Every man that is born of woman is but a frail and helpless creature. His time on earth is but a transient one – seventy, or at most eighty years – “threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years” (v 10).
In our article last week, we were reminded of man’s frailty (vv 1-6). Human life is so fragile that it can be extinguished at any moment: “His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish” (Ps. 146: 4). Like the green grass that flourishes in the morning, and soon withers, a man’s physical body declines with age. Each day of our life carries us nearer the day of our death. May these sobering thoughts cause us to reflect on the brevity and vanity of life. Let us determine to live each day given by the Lord for His service and the blessing of others.
What further lessons can we learn from Moses’ prayer in Psalm 90?
o God’s wrath and righteous judgment (vv 7-8)
“For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. 8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance” (vv 7-8)
After lamenting over the frailty of human life, Moses humbly acknowledged God’s prerogative to consume sinful man because they had rebelled against Him (v 7a). The word “consumed” literally means “to make an end of or expire or bring to pass”. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were created pure and perfect. But when enticed by Satan in the Garden of Eden, they succumbed and fell into sin. With their fall, sin entered into the world, condemning the whole human race to eternal death and damnation (Rom. 5: 12).
The psalmist confessed that they justly deserved God’s wrath and righteous judgment which they had by their sins, brought upon themselves. Here, Moses referred to himself and the disobedient Israelites in the wilderness. Time and again, Israel had provoked the Lord to anger with their murmurings and unbelief. They had presumed upon God’s mercy and continued in their rebellion against Him: “For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works. 33 Therefore their days did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble” (Ps. 78: 32-33). In His wrath, the Lord sent plagues and pestilences to consume them, and to cut short their lives: “… in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die” (Num. 14: 35). It must have been painful for Moses, their leader, to see the death of “this evil congregation, which murmur against me” (Num. 14: 27). For forty years, they wandered in the wilderness and as ordained by Jehovah, none remained of all that came out of Egypt. None of “this evil congregation” except for Caleb and Joshua, entered the Promised Land (Num. 14: 30).
Moses also confessed that they were “troubled” – literally “confounded by terror” – because of God’s wrath upon them (v 7b). “No fire consumes like God’s anger, and no anguish so troubles the heart as his wrath” (Treasury of David).
As sinners, we too are troubled when we consider God’s wrath and His sentence of death upon every man because of our sins. But we thank God for His saving grace through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Rom. 6: 23; Eph. 2: 4-9). As His redeemed children, we “shall not come into condemnation”, but are “passed from death unto life” (Jn. 5: 24).
Though God is merciful, He will not wink at sin nor overlook it: “Thou hast set our iniquities before thee” (v 8a). As mentioned earlier, the murmuring Israelites had to learn painful lessons when they had to face God’s wrath and His rod of discipline in the wilderness.
“Hence these tears! Sin seen by God must work death; it is only by the covering blood of atonement that life comes to any of us. When God was overthrowing the tribes in the wilderness he had their iniquities before him, and therefore dealt with them in severity. He could not have their iniquities before him and not smite them” (ibid).
Likewise when we are wayward or disobedient, the Lord corrects us to turn us back to Himself. Our Heavenly Father smites us in love: “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. 7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Heb. 12: 6-7). “An undisciplined child is an unloved, neglected and miserable child. No wise and good father would wink at the faults in his own children; how much less our heavenly Father whose love is perfect” (Bible Witness: March-June 2015).
Chastisement is God’s gracious way of turning His erring children back to the path of righteousness. Let us therefore accept His correction with a grateful heart. Pray for a teachable spirit that He might mould our lives for His glory and the blessing of our souls.
The psalmist also reminded the Israelites of the all-seeing and all-knowing nature of God: “ … our secret sins in the light of thy countenance” (v 8b). He encouraged them to confess their sins which had provoked God’s wrath against them. God was angry with them for a just cause. He had seen their sinful ways – their murmurings, defiance, unbelief, contempt of the Promised Land and their “secret sins”.
None can hide from our omniscient God. Every deed, thought and motive, even “our secret sins”, are noted by Him. He sees through our excuses and deceptions. God’s judgment is righteous and just and He will deal with those who try to cover their sins.
Have we sinned against the Lord and our fellowmen? Let us repent, confess our sin and get right with God. Let us be conscious that we live in His holy presence. Like the psalmist, let our prayer be: “Cleanse thou me from secret faults” (Ps. 19: 12). May the Lord grant us grace to maintain a pure and upright heart before Him. (… to be continued)