************ Old Year's Sermon on Psalm 90:1 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 1, 2017
"Our Dwelling Place"
Old Years 2016
Where did you live during 2016? My answer is on El Cajon Ct. Mike's answer is W Walnut Ave. Joel's answer is Grand Rapids, North Carolina, and Nellis Ct. Amy's answer is Tamarack St.
We all are all thankful we have a place we can call home. Houses with insulated walls and locks on doors, conveniences like running water and electricity and gas, furnishings like chairs and tables and beds and desks, appliances like stoves and fridges and microwaves and freezers, entertainment devices like TVs and computers and stereos, cupboards and closets with food and medicine and clothing. In the place we call home we are protected from bad weather and bad people and bad bugs and other things that are outside.
Now, imagine you are one of the homeless people we all see wandering around Visalia. Often they are pushing a shopping cart filled with all their earthly possessions. What would you put in your cart? I can guarantee it won't be a TV set or a desktop computer or an arm chair. It would be things like sleeping bags, warm clothes, energy bars, bottled water, soap, and towels. If you are one of these homeless people, you don't have a place you call home. Thank God, I say, for a ministry like Visalia Rescue Mission which gives the homeless a place to stay.
I God is Our Dwelling Place (vs 1)
A Where did you live during 2016? If you are a Christian, if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, then the Lord God Almighty was your dwelling place, your home, your refuge during 2016.
(Ps 90:1) Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.In the Lord we find shelter, refuge, a safe haven we call home where He shelters, comforts, protects, preserves, and cherishes.
God is our dwelling place. When we hear God and dwelling place together, this should make us think of the tabernacle and the temple. And this, in turn, should make us think of Jesus Who tabernacled among us, full of grace and truth.
God is our dwelling place. In Christ, He is our dwelling place. In Him we live and move and have our being.
On the coldest nights Visalia Rescue Mission doesn't have room for everyone who wants and needs shelter. But with God there is room for all. All you need do, by the grace of God, is believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will discover God has made room for you.
Where did you live during 2016? My hope and prayer for everyone here and for all our loved ones is that God, in Christ, was your dwelling place.
B Now, a bit of an introduction to Psalm 90. Look at the heading: "A prayer of Moses the man of God." This means Psalm 90 is probably the oldest of all the psalms because Moses lived way before David and Solomon and Asaph and the other human authors of the psalms.
Moses has seen pharaohs come and go. Perhaps he saw their tombs under the pyramids. For sure, he saw many Egyptians who lost their firstborn in the tenth plague. And he saw the Egyptian soldiers who died at the Red Sea. All of them were laid to rest but none of them had God as their refuge, their home, their dwelling place. So who is Moses talking about in our text?
C "Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations"(Ps 90:1). "Our dwelling place." "Our." Moses is talking about all the believers he has written about in the first five books of the Bible: Adam & Eve, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham & Sarah, Isaac & Rebekah, Jacob, Joseph, Joshua, Caleb.
Moses is also talking about the children of Israel who were rescued from Egypt, taken across the Red Sea, and led through the wilderness to the border of Canaan. No matter where His people lived, whether in chains in Egypt, in a hot and dreary desert, or in a land flowing with milk and honey, God was their dwelling place, their home, their refuge. They were like Abraham, who though he left his home in Ur of the Chaldees and dwelt in tents among the Canaanites, yet he had a shelter in God.
People of God "throughout all generations" have God as their dwelling place, their shelter, their home (Ps 90:1). As you think back on 2016, does this include you?
II God is from Everlasting to Everlasting (vs 2)
A In speaking of God, in Christ, as our dwelling place, Moses recognizes that God is eternal.
(Ps 90:2) Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.Notice the phrase, "from everlasting to everlasting."
Notice also the phrase, "you are God." In the Hebrew text the word for God is "el." This is a title that focuses on the might and power of God. It means "Mighty One," "Powerful One."
God is not like any other shelter. His foundations never crack. His rafters never sag. His boards never rot. His windows never break. He is never worn or weakened or delapitated. No force in the universe has ever been able in even the smallest way to diminish His strength and power.
Osama Bin Laden thought he was safe and secure in his dwelling place in Afghanistan. Similarly, Saddam Hussein thought he was safe and secure in his dwelling place in Iraq. What am I saying? A dwelling place is only safe and secure against weaker enemies. Once a stronger force comes that your dwelling place cannot handle, you are no longer safe and secure. Today, you can try to shelter yourself with money, friends, family, insurance, body guards, alarm systems, and military power but these shelters are but straw houses that cannot offer you eternal protection. There is only one dwelling place, one shelter, that is everlasting and mightier than all other forces. That shelter is the eternal Creator of heaven and earth; this is the same God Who loves us and saves us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
B "Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations"(Ps 90:1). How far back into the past do you think Moses was looking when he penned these words? The burning bush, the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the provision of food and water for a nation of at least 2 million in the barren wilderness, and the defeat of various enemies were all before him; in all of this he experienced that God was his dwelling place. But Moses was looking way beyond all of this.
Way back in the beginning God showed Himself to be God, the Mighty One. How do we know this?
(Ps 90:2) Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world ...Moses reminds us our mighty God gave birth to the mountains, the earth, the world. To us this is just three ways of saying the same thing, but in the Hebrew it is literally the mountains, the earth, the land. We know from Genesis that God formed the earth first -- that is, the world -- and then later brought out the land and the mountains from the waters. Even before all of this, God was.
And then Moses takes an ever bigger leap: "from everlasting to everlasting you are God." Surely here is the greatness of God. He is the God of history. He is the God of creation. But beyond all that, He is the God of eternity. He is beyond and above His creation. He is above and beyond time. He is greater than the universe He produced. He existed before the universe. The Hebrew here is very interesting. It suggests the translation: "From the vanishing point in the past to the vanishing point in the future." God is our eternal dwelling place.
Do you hear the message to the children of Israel? Do you hear the message to you and me? God, in Christ, is always our dwelling place. In Him we can always find refuge and shelter and safety and security. No matter what happens. No matter what enemies we face. No matter what calamities we go through.
Think back on 2016. Was there any time when you were absent from God? Was there any place where you were absent from God? Of course not! As Paul writes in Romans 8:
(Rom 8:38-39) For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, (39) neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.In Christ, none of us can ever be separated from God. In Christ, we are safe and secure in our mighty and eternal God.
III Man is Fragile and Fallen (vs 3-12)
A Moses knows our need for God as our eternal dwelling place. He mentions two reasons: one, we are fragile; two, we are fallen.
First, Moses informs us we need our mighty and eternal God as our dwelling place because our earthly dwelling place is so fragile. Look at what Moses writes about the fragility of human life in verse 3:
(Ps 90:3-6) You turn men back to dust, saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men."Moses recalls here what he records in Genesis. I think of that somber scene of God's judgment on a fallen humanity: "for dust you are and to dust you will return" (Gen 3:19).
Now, notice what Moses all says about human fragility:
-Vs 3 - our bodies crumble. Our bodies crumble into dust.
-Vs 4 & 5 - our life span is nothing. Moses mentions the thousand years of Methuselah. Yet, what is this as measured against eternity? Our life is like a watch in the night, like a day that has just gone by. It is like a flower that springs up in the morning and is dry and withered and dead by evening.
-Vs 5 - our life is like a dream. Who remembers a dream a day later? A dream has no impact. No reality. Nothing to make it remembered.
The conclusion: our earthly body is but a weak and frail dwelling place. It is under death; which means it is also under sickness and weakness and the problems of aging.
We have seen the fragility of human life in our church family during 2016. I read a list of births -- who is more helpless than a little baby? But I also read a list of deaths -- who is more helpless than someone gasping for their last breath? We have seen the same lesson in the world at large. Think of the rich and famous who died in 2016: Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, Former First Lady Nancy Reagan, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, boxer Muhammad Ali, Hockey Great Gordie Howe, Astronaut and US Senator John Glenn. We have not only seen death but we have also seen illness, accident, surgery, cancer. All of these and more remind us of how fragile and short is human existence on this earth. All of these remind us that our earthly dwelling place is weak and frail. All of these remind us we need our mighty and eternal God as our dwelling place.
B Second, Moses informs us we need our mighty and eternal God as our dwelling place because not only death but also wrath broods over us as members of the fallen human race. We fallen creatures come under the judgment of God. This is the teaching of verses 7-12. Listen to just three of the verses:
(Ps 90:7-8,11) 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 ... (11) Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
We are under the wrath of God. Why? Because of our iniquities and sins.
Scientists do not really know why we die. Our bodies are collections of cells. And when we are born and grow into the prime of life our cells are constantly dividing and making copies of themselves and renewing themselves. At a certain point, however, our cells stop dividing and stop renewing and we go downhill toward death. Our cells have death programmed into them. It is like we come with a built in alarm clock that goes "ding" and then we start the downhill process that ends in death. Why?
Moses says it is because of God's anger against sin. "We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation" (Ps 90:7). We are sinners under the wrath of a mighty and eternal God. So, it is little wonder that we need something better than our earthly dwelling place.
C The world doesn't like to hear any of this. Many Christians don't like to hear this. What do they do when it comes to death? They try to avoid and postpone aging and death through face lifts, tummy tucks, exercise, diets, meditation, medication, and vitamins. They deny the reality of death with celebration of life services. Instead of saying the "D" word -- death -- they say things like "pass on, lost, bit the dust"; one site on the internet lists 101 words or phrases the world uses to avoid saying "death." And, when it comes to the wrath of God against sin, they fool themselves into thinking God isn't terribly angry with sin and that they are basically a good person who doesn't deserve judgment.
Look back over 2016. Have you experienced the frailty of life? Are you aware of God's judgment upon your life?
IV The Favor of God (vs 13-17)
A God, in Christ, is our "dwelling place." God, in Christ, has been our dwelling place during 2016. So what?
Because God, in Christ, is our dwelling place, Moses is able to take some of the saddest words from the first 12 verses and turn them into words of hope. He takes lemons and turns them into lemonade.
Verse 3 uses the word "Return." "Return to dust, O Sons of men." Verse 13 uses the same Hebrew word, "Relent/Return, O Lord!" Something ominous is turned into a humble invitation that was realized when God's Son became flesh and made His dwelling among us.
In verses 6 & 7 the morning introduces our momentary and fading glory that ends in death. We are "like the new grass of the morning." In verse 14 the morning becomes the dayspring of God's unfailing love.
In verses 9 & 10 our days and years are filled with trouble and sorrow. In verse 15 they are balanced by days and years of gladness.
B All of this is outdone by the prayer of the final two verses. Here Moses looks forward to the great and wondrous deeds which God our dwelling place will show to His servants, the "splendor" yet to be revealed, the divine favor -- literally, the sweetness -- which will rest upon us even as His glory rested upon the tabernacle and temple. Not least, we look forward to the time when our bodies are raised from the dead and our labor in and for the Lord is upheld.
These are not pious, pie-in-the-sky hopes. Phrase by phrase they tell us the result when God is our eternal dwelling place.
When we, the people of God, look back on 2016 we see that every moment of every day God, in Christ, has been our dwelling place. We see that in Him we live and move and have our being.
Does this group include you? Did you dwell in the shelter of the Most High and rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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