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Psalm 90 (ESV) — A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. 1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed.
8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 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.
11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?
12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
Do you pray? I am sure that most of you do. Who do you pray to? You say that you pray to God. What is this God like that you say you pray to?
At this point people often stop, think, and then give a tentive answer. Some would say that the god to whom they pray is the divine energy that fills the universe. Others would say that the god to whom they pray is an unknown, unknowable higher power. Others would say, we pray to the God of the Bible.
As a Christian I join you in praying to the God of the Bible. So what is the God of the Bible like to whom you pray?
At this point many of us stumble one more time. We know we are to pray to God, but we do not know the God to whom we pray very well at all.
This is extremely important.
I remember one time asking a worker in a store to give me some information about an item, only to discover that the person didn’t work there, but was a fellow shopper like me. How embarrassing!
Those of you new to the job are not quite sure what you can ask for or receive from your supervisor. The longer you work, the more informed you are about them, the better you are able to know the boundaries that exist with that person.
The more we know God, the greater confidence we have in our relationship with him. The writer of the book of Hebrews speaks of this when he writes,
Hebrews 4:16 ESV
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
In other words, our theology influences our prayer life. What we know about God helps us determine what we will pray and how we will pray.
We know we should pray according to his will. That is not new to us. We rarely ask someone for something if we know the answer is a definite “no.” We have great confidence to ask for something if the person is pretty likely to say “yes.” There are people I know that I would never ask for $20 to help me out and others that, if I needed it, would be the first I would ask.
But what is God’s will? The more we know God, the more we have a clearer answer to that question.
This morning I would like to illustrate this truth from the life of Moses.
Psalm 90 opens with words of praise, most familiar to us in the paraphrased form given them by Isaac Watts:
O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.
We are not sure who or when this Psalm was written. Scholars debate whether the inscriptions are part of the sacred text. For purposes of this message, I am going to assume that they accurately portray the author and context of the Psalms.
This Psalm is described as “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.”
The title indicates the author, but gives no hints as to when it was written. The beauty of a Psalm like this is that its scope is high enough and broad enough that it could cover many situations in Moses’ life. For example, he could have written this before the Exodus. He could have written this at Kadesh-Barnea during the wanderings in the wilderness. Many scholars believe that this was written four months after the Israelites leave Egypt and were camped near Mt. Sinai.
You remember the story. Moses goes up into the mountain and is gone for forty days. God gives him the Ten Commandments. As Moses returns he finds Israel has already broken the first commandment. They built a golden calf out of jewelry gathered from the people and are giving the calf credit for bringing them out of Egypt.
We pick up the story in Exodus 32.
Exodus 32:9–13 ESV
9 And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.” 11 But Moses implored the Lord his God and said, “O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”
This exchange between Moses and God may have been the inspiration for Moses’ prayer in Psalm 90.
This Psalm has a lot in it! I want to go through this Psalm and look at what Moses knew about God, his theology, and see how it affected his prayer.
Psalm 90:1–2 ESV
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
When we think about Israel in Moses’ time, we look at nomads in the desert. Any career military people can identify. The Jewish people started in Iraq, traveled to the present land of Israel, wandered around as nomads herding sheep and goats, traveled to Egypt and stayed there, first as honored guests and then as slaves for 400 years. Egypt was never thought of as home. Now in Psalm 90 they are wandering in the Sinai desert.
What is the one constant in their history? The Lord is their dwelling place. He is their refuge. Just like many people will say that home for them was where their mother was, whereever that might be, so Israel dwelt in the promises of God.
Moses identifies God has the creator. Two themes are given in the Bible. God was the creator of heaven and earth. He was the God who brought them out of Egypt. This signifies his great power. Theologians refer to God’s power as omnipotent.
Moses also identifies God as eternal. He existed before the formation of the world and he will be around into the indefinite future.
This is in stark contrast to us. We did not create, we are created beings. We start as dust and we will return to dust.
Psalm 90:3–6 ESV
3 You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4 For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5 You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6 in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
The fact that we are not eternal is in one sense the design of God. Sin keeps us from eternal life. God is the one who determines the end of man. The wages of sin is death.
The human race does not respect her creator. She is in opposition to the eternal God. God does not like his creation turning against him.
Psalm 90:7–8 ESV
7 For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
Moses knew that God was all knowing. Theologically we call this omniscience. He also is everywhere. We call this omnipresent. Because he knows everything and is everywhere, we do nothing in secret from God.
We used to sing a children’s song that said, “O be careful little eyes what you see. O be careful little eyes what you see. For your Father up above is looking down in love, O be careful little eyes what you see.”
Psalm 90:9–10 ESV
9 For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 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.
This is rather depressing, but true. In Moses’ day, few reached 70 and even fewer reached 80. It was especially true in the wilderness as they wandered around. People were dying because this generation was not walking with God.
Psalm 90:11 ESV
11 Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?
Knowing that God is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and eternal directly affects how Moses prays. If we understand God as Moses did, it affect how we pray as well.
First, because God is eternal and we are not, we need to use the limited time wisely.
Psalm 90:12 ESV
12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
How can we know the best ways to use the limited time we have? As we consider the relatively short time we have on this earth, we ask God to show us best how to use that time. Our theology affects our prayers.
Psalm 90:13 ESV
13 Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!
Knowing our sin and disobedience, how can we ever expect a holy God to do anything for us?
We pray for his pity. We pray that God will see where we are and return to bless us.
Knowing that God is a God of love, we pray that he would show his love to us.
Psalm 90:14 ESV
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Knowing that God is not only loving, but is eternal in that he will definitely be in our future and he is all powerful, we pray that as we return to God that he will restore our joy.
Psalm 90:15 ESV
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Realizing that the 400 years in Egypt had caused many to not know God well and wanting spiritual truth to be known to the next generation, Moses prays to the eternal and powerful God,
Psalm 90:16 ESV
16 Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children.
For people who have been wandering for so long and have gone from place to place, country to country, who owned no homes and had no land, there is a natural desire for more permanency. So they pray to the eternal God to give them something that will last.
Psalm 90:17 ESV
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
Would we pray a prayer like this? The answer is “yes” if we knew God as Moses did. In fact, our prayer would not be exactly like his because his prayer was seeded by his circumstances.
Our prayers are also seeded by our circumstances. If you lose a job, what do you really need help with? When you know God and see how he works, you can pray more effectively.
For example, in the job process, it’s easy to get stressed out. However, if you know in your heart that God is not stressed out about your future and that he has the whole world in his hands, you can pray that he will help you to stay patient and not to panic as you walk out of the house to look for work.
Often in a job process, people who are stressed out take it out on other people, animals or things. Knowing that God is watching you, you can pray for both the love and wisdom to deal in a godly way with all that is happening.
The apostle Paul prayed theologically. In other words, he used what he knew about God to help him in his time of distress.
2 Corinthians 1:3–4 ESV
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.
Paul experiences God’s comforts when he was stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and dealing with the side effects of his various persecutions. He knows that the God who helped him will help the Corinthians. He asks them for prayers in this matter.
2 Corinthians 1:11 ESV
11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
The better we know God, the more effective our prayers will be.
How well do you know God? If you are a Christian you now that God loves you, that he is merciful towa rds you. You know his grace as seen in Jesus Christ. You know he is eternal. You know he created the heavens and the earth.
I have two suggestions for you this week.

Suggestion 1: Write down what you know about God and pray

First, write down what you know about God. If you can attach a verse, that will help you. If you can’t, email the office and we will try to find one to help you.
After writing down what you know about God, ask yourself, from what you know about God, what kind of spiritual help do you need or do others need as you consider your prayer requests.
Then pray. Pray as Moses prayed. Tell God what you know about him and then ask him for the spiritual and physical help in light of who he is.
The prayer will be different for you. Don’t let that stop you from trying the exercise.
Suggestion 2: Read Job
The second suggestion is that you read Job 1. Next week we will see how our theology affect our ability to deal with stressful situations.
Ask yourself this question. What did the author of Job and Job know about God?
Then ask, How did what they know affect how they dealt with stressful situations.
If we want to know God, we can start by reading our Bibles and finding out what the holy scripture says. ­­
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