Sunday, 10 August 2014

(223) August 11: Psalm 90-92 & Romans 11:1-21

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

Read Psalm 90-92 & Romans 11:1-21
To discover:­
As you read consider what comfort the psalms give when struggling with life.

To ponder:
This section of the psalms begins with a psalm of Moses. To a nation journeying through the desert with no home, it affirms God as the true dwelling place through all generations (90v1). This would have been a comfort to Israel when later in exile too. A right perspective to life is then affirmed: Before the creation and forever, God shall always be God. To him a thousand years are like a day, and men come and go like grass, as he determines (90v2-6). The turning of men to dust recalls God’s curse on the first sin (Gen 3v19). And so Moses describes human mortality in terms of being consumed by God’s anger. He notes that God sets even secret sin before him, so everyone’s days pass under his wrath, experiencing trouble and sorrow, and ending in a moan (90v7-10, see 88v15-16). Although the Bible rejects the idea that the degree someone suffers always corresponds to a degree of sin, here it affirms that suffering in general is God’s judgement on our race for its rejection of him. And by stressing that the power of his anger is as great as the fear due him, Moses teaches that our reverence for God should correspond to the severity of his outrage at sin (90v11). In the light of all this he prays God would, nevertheless, teach his people to know how short life is and therefore gain wisdom in fearing him (90v12). Moreover, he prays for God’s compassion, favour and unfailing love to make his people and their children glad as he acts for them, and especially by enabling their work to be established.
            The psalm therefore prays home the message of Ecclesiastes. Life is hard, as we are born into a world under wrath. What truly matters, therefore, is that we recognize our mortality and make God our home by reverently fearing and so trusting and obeying him - as is his due. Moreover, we can experience his love now as we look to him to grant us satisfaction and joy in our labours, which can offset to some degree the troubles we face.
            Psalm 91 speaks further about those who have made their home in God. They will find rest and safety through trusting him, and so need not fear the various threats that can come in life (91v1-6). Indeed, picturing a battle, the psalmist is bold to say that though ten thousand fall around the believer, danger will not come near them. They will simply see the wicked punished – no doubt, in their death (91v7-8). The reason for the believer’s safety, is that God will command his angels to protect those who love him (91v9-13, see Matt 4v5-7). Indeed, the psalmist quotes God declaring he will protect, deliver and grant long life to those who acknowledge his name (91v14-16).
            In being placed after Psalm 90, the compiler was clearly aware that the righteous can suffer terribly. Nevertheless, 91v16 shows Psalm 91 is speaking of the believer’s experience in this life. It should therefore be read as a general statement to Israelites of God’s promise according to his specific covenant through Moses, to grant them security and long life if they were faithful (Deut 5v16, 28v1-14). The life spans of Abraham (175) and Job (140) testify to this principle. As Israel in the promised land are a paradigm for Christians in the new creation, these promises do not promise us freedom from suffering or premature death (consider Jesus), but ultimate deliverance from all suffering and death in the world to come. Yet the psalm also reminds us that any hardship we do face comes not randomly, but in the purposes of God; and he will protect us within it, so that nothing separates us from his love (Rom 8v35-39).
            Psalm 92 is a Sabbath psalm (see title) and so remembers God as creator and redeemer, renewing a right perspective for the worshipper as he takes time from away from the busyness of life that can so cloud such an understanding. It is therefore particularly apt for the busy Christian today. It begins affirming how good and so fitting it is to give time to praising God as the Most High, proclaiming in song his love and faithfulness morning and night – topping and tailing the day with focus on him, as with the morning and evening sacrifices offered at the temple (92v1-3). The reasons for this praise are God’s “works” and “thoughts.” Although this might refer to all God does and desires, in context, his thoughts on justice and work of future judgement are in mind, which the fool does not understand (92v4-7). God’s thoughts and work regarding salvation are also implied as the Israelites understood that only when the wicked were destroyed could their kingdom of righteousness, security and peace be established. And this means God will be exalted forever, as not only will evildoers be scattered, displaying his supremacy, but the righteous will be strengthened (the horn), anointed with oil for God’s service, and flourish even in old age, proclaiming his purity and strength (92v8-15) – a hint to the realities of everlasting life. The psalm keeps us mindful, then, of the ultimate fate of the wicked and righteous when Christ returns.          
Praying it home:                                                                                   
Praise God for lovingly tempering the hardships of life with joy and satisfaction now, and for giving us the certain hope of glory to come. Pray that he would keep a right perspective always before you.

Thinking further:
None today.

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