Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

02 August 2012

Reading the Bible in chronological order - discovery # 2

Psalm 90

A prayer of Moses the man of God

1Lord, you have been our dwelling place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 

3 You turn men back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”
4 For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning—
6 though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.

7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
10 The length of our days is seventy years
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away. 

11 Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
12 Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. 

13 Relent, O Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children. 

17 May the favour of the Lord our God rest upon us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands. 

When I read the Psalms I don't tend to read the fine print.  That is, I don't tend to read the little subheadings under the Psalm numbers.  You know..."A psalm of David", "A song of ascents", "Of the Sons of Korah", "A maskil of Ethan the Ezratite", "A psalm. A song.  For the Sabbath day", "A psalm for giving thanks", "A prayer of an afflicted man.  When he is faint and pours out his lament before the Lord"... And because I don't tend to read those little subheadings I miss little important pieces of information.

So there I was, making my way through Numbers.  It has been a bit over a year since the people of Israel were rescued from Egypt.  They are in the desert and Moses, under God, is trying to hold it all together.  But there are ructions.

The people are begging for food, anything other than that manna.
Miram and Aaron start opposing Moses' leadership.
There is the exploration of Canaan, the Promised Land, and then the subsequent rebellion of the people who are too scared to go in and take ownership of the land.
Then God plans to kill them all for their disobedience and lack of faith and trust.  Moses pleads their cause and God decides that Caleb and Joshua, the faithful spies, will enter the land but no-one else from that generation. 

It should have been so good.  Life as God's people under His rule and care.  And it was all going so very badly.  And then, at least in this particular chronological plan, up pops Psalm 90. 

I love Psalm 90.  I read it often.  It's a great wisdom psalm.  It helps me to humble myself before the Lord - to know my right, small place in space - and it helps me to ask for the right, wise things in prayer.  It is a psalm that I often turn to when someone I know has died.  It shows me that God is control and it shows me what is important.

But because I don't read the fine print I don't think I have ever taken in (or at least, not in recent memory) that this, a favourite of mine, is a psalm of Moses.  I usually read Psalm 90 as a personal psalm.  But it takes on amazing power when read as a national psalm.  Imagine Moses, trying so desperately to usher an enormous group of people into the land God has promised them.  Imagine Moses, described in Numbers 12:3 as "a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth" on his knees praying this prayer for the whole nation of Israel, not just for himself.  Imagine if we prayed this psalm for our church communities, for our wider communities, for the Kingdom of God.


Read the fine print.  At least, read the biblical fine print.  It is important. 

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