“Lord, you have been our help, generation after generation.  Before the mountains were born, before you birthed the earth and the inhabited world — from forever in the past to forever in the future, you are God. 

You return people to dust, saying, ‘Go back, humans,’ because in your perspective a thousand years are like yesterday past, like a short period during the night watch.  You sweep humans away like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning.  True, in the morning it thrives, renewed, but come evening it withers, all dried up. 

Yes, we are wasting away because of your wrath; we are paralyzed with fear on account of your rage.  You put our sins right in front of  you, set our hidden faults in the light from your face.  Yes, all our days slip away because of your furry; we finish up our years with a whimper.  We live at best to be seventy years old, maybe eighty, if we are strong.  But their duration brings hard work and trouble because they go by so quickly.  And then we fly off. 

Who can comprehend the power of your anger?  The honor that is due you corresponds to your wrath.  Teach us to number our days so we can have a wise heart.  Come back to us, Lord!  Please, quick!  Have some compassion for your servants!  Fill us full every morning with your faithful love so we can rejoice and celebrate our whole life long.  Make us happy for the same amount of time that your afflicted us — for the same number of years that we saw only trouble. 

Let your acts be seen by your servants; let you glory be seen by their children.  Let the kindness of the Lord our God be over us. Make the work of our hands last.  Make the work of our hands last!”


SOAKING IT IN:  This Psalm is attributed to Moses and causes me to wonder about the circumstances that brought Moses to pen it.  It is stated within this Psalm that the average age of man is 70 or at best 80.  If Moses is still before that age, it is written before he began his work with the Hebrew people.  Otherwise he has already exceeded that age.  Either way, it feels like it was written at a time when Moses felt God was angry him or maybe it was in a moment during the Exodus when the tasked seemed to be failing and he doubted his leadership. 

There were many times in the Exodus story when Moses had to intercede for the Hebrew people – like when they made the golden calf or were grumbling for what they considered to be lacking: water, food, comfort — but this Psalm feels personal.  If this was written by Moses ahead of the Exodus, it might have come from a personal standpoint of all the time he has wasted individually running for his life and hiding out with the sheep. 

Sure, he had married and had a family, but I do wonder how much time he spent living in the past and feeling helpless for all those who were ongoingly being abused in slavery under Pharoah. No doubt Moses could not get the images of abuse out of his head.  Regret is heavy in this Psalm and the feeling of being totally useless in the end is suffocating. 

Moses as a young man had seen the awful oppression and he had lunged out and killed the one Egyptian because of it, but that hadn’t done a thing to help the masses.  Moses’ own personal salvation from the mass killing of babies would have humbled him and made him sympathetic and wishing he could make a difference for the Hebrews, like his mother had done in saving his life.  But once he had committed murder, he ran and was no longer able to help the people – his people who were oppressed and mistreated in every way.

Maybe in this Psalm, it is just before God calls him to the mission field to free the Hebrews though in his 80’s and lead them to the promised land.  He feels he is nearing the end of his life and his reflections are not comforting.  He is feeling useless and guilty for not making a difference.  He is feeling he has abandoned the very people he belonged to and missed his chance to be effective – all to save his own life.  What does any moments of happiness matter if you feel useless – dried up – guilty. 

His first 40 years in Egypt had been filled with privilege and wonder – the green young years – but since the murder, well everything has gone off course -dried up.  Moses is pleading – no matter what the circumstance of his writing this Psalm – to be a useful vessel… for his life to have meaning – to feel a healthy relationship with God and not feel that God is angry with him and ready to just be rid of him.  Moses understands that the only way for life to have purpose is to move on from retreat and engage with God in the plans ahead.

We all desire to leave our mark and make a difference with our living.  If this was written ahead of God’s call of Moses to return to Egypt and confront Pharoah on behalf of the Hebrews, we know the rest of the story – the first salvation story – where Moses is in the lead role – marching the people forward to the promosed land.  Moses is the forerunner of Jesus, who, though he had to be convinced to heed God’s call, certainly become strong for the battle.

This earnest and honest prayer that covers both disappointment and pleads for more opportunities sets the stage for God to be glorified even when using aging vessels – as good as dead.  Every day of our life – every breath we take, and every step we make is useful to God’s Kingdom as we earnestly place ourselves at God’s use. 

This is the day – we don’t know about tomorrow – but today is the day!


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