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May 27, 2019

Sermon Psalm 90  . . . “Bible songs:  Teach us to number our days”

“Bible songs:  Teach us to number our days”

Psalm 90

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

An elderly couple was having a little trouble remembering things, or so the story goes, so they decided to see their doctor to make sure nothing was wrong.  When they arrived at the doctor’s office, they explained the problems they were having with their memory.

After checking the couple out, the doctor told them that they were physically alright, but might want to start writing things down--making notes to help them remember.  The couple thanked the doctor and left.

Later that night, while watching TV, as the old man got up from his chair, his wife asked, “Where are you going?”

He replied, “To the kitchen.”

She asked, “Will you please get me a bowl of ice cream?”

“Sure,” he answered.

His wife added, “Don’t you think you should write it down, so you can remember it?”

“No,” he answered.  “I can remember it.”

“Well, I also would like some strawberries on top.  You better write that down, because I know you’ll forget,” his wife said.

“I can remember it--you want a bowl of ice cream with strawberries.”

Then she said, “Well, I also would like some whipped cream on top.  I know you’ll forget that.  You better write it down.”

With a hint of irritation in his voice, he said, “I don’t need to write it down.  I can remember it--ice cream, strawberries, whipped cream.”

About twenty minutes later, he returned from the kitchen with a plate of bacon and eggs.

She stared at the plate for a moment, and said, “You forgot my toast.”

Or think of an elderly woman who bought a line of expensive cosmetics guaranteed to make her look years younger.  And after a lengthy sitting before the mirror, applying the “miracle” products, she asked, “Darling, honestly, what age would you say I am?”

Look over her carefully, he replied, “Well, judging from your skin, twenty; your hair, eighteen; and your figure, twenty-five.”

“Oh, you flatterer!” she gushed.

“Hey, wait a minute!” he interrupted.  “I haven’t added them up yet.”

Mystery novelist Agatha Christie once said, “An archaeologist is the best husband a woman can have.  The older she gets, the more interested he is in her.”

And George Burns once said, “I’m so old that, when I was just a boy, the Dead Sea was only sick.”

Old age.  The Bible has a lot to say about old age.  The prophet Isaiah wrote:  “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”  And a man named Asaph wrote in Psalm 73:  “My flesh and my heart may fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

So it is in the words of today’s Bible song, Psalm 90.  Please turn in your Bible to page 630.  Psalm 90, verse 1:  “A prayer of Moses, the man of God.  Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.  You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’  For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.  You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning:  in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.”  Verse 10:  “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”  And verse 12:  “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

If you’d glance back for a moment to the opening words of Psalm 90, you’ll see that the text says, “Book Four.”

What’s that mean?  It means that the book of Psalms is itself divided into separate books--five in all.  Book 1 includes Psalms 1-41, Book 2 includes Psalms 42-72, Book 3 is Psalms 73-89, Book 4 90-106, and Book 5 107-150.  And, interestingly enough, at the end of each book, you’ll find both a doxology and a benediction:  “Blessed be the Lord forever!  Amen and Amen.”

Also you should notice that Psalm 90 comes to us not from David or Asaph or the sons of Korah.  This one comes from Moses, making it, very likely, the oldest psalm of all.

And notice it doesn’t say, “A psalm of Moses,” nor does it say, “A song.”  Instead, it says, “A Prayer.”  It’s a deep, intimate, and heartfelt opening up and a pouring out of a man of God to God.  As he said in verse 1:  “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Even more, we can’t say for sure exactly when he wrote it.  Some guess it was at the very beginning of the forty years of wandering through the wilderness.  Others guess it was towards the end.

But if it’s true that it was towards the end, then this psalm can mean so much more.

Think about it--for forty years, Moses had led his people, God’s people, from beyond the Red Sea all the way to the Promised Land--forty years of struggle, hardship, victory, defeat, and failure.  Time after time, the people doubted him, questioned him, and even fought against him.  And time after time, God was faithful to provide everything they could possibly need--meat and bread and water, a cloudy pillar by day, and a pillar of fire by night.

And because of their lack of trust and disobedience, God was determined that none of them should enter the promised land, except two--Joshua and Caleb.  And assuming a million had come out of Egypt, that means that Moses witnessed, on average, eighty funerals a day!  No longer did he wear the “rosy spectacles of youth.”  Now he was a man overwhelmed by death.

And so he prayed in verse 1:  “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting You are God.”

It seems we talk about time a lot.  We even sing about it.  Back in 1970, for example, just three years before he died, Jim Croce wrote a song called, “Time in a Bottle.”  He said:  “If I could save time in a bottle, the first thing that I’d like to do, is to save every day till eternity passes away, just to spend them with you.”  A few years later, in 1977, a group called Kansas performed a song called, “Dust in the Wind,” a song based on Ecclesiastes chapter 3.  “Dust in the wind,” they sang.  “All we are is dust in the wind.”  And in 2003, another group called, “Five for Fighting,” sang “100 Years.”  “There’s never a wish better than this, when you only got a hundred years to live.”

Think about it like this--imagine for a moment that you, out of the blue, received a letter in the mail, from a place called, “Life Bank.”  And in that letter, they say they’re happy to inform you that, every day, someone will be kind enough to deposit $86,400 into an account that bears your name.  What a gift!  What a treasure!

But the letter also states that there are a couple of catches.  First, you can’t carry over any balance from one day to the next, for what you fail to use each day will be deleted from your account.  What’s here today will be gone tomorrow.  And second, you can’t borrow from the next day’s deposit.

But the real sticker is that, at any time, without any prior warning, the bank holds the right to close your account and perform an audit to assess just how you used the funds in your account.  And, depending on that audit, you’ll either be penalized or rewarded.

I don’t know about you, but I would want to put every penny to good use, and not waste even one red cent!

Believe it or not, every day, God has gifted every one of us with 86,400, not dollars, but seconds--no more and no less.  We can’t borrow against tomorrow, nor can we go back and retrieve wasted moments from yesterday.  What we do not use carefully and wisely today is lost forever.  And since there is an unannounced day coming for each and every one of us, it makes absolute sense to consider just how we might wisely use every second of every day.

As Moses wrote in verse 10:  “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.”  And verse 12:  “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Are you worried God doesn’t have time for us?  He’s been “our dwelling place in all generations.”  From everlasting to everlasting, He is God.

Are you worried He doesn’t have the strength?  He brought forth the mountains and formed the earth and the world.  A thousand years in His sight are like a day gone by.

Are you worried He doesn’t have the love?  He so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

As Paul wrote to the Romans:  “One will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Carl McCunn was an American adventurer and wildlife photographer.  After serving in the Navy, and living for a little while in Seattle, he moved to Anchorage, Alaska.  Then in March of 1981, he paid a bush pilot to land him beside a remote lake, 225 miles northeast of Fairbanks.  It’s where he planned to photograph wildlife for about five months.  And he brought along with him five hundred rolls of film, 1,400 pounds of provisions, two rifles and a shotgun.  And for those five months, he made his home in a tent in the wilderness.

But when August came, he realized that he hadn’t told his pilot exactly when to pick him up.  He wrote in his diary:  “I think I should have used more foresight about arranging my departure.  I’ll soon find out.”

Two weeks later, when the pilot still didn’t show up, he began to lose hope.  After all, he hadn’t told his friends or even his father just when he planned to get back.  He even told them that, if things went well, he might stay past the summer, into fall.

Fortunately, in late August, an Alaskan State Trooper flew over the lake and noticed his campsite.  He even saw Carl wave a red bag.  On his third pass, he saw him casually walking back to his tent.

Later he wrote in his diary:  “I recall raising my right hand, shoulder high, and shaking my fist on the plane’s second pass.  It was a little cheer--like when your team scored a touchdown or something.  Turns out that’s the signal for ‘ALL O.K.  DO NOT WAIT!”

Before long, snow started to fall, and the lake froze.  By November, he ran out of food.

When they discovered his body early in February, they found a note he had written to his father, telling him how to develop his film.  And in his 100-page diary were the words, “Dear God in heaven, please forgive me my weaknesses and my sins.  Please look over my family.”

Any of us would say it was strange that he had so carefully planned his trip into the wilderness, but had no plans on how to get back out.  But stranger still is the fact that many live their lives without making any plans to face eternity.

As Moses once prayed, so we also pray, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

 

O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, be Thou our guard while troubles last, and our eternal home, for Jesus’ sake.  Amen

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