust for all eternity? No, Moses is praying that God’s furious wrath would be changed, converted to compassionate good pleasure for all eternity. Moses is praying about the blessings of heaven and everlasting life.

We can say more than that. Moses is not only praying about heaven, but he is preaching, confidently preaching in the very hearing of the Lord God himself, the doctrine of the resurrection. This, too, is the “turn” of the Lord away from the forever-death men will suffer to the brief-sleep-death of the believer until the resurrection. Some people will always try to deny the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12), and others will openly attack the doctrine of the resurrection, like the Athenians who sneered at Paul (Acts 17:32). But every doubt and objection is wiped out by the words of Jesus: “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). Abraham believed in the resurrection, otherwise he would never have told his servants to wait for him and Isaac when God had commanded him to slaughter Isaac as a burnt offering. But Abraham told the servants: “Stay here while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5). And not long after, Job confessed: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God” (Job 19:25-26). I quoted Daniel not long ago, but his words are worth repeating and memorizing: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2).

We also see that Moses preaches the resurrection here because he preaches faith in the forgiveness of sins. Faith in forgiveness also implies faith in the resurrection. Since death is the payment, result, or wages of sin (Romans 6:23), then the delivery from sin is also the deliverance from death. The writer to the Hebrews said: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

In the Psalm, “As the deer pants…,” the writer depicts the believer’s spirit thirsting after the Lord God, the Living God who is the fountain of Living Water. He takes us from the wet tears of grief and fear in his bed to the limitless unending fountain of living water forever in heaven. This, too, is the preaching of the resurrection laid onto the framework of the forgiveness of our sins. When Dietrich Buxtehude (an early Lutheran composer; J.S. Bach studied under him) wrote a piece known as a chaconne (a quick-tempo repeating bass line under a major-key tune) to a text based partly on Psalm 42 (“As the deer…”) and part of the Athanasian Creed, he ended the song with the words:

O gaudium super gaudium,
Vinces omne gaudium.

O joy above joy,
You shall surpass every joy.

The resurrection and the forgiveness of sins are the joys that will surpass every joy imaginable. What earthly joy will matter to us any longer compared to the joy of stepping from our graves to the trumpets of judgment day and the smiling face of Jesus holding out his hands to us to enter into Paradise? O joy above joy! The certainty of the forgiveness of our sins also unlocks the mystery of the resurrection of the flesh. Joy above joy unending!

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.


Browse Devotion Archive