I wrote briefly on this psalm a while back, but after rereading it, I’ve decided to come back to it and add to my comments. In this psalm, we see the mortality of people in contrast to the eternal nature of God.
I love the first verse.
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. (1)
Right from the beginning, we see God’s eternal nature. That though generations come and go, he was, he is, and he ever will be. And just as he was a shelter for those who came before us, he is a shelter for us now, and ever will be so.
The same God who watched over Abraham, Isaac, Jacob watches over us now. The same God who walked with Peter, John, and James, walks with us now. He was here before they were ever born, and even before time began. As Moses put it,
Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (2)
In contrast, our lives are but a breath. Moses wrote,
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. (3-6)
It’s hard to fathom. If I live a out a full lifespan, I’ve probably reached the halfway point of my life. I’ve experienced a lot of things. A lot of joys. A lot of sorrows. A lot of hurt. A lot of healing. A lot of victories. A lot of failures. Yet all of it is but a drop in the ocean. A mere pin prick on history’s timeline. And not even that in the face of eternity.
Yet for the time that God has given to us to live on this earth, he will hold us accountable. Life, as short as it is, is a gift. And so the question is, how are we living it?
So many people live for the pleasures of this world, indulging in lives of sin. But Moses wrote,
You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. (8)
In other words, God sees our sin and he will judge us for it. We may think no one sees, and we may even get away with it for a while. But everything will be brought to light eventually, and be judged. So Moses writes,
If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. (11)
We often talk about God’s love, but it’s good to remember the fear of the Lord as well. That God hates sin, and will not leave it unpunished. I’m not saying that we ought to live in fear that God is ready to strike us with a lightning bolt for every sin we commit. But we shouldn’t become so callous to sin that we think he doesn’t care. We need to remember that while God is a God of love, he is a holy God as well, and he calls us to be holy too.
So Moses prayed,
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (12)
Let us remember where true joy comes from in life, singing as Moses did,
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. (14)
And let us commit every second of every day to him, praying,
May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us — yes, establish the work of our hands. (17)