Psalm 90: Numbered days

How's your perspective?  How do you see God?  How do you see yourself?  How do you see the world?

This psalm, which we're told is "a prayer of Moses - the man of God", invites us to see things as they really are, so that we can have wisdom and live well with God.  We're told (in Exodus 33:11) that... 

"The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend."

Moses' perspective on God is one we should take seriously.

It's the oldest psalm, written in about 1440BC and it's one of my favourites for its wisdom.  Let's have a look...

Lord, you have been our dwelling-place
    throughout all generations.
Before the mountains were born
    or you brought forth the whole world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Moses, as he prays, starts with God and it's a BIG view of God.  He knows God is the One who's always existed before anything or anyone else did.  And he knows nothing will end God or stop him.  

God is God.

And Moses knows this God as his "dwelling-place".  The 'place' he and his people live.  

Where do you want to live?  In God?  Or away from him?  Without his love and presence each day?  

For Moses, there's no other way to live.  He has to trust the Maker of all things.  The God who is above and beyond all things.  The One who is from everlasting to everlasting.  

Moses continues in his prayer, to reflect what he knows about God...
You turn people back to dust,
    saying, ‘Return to dust, you mortals.’

God is 'from everlasting to everlasting' but we're not!  

No-one outlasts God.  No-one can live forever without him.  Life is an undeserved gift and we can't hang on to it.  It is God who decides what ultimately happens to us.  No-one can argue with him and be right.  

He knows all our days... 

Psalm 139:16
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

He gives and takes away...
Job 1:21
‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I shall depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.’

We are 'dust... to dust'...

Ecclesiastes 3:20
All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.

Moses continues to pray to this everlasting God who has the biggest perspective on everything...
A thousand years in your sight
    are like a day that has just gone by,
    or like a watch in the night.
Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death –
    they are like the new grass of the morning:
In the morning it springs up new,
    but by evening it is dry and withered.

God sees it all.  Everything.  From beginning to end.  The Bible says he IS the beginning and the end...

Revelation 1:8
‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’

And Jesus is this same God.  He claims the same title...

Revelation 22:13
 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Jesus is God.  From everlasting to everlasting.  Compared to him, we are like blades of grass that blow away in the wind.

Steven Fry once said in an interview that if God turned out to exist, his opening words to God would be, "How dare you!"  And he went off on a total rant about what he'd say to God if he ever met him. 

In reality, I don't think he'd be able to say a thing.  Not if we're talking about this God.   

Moses says...

We are consumed by your anger
    and terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath;
    we finish our years with a moan.

Moses knows God as a friend but also has a healthy fear of God and his anger towards sin.   Moses knows that unless we have God's mercy and forgiveness, we're stuffed.  Unless God wants to be kind to us and show us grace and generosity, we're finished.  

The good news is that God IS merciful forgiving, kind, gracious and generous.  Moses knew it and we know this today because of Jesus, through whom we can have this kind of relationship with God as a friend, like Moses did.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.  Moses is reflecting on how none of us deserve to live forever or be with God.  He says we 'finish our years with a moan', and we're done.  None of us could tell God he owes us more.  We've had more than we deserve already.  

Life is a gift.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
    or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
    for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.

Moses says life is short.  Compared to God, our lives are a blink of an eye.  

Moses says life is a struggle.  Compared to God, our lives are a mess and complicated.  We need help.

Moses longs to know the power of God's anger more and he longs for everyone to know it too.  It seems like a strange and negative thing to long for but we need to understand something: 

It's only when people realise how BIG and PERFECT and POWERFUL God is, and how TINY and IMPERFECT and POWERLESS we are, that we rightly fear and respect God as God, turn to him for mercy and only then do we discover how much he loves us and can forgive us and bring us close to him.  He wants to give us everything we don't deserve, but we won't get it unless we first know how undeserving we are and have that sinking feeling like we're in big trouble.

What do you think you deserve from a perfect God?

Think carefully about your answer.  Ask God to give you wisdom.

That's what Moses does as he prays...
12 Teach us to number our days,
    that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

80 years is 29,220 days.

If you're 20ish, 
you've already been given around 7,305 days, 
and you might have around 21,915 days left.

If you're 30ish, 
you've already been given around 10,958 days, 
and you might have around 18,262 days left.

If you're 40ish (like me!), we're about half way!  
We've already been given around 14,610 days, 
and we might have around 14,610 days left.

If you're 50ish, 
you've already been given around 18,262 days, 
and you have around 10,958 days left.

If you're 60ish, 
you've already been given around 21,915 days, 
and you might have around 7,305 days left.

And if you're 70ish, 
you've already been given around 25,567 days, 
and you might have around 3,652 left.
Moses asks God to help him number his days.  Another translation of this verse says, "Teach us to number our days aright..."  We need to rightly number our days.  This doesn't simply mean getting our maths right, but getting a right perspective on the brevity and fragility of our lives in the sight of God.

13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
    Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
    that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Beautiful words!  Moses asks God to hold back even more, to be even more patient than he's been already and to show compassion and love.  Today through Jesus we can know even better than Moses did, that God LOVES US.  He's the only One who can give us reason to sing for joy and be glad all our days, however many of them we have left in this life.  And he's the only One who can give us ETERNAL life with God forever.

Moses has asked for God to be his first and best thought every morning and now he asks for 3 more brilliant things at the end of his prayer...

First, he asks for a joy-filled future that's worth the sadness of the past... 
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
    for as many years as we have seen trouble.

Second, he asks for God to show up in their lives and in the lives of their children...
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
    your splendour to their children.

Third, he asks for God's blessing and help for what they're working on today... 

17 May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us;
    establish the work of our hands for us –
    yes, establish the work of our hands.

If we know God as a friend through Jesus, we would do well to ask him for the same things:
1. For a joy-filled future that's worth the sadness of the past.
2. For him to show up in our lives and in the lives of those who follow us.
3. For his blessing and help for what we're working on today.

May he teach us to KNOW HIM and to number our days rightly, so that we might gain hearts of wisdom!