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Author:Rev. Sjirk Bajema
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Congregation:The Reformed Church of Oamaru
 Oamaru, New Zealand
 sites.google.com/site/rcoamaru/
 
Title:Do You Know The Time?
Text:Psalms 90 (View)
Occasion:New Years Eve
Topic:End Times
 
Preached:2021-12-31
Added:2022-04-27
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


PSALM 90

(Reading: 1 Peter 1:13-25)

 

Do You Know The Time?

 

 

Congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ…

 

     Psalm 90 is a psalm which is very rebuking and very sobering. It tells you off and it shakes you up. It really makes you think.

     This is why Dutch Christians often read this psalm at the end of the year. It puts you in your place. And that’s also why you’ll find this psalm used in the Anglican Church as an appointed reading at the burial of the dead. While it might seem harsh at such times, it is there to wound us so that we might be truly healed.

 

     Let’s pray that it will do the same for us today. And so it is we turn to the first aspect in meditating upon this psalm. Here we note first of all, from the verses 1 till 6, that, WHEN WE CONSIDER OUR TIME … IT IS NOTHING LIKE GOD’S TIME.

     Well, this much was clear in those verses, wasn’t it! It is explicit here that God’s time is all of time!

     The believer confesses in verse 1 that the Lord has been his dwelling place in all generations. The Lord God is the strong habitation to which he can always turn. He is the one still point in all of our ever insecure and inadequate world.

     And in verse 2 he declares that from everlasting to everlasting he is God. He is the eternal One! Unlike creation, which he made, the Creator has no beginning and no end. How much don’t these words place him far above us all!

     What a scene to begin with! And it’s the same scene this psalm ends with. This is the God who is the same yesterday and today and forever, as Hebrews 13:8 confirms. How much peace don’t we have with this God because we are his?

     And what are we in contrast? Verse 3 in quite blunt, “You return man to dust…” Here again the creation scene is touched upon.

     But now it is not Genesis 2 which describes us as being formed by God. Rather it is Genesis 3:19 which spoke of our returning to the earth’s dust when we die. The emphasis here is on man’s transience – we do not live forever. In fact, as verse 4 declares, our lifespan is nothing at all compared with God’s everlastingness.

 

     To say that a thousand years in God’s sight is as but one day – or even less, just as one watch in a night – is to really put us and our lives in perspective. Just think about how long a thousand years is. There is so much crowded into it.

     As Spurgeon says, there is in a thousand years “the rise and fall of empires, the glory and obliteration of dynasties, the beginning and the end of elaborate systems of human philosophy, and countless events, all important to household and individual, which elude the pens of the historian. Yet this period, which might even be called the limit of modern history, and is in human language almost identical with an indefinite length of time, is to the Lord, even as time already gone … In comparison with eternity the most lengthened reaches of time are mere points. There’s no comparison between the two.”

     It is like what we read about in Isaiah 40, the verses 15 till 17, where all the nations are absolutely nothing before the Lord. Before God we are just dust on the scales – we are completely worthless!

     So we have already in these first four verses the most vivid contrast. And the description of how much different our time is than God’s time hasn’t finished yet. The quick changes in word pictures in verses 5 and 6 heighten this difference.

     You see, insecurity and continuous change are unavoidable for us. Compared with God’s eternally constant life ours goes in a moment. A storm can whip us away!

     We are nothing more than a dream – something with no substance whatsoever! And for all the fine show we might put on we perish as quickly as grass!

     The metaphors might seem jumbled but it’s a device Moses uses to really put us in the picture. You only need to read Deuteronomy 32 to see his prose powerfully painted like this. The old covenant’s greatest prophet is an inspired poet also.

 

     WHEN WE CONSIDER OUR TIME … IT IS NOTHING LIKE GOD’S TIME. But that brings us now to however there could have come about such a difference. And so it is that the verses 7 till 11 bring out a second aspect to our text. Here we note that WHEN WE CONSIDER OUR TIME … IT IS SUCH A SIN-FILLED TIME.

     “For we are brought to an end by your anger…” verse 7 begins. And now we know, don’t we?

     We touched into it in verse 3. But then it brought out the most immense contrast between God and man. Then the dust put us in our place.

     But now we see why this is our place. Here is what lies behind it all. The background to this is the fall into sin. This is what we share with all men, and how seriously doesn’t God regard this!

     Notice the two words for this in verse 7 – “anger” and “wrath”. And there is no doubt who is angry and wrathful. He is actively pursuing justice. And how much doesn’t that terrify man?

     Verse 8 makes it vividly clear that he’s bringing it all to trial. “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” So even the sins we try to disguise from ourselves will be shown up for what they truly are. C. S. Lewis says of the expression “in the light of your presence” these words:  ‘In the end that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us … either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised.”

     Verse 9 continues in this same vein. There is an anticlimax in both lines of this verse – whether our days passing away under God’s wrath or our years coming to an end like a sigh. It is clear we are under judgment.

     I mean, a day passing away is a day that is coming to its end. And if all that can be offered up when we die is a sigh what emptiness that is!

     Then there comes a verse known to many of us – and especially the older we become! Verse 10 speaks of living to seventy or even eighty, if we are physically strong enough. But all those years are only “toil and trouble”.

     In other words, ‘The days of our years? What about them?  Where’s the big deal?  Why are they worth talking about?’

     In fact, landing up in an advanced age only opens you up more to frailty and fear. How much aren’t you gasping for breath! It’s so hard to get about!

     And you can’t hear what they say! Certainly you can’t see much now! With the preacher in Ecclesiastes 12:1 those are the days of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them.”

     That’s the price we pay for our break with God through the fall into sin. And it’s the sin that only increases all the more.

     This much is made lucid by verse 11. In a place and a time when you would think men and women would wonder all the more about their eternal destination they don’t! I mean, who is honestly thinking about the power of God’s anger, and who is absolutely terrified of him? In the words of one commentator, “Though the wrath of God is the leading factor to be considered in a sinful world, people neither take note of it or regulate their lives in respect of it.”

     Not even many modern Christians take these things into account. They are only interested in the ephemeral – the instant and experiential. And what is stated here is certainly not the kind of emotion they want to entertain! And so it is that we come to a third aspect to this psalm. From the verses 12 till 17 let’s note that WHEN WE CONSIDER OUR TIME … IT MUST DRIVE US TO HIS TIME-LINE.

 

     Congregation, here human life is set between two points. One of those extremes is the wrath of God, which makes life very short. And the other is the peace with God which gives life stability and permanency. Having laid out the first of these in the verses above, Moses now moves on to bring out God’s love.

     Thus verse 12 begins a prayer. Here the prophet looks up and so much puts it all in God’s hands: “So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

     This is obviously a learning process, something Moses has stumbled over in the past. And don’t we know that from various incidents in his life? He could be quick to react in self-justification.

     But he knows the way he should behave. He has to have God’s Spirit in him so that the Lord is with him. And where else is this found than in God’s Word itself?

     It’s in his Scriptures that we have the guidance for what we need. It’s in this self-revelation of himself that we see how we ought to be. And when we do that it’s the Living Word himself who becomes shown in us and through us. We prove the Christ in Christian!

     Congregation, there is no better place to preach the gospel than at a funeral. And especially at the funeral of one whose life has suddenly been taken away – you know the person of whom they say, ‘he was taken away too soon’. Then they’re honestly wondering if this is all there is to life. Then they’re looking into that open grave which they know will soon enough be their resting place also.

     But are they then being truly students? Is there a true desire to listen to the Teacher? Because if the Lord himself isn’t their teacher there’s no real and lasting profit in it for them.

     Moses prayed that the order of justice might be freed from sin by mercy. When the Lord himself speaks through his Word, the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). And so how vitally important that our hearts, while they are still beating, should be regulated by wisdom’s hand.

     A short life should be wisely employed. You can’t waste a single hour. In fact, you can’t be sure of enough of life to justify wasting a single moment!

     If it’s in your heart you would be truly wise. But just knowing it in your head won’t help you one tiny bit! You have to have faith in the One who personified wisdom. You have to believe in the doing and dying and rising again of Jesus Christ!

     Its no wonder the prayer of Moses increases its intensity! And see how he does that – by turning the rebuke from God in verse 3 into a cry to God. The word “return” returns but now it is not a putting of man in his place but man desperately seeking God’s face!

     “Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!”

     The second line of verse 13 is closely echoed in the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32:36. God there declares that he will do this very thing for which Moses here pleads.

     And the contrasts continue in verses 14 and 15. While in verse 9 all our days are under God’s wrath in verse 14 within the covenant all our days may be joyful. The morning mentioned here is a lot longer than the morning of verse 6.

     And verse 15 moves on to pray that God would balance things out – to have as many days of gladness as there are for suffering. In 2nd Corinthians 4:17 we see how much better this is as the apostle pictures God’s preparing his own for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

     Dear believer, whatever pain and anguish and grief you go through in this life will be more than matched by the joy and peace the Lord gives you now. Where there are deep valleys there are also high hills. The God who is great in justice when he puts someone in their place will be great in mercy when he blesses. So what would you want to be crying out to him?

     And then what an end to his prayer in the verses 16 and 17! This is the crowning contrast between what is perishing in the verses 3 till 11 and the abiding glory of what God does!

     Congregation, here is the heritage for our children in this fleeting life; here is the favour of the Lord our God upon us; and here is the labour that is not in vain. You see, not only will God’s work endure but with his blessing the work of our hands also! And so much as this psalm is very rebuking and very sobering it has moved the man of God to an incredible prayer and the most amazing assurance.

     Dear friend, is that what you too can testify to now? Much as these wounds have wounded you did they also bring about healing? Have you come to see that we all come and go?

     But the Lord’s work stays forever. And so we really don’t know what’s happening to us, as long as Jesus and his kingdom grows. For we know that since the Lord is always the same, we trust our work in his hands.

     And since we know it is far more his work than ours he will secure its immortality. When we have withered like grass, our holy service, like gold, silver, and precious stones, will survive the fire. Amen.

 

 

PRAYER:

Let’s pray…

 

     O Lord God, how blessed we are to be able to look up to you. And how blessed we are that we can join with you in witnessing to you wherever we are and however we are.

     The words of Revelation 14:13 are so true. For blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, blessed indeed they are, for their deeds will follow them.

     Through Christ our Lord, we pray, Amen.

 

 

 

             

    




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Sjirk Bajema, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: www.rcnz.org.nz

(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Sjirk Bajema

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