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How to be Content in Dark Days

04/01/2019

Being Content in the Darkest of Days.

Text. Psalm 90 cf Numbers 20.

This psalm is the only psalm written by Moses – and it’s a prayer for peace and contentment, resting in God’s greatness and love. Moses has had an ‘Annus Horribilus.’ It’s in Numbers 20 and RC Sproule thinks that this psalm is a response to it. In Exodus 20 three major events occurred in the life of Israel’s greatest prophet.

  • The death of Miriam, Moses’ sister. Numbers 20:1 Miriam had preserved Moses’ life when he was a child, but her jealousy of Moses had led her to and Aaron to rebel against him, and she had been severely rebuked by God for that sin. Numbers 12:1  It may have been shortly after that, at Kadesh-barnea, the very border of the promised land, that she died.
  • Moses learned that he’ll never be allowed to enter into the promised land. Because Moses had not followed God’s explicit instructions, he was told that he would see the Promised Land, but that he would never enter into it. Numbers 20:7-12
  • The death of Aaron the Priest. The third event in this horrible time of trial was the death of Aaron, Moses’ brother. Numbers 20:24-28

Three events that must have shaken Moses, – his world was rocked to the core. What’s he to do? How will he react? In reflection, these are the words that he wrote.  We too can benefit greatly from this psalm, in imes when our souls are passing through times of despair, dark times.

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In the psalm Moses teaches us:-

1. Always Be Aware of the Majesty of God. Psalm 90:1-2.

  • God is Greater than Us! Now Moses knew all about the greatness, and the splendour and the holiness of God. Moses, after all had met him – personally! Moses met God, in the desert, Exodus 3:5-6.  Later, at Mt Sinai, -to attempt to see God would be certain death for sinners like them, and us. Exodus 19:21-22 Here in the psalm, Moses expresses the Majesty and the greatness of God, his all consuming holiness. And YET:-
  • God is our Eternal Refuge! He is our eternal dwelling place! David expressed the very same truth in Psalm 46, when he wrote, God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble… The LORD of hosts is with us!

There is a great and a happy paradox here. In theological langue we can say that God is at the same time, transcendent and immanent. He is far away from us, exalted high in the heavens and beyond our human comprehension, – yet at the very same time he is with us, close to us, and we abide in him! That knowledge will help us on our earthly journey, just as it comforted Gods people in days long ago.

2. Be Sensible About our Human Mortality. Psalm 90:1 So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Let’s not fool ourselves.

  • Our lives are very short, and soon they will be over forever. We will all die – soon. Moses lived a long period of his life in the desert and he would have watched the desert cool down at night, and the morning dew settling on the ground would prompt a small spurt of fertility, and tiny shoots of grass would sprout up. It would be short lived though. What looked like the promise of a fertile life was soon to be scorched and killed by the time mid-day had come, and the merciless heat of the day made it wither and die. Moses uses that as an illustration of human life in the psalm. Psalm 90:5
  • Moses compares the length of our days with the eternal life of God. We think that to live to 80 is a great old age. To go further than that is a cause for great rejoicing. But to God, our tiny life-spans are nothing. Psalm 90:4. To him, 1000 years is just like a day – like yesterday, just like a watch (3 hours) in the night. Methuselah lived to be almost 1000 years – we couldn’t event begin to think about what that would be like, but to God – that’s nothing at all. He is from everlasting to everlasting.

So we must number our days. The phrase literally means to value them, to use them wisely. To remember that we are dust, and that one day we will appear before God, and that we should not place much value on anything in this world. Remember your human frailty and mortality.

3. Admit and Confess our Sinfulness Before God. Psalm 90:7 – 8
If the brevity of our frail lives is a major problem for us, the problem is compounded by the fact that we are sinners, and that no sin can ever exist in the presence of God, for he dwells in unapproachable light. 1 John 1:5, The two problems are bound up together, for it is sin which has ruined everything in this world. Sin brings misery and hatred and sickness and death and hell. If we appear before God as sinners we are condemned and will be lost forever.
So Moses does what we all should do. He recognises his sin, and he confesses it to the Lord, so that his sins will be forgiven. He knows that God already is aware of his sin, even the secret things which he may have covered up and buried. All is open before the Lord omniscient. There’s no point trying to hide our sins or claim we are innocent of them. The sensible path is just to own up, and be forgiven, 1 John 1:8-10.

4. Rely on God’s Love and Saving Grace. Psalm 90:13-17 Return, O Lord! How long? And have compassion on Your servants.
But if God is Sinless, transcendent, and dwelling in unapproachable light, how can our sins every be washed away, ever be forgiven? It’s to this topic Moses turns next. God is LOVE and His Grace extends to sinners. He sees three ways in which the grace of God blesses us:-

  • It TEACHES us. We have to back-track a little here, for we learn to number our days, and be wise in verse 12. That is a great life lesson. Don’t depend on anything here, but make every day count for God.
  • It SATISFIES us. Psalm 90:14-15 Even in the darkest of days, God’s presence never leaves us, and he satisfies us, far more than the superficial satisfactions of this world.
  • It gives us a LEGACY of Christian Service. And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands. Only by the grace of God that anything that we do here in this life matters. When we die, our works die with us – EXCEPT those works that we do for God’s kingdom. ‘Only one life, ’twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Jesus will last.’

So, Moses isn’t bitter about his misfortune- nor is he looking for someone to blame. He’s RESTING in God, trusting him completely.

© BobMcEvoy, January 2019

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