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God’s Word for You

Psalm 90:9-11 seventy years or eighty

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, September 13, 2021

Moses has been describing the briefness of life and the certainty of death.

9 For all our days pass away under your fury.
  We finish our years like a sigh.

A sigh or moan does not take very long to produce; it escapes our lips, and then it is done. This, Moses says, is like one’s life. Why is it that the years of our lives pass away so quickly? Is it just that we’re busy? I finally get used to writing the new year in my checkbook and the next thing I know it’s September. Where did the year go? That’s not what Moses is talking about. Moses means that the years race past because of God’s fury over sin. It doesn’t matter who we are, the judgment is that death comes as a result of sin.

10 The days of our lives add up to seventy years,
  or eighty years if we are strong.
  Yet the best of them are trouble and sorrow,
    for they disappear quickly, and we fly away.

It was Moses who wrote down the list of patriarchs who lived past their nine hundredth year: Adam, 930 (Genesis 5:5); Seth, 912 (Genesis 5:8), Enosh, 905 (Genesis 5:11), Kenan, 910 (Genesis 5:14), Mahalalel, (a mere) 895 (Genesis 5:17), Jared, 962 (Genesis 5:20), Methuselah, 969 (Genesis 5:27). Today it’s unusual for anyone to pass 110. Generally Moses is right: we have seventy years, and some who are strong live into their eighties. The word translated “the best of them” is rahabam; I don’t know how the NIV came up with “their span.” Rahabam means something like proud, fierce or strong (cp. King James “strength”). “The best of them” is a good translation by the EHV. No one living today has a lifespan like those ancient sons and grandsons of Adam. Their consistent 900-year lives seemed brief, because man was not created to be mortal. Man was created to live eternally, but sin cut our lives short. Today, a 900-year life would be incredible; impossible. Seventy or eighty is the most that most can hope for, even though, still today, many live just half that long.

11 Who can understand the power of your anger?
  But your fury is consistent with the fear that is owed to you.

Most people try not to think about death, because it’s almost impossible for any of us to imagine a world that would go on without us. But Moses isn’t only talking about physical death. The fury of God over sin means physical death, but the fury of God over unbelief means eternal death, everlasting suffering, punishment, and pain in hell. An unbeliever has the testimony of his own conscience as to the reality of hell: “their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Romans 2:15). The Scriptures testify that hell is the punishment for unbelief: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36).

The doctrine of damnation in hell is given to mankind as a warning. By the grace of God, we are warned about the coming wrath, and the fear of this wrath drives us back, trembling, to Christ. Jesus gave this warning in vivid imagery: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:12). Those theologians who try to change the Bible’s message, watering down the warnings of the Scriptures, are themselves lacking in mercy since they fail to warn their people. “When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade him from his ways, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood” (Ezekiel 33:8).

But the Bible promises that for those who put their faith in Christ, the sleep of death will not end in misery, but in the glorious resurrection to eternal life. “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake… to everlasting life.” (Daniel 12:2). “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).

When the news in our life becomes disheartening and even unbearable, we remember that there is good news, great news, from God: In Christ we have forgiveness and a place with him forever in heaven. During this lifetime we will lose loved ones, and our loved ones will say goodbye to each of us. Some will finish their race with a full seventy or eighty years, some with far more, and some, yes, with far less. But in heaven the count of our years on earth won’t matter. We will have life and reunion, the glorious reunions that the resurrection will bring: First, the reunion of body and soul in a glorified state that means an end to death, suffering and pain, forever. Second, the reunion of each one of us with believing family and friends and the whole church of Christ’s disciples. The joy of that reunion will never diminish or grow old. And third, the reunion of each individual believer and God. We will truly know him as he truly knows us. We have nothing to fear and everything to be glad about in this reunion, as the loving arms of Christ will embrace each of us, and we will live in the peace of forgiveness and joy forever.

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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