The Mercy of God Manís Only Refuge.
A prayer of Moses, the man of God, the prophet who stood in the relation of an intimate friend to the God of Israel, who here contrasts manís frailty, the consequence of his sin, with Godís eternity. This psalm is the oldest which has been preserved in the Psalter, the occasion for its writing probably being the incident recorded Num. 14, 22. 23. V. 1. Lord, the Majestic, the All-powerful, Thou hast been our Dwelling-place, a safe Habitation of refuge, in all generations, from one generation to the next, throughout the ages, the Messianic idea underlying the prayer. V. 2. Before the mountains were brought forth, by a process of divine generation, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, bringing them into existence in a manner exceeding human comprehension, by an absolute creative act, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God, His divine being extending out of a limitless past and reaching forward to a boundless future, the eternal, unchanging Lord and Creator, in whom the trust of all believers may rest secure forever. V. 3. Thou turnest man to destruction, changing the proud strength and beauty of their bodies into crushed particles, into dust, and sayest, Return, ye children of men, one generation sinking down into the misery of the grave, and a new generation arising by His creative will. From the moment of our birth we bear in our bodies the germ of death; the contrast is between the omnipotence and unchangeableness of God and the frailty and vanity of man. V. 4. For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, the eternal God, for whom, strictly speaking, time does not exist, regards them as nothing more than a disappearing moment, and as a watch in the night, as the third part of the night, which, even in the ease of men, passes by unnoticed; for during sleep the consciousness of the passing of time is lost. All earthly time does not exist for the everlasting God; He is exalted above all the changes of puny men. V. 5. Thou carriest them away as with a flood, a heavy and devastating rain, whose swift destruction carries mortals away into the sleep of death; they are as a sleep, their whole life is a sleep or a dream, which is past and gone before a person fully realizes it; in the morning they are like grass which groweth up, the blossoming grasses which come to a quick maturity. V. 6. In the morning it flourisheth, the flowers of the prairies and meadows opening their blossoms in rapid succession, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, the scythe putting an end to the short-lived glory of the meadow-flowers, and withereth. Cp. 1 Pet. 1, 24; Ps. 103, 15. 16. V. 7. For we are consumed by Thine anger, withering away in the glow of its heat, and by Thy wrath are we troubled, destroyed by the intense heat of Godís anger. Such is the impression which the destruction of one generation after the other is bound to make upon the thoughtful observer. V. 8. Thou hast set our iniquities, the open wickedness of deliberately leaving the paths of righteousness, before Thee, so that none of them is omitted or overlooked, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance; for the secrets of all menís heart are open and uncovered before the eyes of His omniscience. Cp. Ps. 19, 13. Note: If we see our sins in the proper spirit of repentance, then God does not see them, for they are then covered by the garment of Christís righteousness; but if we do not see our sins, then God surely will see them, for they remain uncovered before the light shining before Him, the light of His righteousness and holiness. V. 9. For all our days are passed away in Thy wrath, they are diminished. they vanish, because the anger of the Lord is manifested upon the sins; we spend our years as a tale that is told, like a murmuring, meaningless noise, which is not even brought out in a definite word. Thus the vanity of human life is again brought out. V. 10. The days of our years are threescore years and ten, literally, ďThe days of our years - in them seventy years,Ē not worth mentioning, an insignificant sum; and if by reason of strength, that is, if a man possesses unusual vitality, they be fourscore years, if he actually reaches the age of eighty years, yet is their strength, even that about which men are wont to boast, labor and sorrow, vanity and foolishness, misery and grief. How foolish, then, for men to regard this life as the most desirable thing and to neglect the care for eternity! For it is soon cut off, the life of mortals glides past speedily, and we flyaway. All the events of life move past our eyes in rapid flight; there is nothing stable, nothing lasting, in this world. Moses now draws his conclusion, summarizing the points contained in the previous paragraphs. V. 11. Who knoweth the power of Thine anger? this being as immeasurable as God Himself. Even according to Thy fear, so is Thy wrath, that is, Who fears the wrath of God in the proper measure? Who realizes what it means for his own fortunes! The great majority of people in the world go their heedless way, not knowing that death is hanging over their heads. But the believers are willing to learn their lesson. V. 12. So teach us to number our days, giving us the proper understanding that we realize the uncertainty of human life, knowing that every day may be our last day here on earth, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom, for that is surely the essence of wisdom, to be prepared for death at all times. The prayer of Moses now changes to a fervent intercession. V. 13. Return, O Lord, how long? turning back His face in mercy, since it had been averted so long in anger. And let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants, His merciful kindness not permitting the threatened destruction to strike them. V. 14. O satisfy us early with Thy mercy, His grace being their first food at the very break of the dawn, and being supplied in all rich fullness, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days; for the happiness brought by the assurance of the grace of God is a lasting pleasure, its happy excess and wholesome surfeit both satisfying and stimulating desire. V. 15. Make us glad according to the days wherein Thou hast afflicted us, in proportion to the period of misery which drove them to repentance, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Cp. Ps. 51, 12. V. 16. Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants, making the wonderful deeds of His grace manifest before them, and Thy glory unto their children, that generations to come may also realize the glory of God as manifested in his salvation of men. V. 17. And let the beauty of the Lord, our God, the sweet favor of the Majestic and All-powerful, who is at the same time the God of our salvation, be upon us, resting upon the believers throughout their lives; and establish Thou the work of our hands upon us, letting His blessing attend the proclamation of Godís glory in the work of redemption, as made by His children everywhere; yea, the work of our hands, establish Thou it, for only by and with the blessings of the Lord will the preaching of the Word, the proclamation of salvation, have success and the kingdom of the Lord on earth be built. Thus the prayer of Moses has significance and power for all periods of the Churchís existence, until the very end of time. 5)