A prayer of Moses the man of God.
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.
You turn people back to dust,
saying, ‘Return to dust, you mortals.’
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.
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.
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.
If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
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.
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendour to their children.
May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us;(Ps. 90:1-17 NIV)
establish the work of our hands for us –
yes, establish the work of our hands.
Please note that after I finished writing this meditation on Psalm 90, I realised that I had made a mistake – I should have been doing Psalm 99. So I started working on Psalm 99, but then felt that I should stick with what I had written on Psalm 90. Normal service will resume on Tuesday with Psalm 99.
Psalm 90 begins Book 4 of the Psalms (Ps 90-106).
Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Our lives are made up of a series of small things. We begin the morning listening to the birdsong. We peep through the curtains and a voice asks, ‘what is it doing out there?’ This morning (Sunday) the sun was shining, and the wind was blowing. I notice that patches of green are evident in the lawn outside after being scorched with weeks of higher than usual temperatures. The rest of the day will continue much the same. After breakfast we go through the prayers and hymns of the order of service. We listen to a sermon preached by a minister friend and now I am in the study looking at Psalm 90. I will be here until lunch time. After lunch I will have a rest for an hour which helps me continue through the rest of the day. We will have our daily walk, finish off the meditation on Psalm 90 and prepare dinner.
Not much of this seems extraordinary, actually it feels that after my break I am learning to settle back into a repetitive routine that will probably only change when we see lockdown relaxed.
What has produced this reflection? Perhaps it was the holiday reading, the two books I read on Ecclesiastes entitled, ‘Destiny: Learning to live by Preparing to die’ and ‘Death by Living: Life is meant to be Spent.’ Or perhaps it was the surprise of being confronted by Psalm 90 which is very much on the same theme as Ecclesiastes.
Today’s routine only differs from the weekday routine in that we had church in our own living room, but then the repetitive pattern begins, so that by the middle of the week I’ll not know what day it is because that day will be like the day before and the day after. I am living out my generation like this. The sum of the little things is what makes up the days of my life. For that life to be given meaning it needs a context, and that context is given in Psalm 90 among many other parts of the Psalms and the Bible as a whole.
As I visited the different small tasks of today I was not alone. The Psalmist reminds us that the Lord has been our dwelling place, throughout all generations. That means this generation, the past generation, and the generation before that. But more than that, in the part of my generation that I lived out today, and your generation as you lived it out today, God has been our dwelling place. What unites the sum of the little things that you did that made up your day, and the little things that I did is that all the generations that are being lived out from the members and friends of Hounslow West Evangelical church are united by the fact that the Lord is our dwelling place. Our lives are not on hold through this Pandemic period, simply different. We continue to live out our generation. We perhaps long for some great significant event to break up the rhythm of our days, because there is a lot of sameness in each day. Compared to the Lord, what would our ‘significant days’ amount to? Before the mountains were born and the earth was brought forth, from everlasting to everlasting You are God. Nothing I can do, nothing I can or have acquired can amount to a significant legacy to leave. Perhaps we have managed to touch a few lives by what we said or did, but soon their generation will have been lived out and the memory gone.
God turns us all back to dust. God says return to dust you mortals. Until that I will do my daily routine and perhaps intersperse the routine with some treats of difference. I will do my best to make the most of each day, but the lasting significance (I mean eternal significance) is the fact that God is with us.
I have listened to many people aged in their eighties and nineties speak about their wartime experience. They are owed respect and honour for what they have done. They speak with pride and authority because of their longevity. We listen with respect as we notice the fragility of their age, many in wheelchairs. They have lived a long generation, over ninety years, it is hard to imagine the changes they have seen. Yet with God that longevity has lasted the duration of a puff of smoke, a day that has already gone by, a night-time moment when we awoke and thought we had been asleep for moments only to discover that the dawn is about to be ushered in. We all will soon be swept away by the sleep of death, just like the new grass in a hot climate – watered by the dew of the morning it springs to life only to be withered by evening. If the span of our years is not significant, then how can any event be especially significant. We ought to treasure every little moment – the smell of coffee freshly brewed, the smell of freshly baked bread – as God has invested a lot to ensure we get that coffee and bread. We cannot rank the events in our lives, every moment is precious as it is ordained by God. It is the presence of God with us that makes these moments special.
Let us return to what God did in creation. He shaped the mountains and brought forth the whole earth. God provided the arena for us to live out our daily routine. The eternal God created an interesting place for us to live. God cared enough to make this world so interesting. Even in this fallen world, if we care to look up and look at what God has created. Because time is gliding swiftly by we have not a moment to lose. Out there in God’s creation there is life and more life to be explored. Take a walk in the garden, or a walk in the park, view the stall at the local grocer and number the fruit and vegetables, watch a documentary on nature and see that ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.’ Yes that reminds me, look also at the stars. Yes, time is short, but every moment is lived in the presence of God, in my generation and your generation. Our generations coincide, therefore let us encourage one another because time is short.
Lord God, our time is short, help us to make the most of exploring all that You have ordained and placed in our lives. Your presence makes our lives significant. Help us not to yearn for anything else, but to enjoy the lot in life that You have given us and seek Your presence each day, because we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.