I had a hard time with getting ready for this talk for our Ladies’ Tea.
You know how hard it is to think of something encouraging to say when the last few weeks have been rather emotionally draining?
I’m sure we have all been there before.
It’s life. Life has its ups and downs, twists and turns.
It can be ecstatically beautiful one moment while being exhaustingly difficult the next.
So when I was asked to do this talk, I was greatly blessed by one of the most difficult passages I have had to study in a long while.
And it’s not so much the passage itself, but more of getting out of my own head space to think critically about this passage and allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to me.
During the last two weeks my mind has been in Tacoma with my uncle who has been the hospital due to complications following the removal of a golf ball size tumor from his brain.
It has been on my grandparents who are up there to take care of him and the fact they are not emotionally strong enough or physically able enough to take care of him.
It has been on my mom who is facing her own upcoming surgery while having to juggle her job, her parents, her brothers and her nephew. She is having to make medical decisions for her brother now.
So I had a hard time trying to focus my mind on this passage. Which is a bit funny considering what it says.
This is Psalm 90:
Lord, you have been our refuge in every generation.
Before the mountains were born,
Before you gave birth to the earth and the world,
From eternity to eternity, you are God.
You return mankind to dust,
saying “return, descendents of Adam.”
For in your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that passes by,
like a few hours of the night.
You end their lives; they sleep.
They are like grass that grows in the morning- in the morning it sprouts and grows.
By evening it withers and dries up.
For we are consumed by your anger; we are terrified by your wrath
You have set our unjust ways before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
For all our days ebb away under your wrath; we end our years like a sigh.
our lives last seventy years, or if we are strong, eighty years.
Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed they pass quickly and we fly away.
Who understands the power of your anger?
your wrath matches the fear that is due you.
Teach us the numbers of our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts,
Lord- How long?
Turn and have compassion on your servants
Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days.
Make us rejoice for as many days as you have humbled us
for as many years as we have seen adversity
Let your work be seen by your servants, and your splendor by their children
Let the flavor of the Lord our God be on us;
Establish for us the work of our hands-
Establish the work of our hands!
This whole passage is reminiscent, at least to me, of one of my favorite books of the Bible- Ecclesiastes. As you heard, it’s about the fleeting life of man, how God can simply blink and a thousand years pass away, how we live and die with but a sigh.
To some that may sound depressing, and some days it can be particularly difficult to handle.
But, like Ecclesiastes, it is also about the eternality of our God. And that is what is the true comfort.
No matter what goes on in this world- going into space or being thrown into wars, births and deaths, inventions or politics, marriages and divorce, ultimately these will all just disappear. These all just short moments in time.
Take a moment to look at your hands with me:
What do you see?
Scars & calloused, nicks & bumps .
Hands have the ability to heal, hurt, create and destroy.
On the body of a mother, they have the balanced ability to discipline even as they wipe away tears.
I have always had a fascination with watching a person’s hands when they talk.
Hands show life. Age and wisdom are etched into these moving appendages.
Whether they are soft with youth or coarse from work, they have the great ability to bring forth beauty.
The work of our hands though are fleeting.
No matter how long we walk this earth, eventually whatever we have created with our hands will wither and fade away.
We pack so much to do in our lives, we are always racing past where we are in the moment to plan for what is next. In that race, we lose sight of the present moment of the joy and even the tears.
We lose sight of the refuge that God has always been to us.
No matter when we were born, the only thing that has always been the same is our God.
We can work ourselves to the bone, attempting to build something that might last, but no matter how much effort we put into it, eventually, as time slips through the hour glass, it will start to crumble and fall apart.
Even though those great pyramids a half of a world away have stood there for over 5,000 years, even they, manmade amazements are crumbling away.
There is only one true refuge left for humanity, the only refuge we have ever had. Under God’s shadow.
The psalmist’s cry at the end of this psalm “Let the favor of the Lord Our God be on us; establish for us the work of our hands- establish the work of our hands!” it isn’t about making what we physically create on earth last, but rather, don’t let our worship return to us empty.
This psalm has been attributed to Moses, the Israelites are on their way to the Promised Land, but due to their sin- even their secret sins, they were forced to wander the wilderness for 40 years. 40 years for those who first left their slavery to weaken and eventually die. So that a new generation might step in to the new land without the falsehoods of the past coming with them.
God’s anger might have seemed so strong to these people, but because a thousand years is a blink of time, 40 years of his anger is not that much. He quickly lifted his wrath from his people so that they might have joy.
Moses, who had so faithfully followed God would never step foot into the land he wanted to see. Because he allowed man’s fickleness to sway him from his course.
Every day was counted by God, each man and woman lived their allotted time. They grew fast and lush but quickly faded away with just a sigh to mark their passing.
Moses’ plea here was that we might have as much joy as we have had adversity.
I could echo that plea. Sometimes it seems that no matter what you do you can never get past the obstacle in your way. The whole mountain that is just really a little mole hole is going to give you difficulty but it is the way we worship in that moment that counts.
In our moments of being humbled we will have moments to rejoice.
God’s faithful love has never changed. It won’t change in the moments when he disciplines us so that we may grow righteous, it won’t change despite the sins we all carry in our hearts.
The only thing that never changes is God. He has always loved us, he always will. But his love is the love of a father who will not allow his children to do bad. We will be allowed to feel his anger but we will always rest in his love.
Our worship needs to reflect that.
Establish the work of our hands. Don’t let our worship be fleeting. Let our worship echo throughout all eternity with the eternal God.
We were given a great gift in our ability to worship. Our worship does not always have to be happy, it can be filled with every emotion we ever feel.
The beauty of our God is that he is so big and powerful and he knows us so well, that he can take our tears, our anger, and our laughter and find the loveliness that he always sees in his creation.
There is no set rule in how we are to worship our God.
We can praise him outside as much as we can in the pew. Some of us cannot put the words to our prayers so we just literally cry out to him, others paint or create to try show their passion for him.
He accepts all forms of worship because he has created us all in his image.
Our worship is only empty when we refuse to enter into it.
We must allow our short lives to be full of God, we need to see his hands in the moments of adversity and remember that he is also in those moments of joy.
While I highly doubt any of us will find ourselves stumbling through the desert for 40 years, we might find ourselves wandering in moments that seem like a wasteland of faith. Where it is so hard to remember that God is good.
I encourage you in those moments try to remember the joy filled ones you have had. Build off of that worship and find the strength to praise God even when it feels like it will make you bleed. Our pain and tears are a sign of worship as well.
God is our refuge. We will have moments of great joy but also moments of great sorrow. Our lives are fleeting but God is eternal.
Find peace in that.
God will never change. And he will never leave you.
Our worship will last even when we will not. So rejoice loudly in every moment of your life, and I believe that echoes of your life will be felt for all eternity because you will be worshipping the eternal God.