February 19, 2020
7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Wow. This is not the type of passage we like to sit and reflect on. It paints a depressing picture – both of our condition and of God’s response. The human life is described as short. It’s full of sin and pain. The best of our days are full of trouble and sorrow and then gone in an instant. Even more alarming is that despite being consumed by God’s anger, in verse 11 we read that we don’t even know the power of it! The smallest taste of it is enough to terrify us. Imagine the result if we were exposed to it’s full intensity. It’s hard to find comfort in this passage, since what we see is a wrathful God raging at our sin while we grind our way through 80 years of pain and end with a moan.
Comfort isn’t the goal of this portion of the Psalm. Instead, it’s trying to communicate that the stakes are very, very high. The psalmist is describing what is going on behind the scenes of our everyday lives. What might feel like a regular Wednesday of slogging through work or class is, in the spiritual reality, a thunderstorm of God’s emotion. On Monday we caught a glimpse of an eternal God. Today we see a holy God—burning with a passion for righteousness and angry at the destructiveness of our sin. Pause for a moment and reflect first on how this image of God makes you feel about him. Hold that image in your mind for just a minute.
The final verse in this section of Psalm 90 gives us the first taste of hope—not comfort, necessarily, but a hope that comes with understanding. From His eternal perspective, God sees the brevity of our earthly lives. From His righteous perspective, God sees our lives consumed with the consequences of sin. His anger is directed as much at those consequences of our sin as at the sin itself. There’s no question that God hates sin, but His anger is both broader and deeper than that. He hates what sin does to us. He mourns the wasted hours of our reaping what we have sown. Have you ever seen a friend’s life self destruct because of bad choices? Have you ever stood on the sidelines and wanted to scream, “Can’t you see what you are doing to yourself?” That is how the psalmist is describing God. How does your image of God change in this new light?
The challenge from the Psalmist is to see our lives from God’s perspective so that we will choose the path of wisdom. If we learn to “number our days” we will more readily feel the weight of the decisions we make. We will think carefully about the consequences of our actions and in the considering, choose wisely. Take a moment today and pray for a clearer understanding of how the decisions you make now will impact your future. Commit to making choices that reflect an eternal perspective.