The Herald Weekly Vol XVII : 52

The Last Sunday (29 Dec 2019)

On the last Sunday of the year, one can either feel very glum and pessimistic or choose to bright and confident. Glum because all around us we read or see pictures of death which reminds of the brevity of life or the futility of human efforts.

Psalm 90 and Psalm 91 are like two sides of a coin. Psalm 90 presents the dark side of life, the unpleasant things which do not want to dwell on. On the other side of the coin, Psalm 91 is like the sun’s bright rays shining on our face, sometimes difficult and unpleasant to look at too. But for today’s purpose we will examine Psalm 90 and appreciate the precious lessons that we can learn from it.

Psalm 90 is the only psalm attributed to Moses by most Bible scholars. It reveals to us Moses’s prayer to God, expressing his pessimistic outlook towards life. Yet, as he expresses his plight in life to God, it also reveals how he deals with the not so bright side of life.

Psalm 90:1-2 depict the greatness of God as Israel’s dwelling place, Israel’s home. God is also referred to as a “refuge” and a “habitation” in Psalm 91. Moses, although brought up in Egypt, became a fugitive from Egypt and died without entering the Promised Land. The Hebrew people whom he led out of Egypt were a people without a country. They wandered in the wilderness for many years before they possessed the land of milk and honey God promised to them. As Moses led them about in the wilderness, he fully knew that their ultimate dwelling is not a place but a Person. Indeed, God is our ultimate Dwelling Place and when we turn to Him we will find our permanent security, safety and peace. He is our God, our dwelling place “from everlasting to everlasting”. And in the face of man’s finiteness and limitation, Moses appeals to men to return to God (verses 3-6).

Whether it is “a thousand years in thy sight” or the last Sunday or the last day of this year, the days gone before us are what Moses describes “as yesterday when it is past”. Moses alludes to the long lives of those in the past; but even these long years are swept away in a flood (as in the days of Noah). God sweeps men away in the sleep of death (vs 5). Indeed, a thousand years is but a fleeting moment to God. He emphasizes on the brevity of human life in contrast to God’s eternity. Thus, no matter how long we may live, we are like grass which grows in the morning, and by evening the grass may have been cut down, or would wither and die.

Moses not only contrasts the eternity of God with the brevity of man’s life, in verses 7-10 he explains that this is all God’s doing. Moses reveals that the shortness of man’s life is due to his own sin (verse 8 – “our iniquities… our secret sins”). Thus, we are consumed by God’s anger and wrath (vs 6).

Thus, when we are confronted with sickness, disease and death, we must all acknowledge the sin of Adam and Eve, and our own sins. Truly, when we examine our own lives, we will realize that the troubles that we face are often due to our own doings. As Moses says, our lives are passed away in wrath, lived out in labour and sorrow (vs 9-10). This is the plight of man – a short life filled with pain and suffering. Moses has really described a very pessimistic life!

But if life were as pessimistic as Moses describes, then we would have no hope. However, Moses’ psalm does not stop there. In verse 11-17, he reveals man’s petition for God’s help. Yes, in our stubborn and sinful lives, we often refuse to acknowledge our sin and its results on our lives. But Moses prays to God to “teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom” (vs 12). Many of us may have known Christ for many years, but stubbornly refuse to give up our bad habits, our sinful ways, and because of this we continue to suffer pain and anguish in our lives, and sometimes our children imitate our sinful lives too.

As we reflect on the days of the past, we should apply God’s wisdom to our hearts. Proverbs 9:10 teaches us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Thus, we must acknowledge the holiness of God, and look at our life the way God sees it. We must acknowledge that He is eternal and that we are mortal. He is righteous and we are sinful. Unless we repent of our sinfulness, we will continue to live and suffer in this brief life on earth.

How then should we live our lives? We lead our lives either focusing on the past or the future. Older ones often focus on the good life which took place in the past even as they acknowledge that the future becomes shorter and uncertain. The younger ones hope for improvement and look forward to a so-called “better life” in the future, But we are reminded that we have no assurance of tomorrow; thus we should not waste the present. We must thus live our lives with God’s wisdom, with the brevity and limitation of our lives in clear view.

We need to return to the Lord and repent of our sinful days and ways (vs 13). We need to pray that God would reveal the splendor of His work to us and restore in our lives His plan for our lives. Once we acknowledge Him in the shortness of our lives, we will be rewarded with the “beauty of the Lord our God” and He will establish His work in our hands (vs 17).

As we end this year 2019, may Moses’ prayer in vs 14-15 be our prayer:

“O satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, For as many years as we have seen trouble. Exchange sorrow for joy, frustration for fulfilment, fruitless toil for meaningful labour.”

Pastor Bob Phee
(1st printing 29 Dec 2013)

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