Feb 26 - Time

Time

February 26, 2017

Psalm 90:1-12

 

TIME

February 26th, 2017

Psalm 90:1-12

 

Based on a sermon by Andy Stanley.  Many thanks to Andy for some of his thoughts.

 

One of the most difficult things about relationships is when we can’t see eye to eye.  That is, we don’t see our reality or our circumstances the same way that the other person sees it. 

 

Wouldn’t parenting be much easier, if we could just get our kids to see the world as we see the world? 

 

Wouldn’t it be much easier if they would see just how important it is for their future to get a good education?  That they would see the necessity of taking on some responsibilities in the home instead of just feeling entitled and contributing nothing? 

That they would get just how important it is to eat properly because without health you’ve got nothing, and how important it is to make smart choices even now, because of the immense amount of pain and sorrow that could be avoided in the future? 

 

And wouldn’t growing up be a lot easier if our parents could see the world as we see it?

How important friends are when it comes to feeling valuable? 

How important it is to gain greater independence and autonomy from our parents? 

How important it is to study something that resonates with us rather than something that will result in high income but we will hate to do?

 

And isn’t the same true with our second most difficult relationship? 

How can I get my spouse to see the world the way I see it? 

How can I get my spouse to agree with me when it comes to the issue of money ... or sex ... or parenting ... or the importance of date nights ... or the division of chores, who does what around the home ... or what it means to have an open conversation ... or how to deal with conflict ... or what it means to show appreciation and affection ... or why it is important not to dredge up the past. 

 

Wouldn’t life be a lot easier if everyone would just shut up and agree with us? 

 

[By the way, one of the lyrics in a Paul McCartney song (we can work it out) that I dislike the most is the one that says:  “Try to see it my way, do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?  While you see it your way, run the risk of knowing that our love may not last long.” ]

 

Our parents thought the same thing, as we who are parents today think, and as our kids will think when they are parents: 

 

Kiddo, one day you’ll see that I’m right.  While this may not make any sense to you right now, you just wait until you have kids of your own.  One day you’ll get it.  You will know that what I’m telling you is not because I hate you, but because I love you and want the best for you.  If you could just see things the way I see things, you would do what I’m telling you.”

 

What if our heavenly Father felt the same way about you and me?  If we could in fact see things from his perspective, would we not do what he tells us to do? 

 

By the way, isn’t that what Paul writes when he says that when we have our minds renewed we would be able to discern God’s will, to see things the way that God sees things, and so be transformed (Rom 12:2)?

 

One of the most powerful prayers that we can pray, and one that should be central to our faith, is for God to show us the way that he sees things ... the way he sees our relationships, our families, our jobs, our studies, our finances, our potential, our church, our neighbours, the orphans and widows of our day?

 

Brandon Heath’s song, “Give me your eyes” is just one aspect of that prayer:

 

Give me your eyes for just one second,
give me your eyes so I can see,
everything that I keep missing,
give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted,
the ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me your eyes so I can see.

 

Brandon Heath’s lyrics reflect the hope that seeing is not only believing but actually doing.  Sight turns to the use of one’s arms.

 

Today I want us to think about the way that God sees time and what that may mean in the way that we live our lives.  Most of us realize that our earthly life really consists of the time that we have while on earth.  Whatever the time may be between our birth and death, it is our most valuable commodity, our most precious asset, for one, because it is non-renewable.

 

Most of the time, we don’t think about it, but sometimes we realize it, especially when we speak about time as if it was money.  We talk about spending time, investing time, wasting time.  Of course, unlike money, we cannot bank time.

 

At the end of their lives, some people spend a lot of money trying to buy themselves more time.  Maybe you’ve known of someone who spent a small fortune on operations or alternative treatments in the US or Europe or Mexico or somewhere else.  Some people will spend their life savings trying to buy themselves more time. 

 

Have any of you watched the movie, “In Time”?  A 2011 Sci Fi movie where people stop aging at 25, but are genetically engineered to live one more year.  In their 26th year time becomes currency.  They can add minutes to their life by working or by paying for additional time. 

But they will lose time when they buy something or when they give it away to someone else. 

 

There is a running green fluorescent clock running on the forearm. When it hits zero, your time runs out and you die.  Practically, what that meant is that the rich as well as criminals (who could steal time from the powerless) could stay young for a long, long time, while those without money or power die young. 

 

The reality is, that we simply don’t know when our time runs out, and unlike the movie, we can’t buy any more.  But what if we could?  Would you sell a day of your time to someone else, a week, a month, a year, five years?  And what would that be worth to you? 

 

What would you charge me for a year off your life?  And would you regret selling it to me when it comes to the end of your life?  Or even more interesting, would you ever consider giving away some of your time to another person?  Maybe you would be willing to give it all away for someone who is really dear to you?

 

So how does God see our time?  If we were able to see our own time as he does, would that mean that we might live our lives differently?   

 

Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses in the epilog to the Psalm.  We have no idea when the titles to the Psalms were added, but they were included in all copies of the Psalms that are still in existence.  Some scholars conclude that they were added around the time of Nehemiah, others that they were added earlier.  Whatever the case, it may very well be that Moses actually wrote this Psalm. 

 

If he did, it would be the oldest of all the Psalms in the Bible.  We are not certain when Moses lived. Estimates range from 1600 BC to 1200 BC.  If you have read in the OT about Moses, you’ll likely remember that he was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter, so he grew up in a very privileged position at the court of, who was back then, the most powerful man in the world. 

 

Moses, who knew that he wasn’t Egyptian by birth, but Jewish, saw the Jewish people abused as slaves by the Egyptians.  At 40 years of age, for whatever reason, he becomes so angry about it that he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Jew (Ex 2:12) and had to flee for his life. 

 

He spent the next 40 years in Midian working for a man named Jethro, who would become his father in law (Ex 2:21-22). 

 

It was only at age 80, when God appeared to him in the burning bush (Ex 3).  It was at that point, that Moses had to decide whether he was going to give up his life of safety and relative comfort, or go and put everything on the line by going back to Egypt in order to fulfil God’s purpose for his life

 

His decision is the only why we know of him today.  In fact, if I asked you to name anyone from between 1600 to 1200 BC, apart from Moses, you may be hard pressed to do so.  Even if you’re familiar with the biblical account and could come up with Aaron or Miriam or maybe Joshua, the reality is that even those individuals are only known because of Moses’ decision.  Had he decided to stay in Midian, we would likely not be able to name anyone from that era.  That is how significant his choice was.    

 

In Psalm 90, the Psalm attributed to Moses, we are given a perspective about our lives, the time span of our lives.  So what was the basic message?  At its core, the message of the Psalm is that in order for us to see our own time and life correctly, we have to see it in the context of how God sees it

 

Do any of you have a drawer or box at home with a bunch of electronic cables and chargers? 

 

We have a box like this in our office at home.  If I reached into the box and pulled something out, I would be apt to call Kathy and ask her, “Honey, what is this?

 

This would be a question inquiring about the purpose of said cable or connector or old electronic device that I am holding in my hand.  In essence I am asking, “Why are we holding on to this?”  “Why is it living in a box in our office?”  “What is it for?”  “What does it do?”  “What is its purpose?
 

And when Kathy answers the question, she would tell me its purpose in terms of what it is connected to.  “Oh, you know, that’s an old printer cable I am keeping in case you need it for the printer you have sitting on your shelf in the church office.”  Or, “That’s the charger for your old cell phone which you want to keep as a spare.” 

 

And when she tells me that, when she tells me its purpose in terms of what it is connected to, then I know what it is for and why it’s still around.  Something that just minutes before seemed to have no purpose and no meaning and no value, all of a sudden does. 

 

Have you ever thrown things away that seem to have no value and no purpose, only to discover later that it was of great value and purpose to someone else, usually your spouse?

 

“Sweetie, have you seen my old wrist watch, you know the one that needed a new battery?”  “What, you threw it out?”  “I know that it’s been sitting in our junk drawer for the last 7 years, but it was a special gift from my best friend in elementary school and I just bought a new battery for it.” 

 

Have you ever thrown something out, thinking at the time that there was absolutely no value to hanging on to it, only to discover later that someone else absolutely needs this wire, or rusty knife, or cord, or doo-hickey to complete some project or make something work? 

 

I’ve gotten myself into trouble in the past because of this and now am accused of tossing out whatever cannot be found, even when I’m completely innocent!  But that’s a topic for another sermon.

 

So let’s quickly look at the Psalm.

 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.                                     Psalm 90:1

 

The Psalmist addresses God, but in reality is telling his readers something about their lives.  No matter when we are born and however long we may live, every person who ever lived and ever will, should realize that he or she exists within the context of God’s existence

 

There is a connection between God and humans, and every human, whether aware of it or not, actually belongs to God, and lives in the context of God, is alive because of God.   We live in God and thus our lives are connected to God.  The Psalmist continues:

 

Before the mountains were brought forth, before you formed the universe and the earth, you existed, O God, from everlasting to everlasting.                      Psalm 90:2

 

If you think about this, that’s an amazing statement.  Every culture back then worshipped a pantheon of gods and goddesses. 

 

In Egypt, where Moses was raised, there were many gods like Amun (creator god), Atum (creator god), Aten (sun), Horus (with head of hawk, sun, sky, kingship, healing), Geb (earth god), Osiris (god of death and resurrection and the underworld), Anubis (protector of dead), and Ra (sun god), and just as many goddesses like Nut (sky goddess), and Osiris’ wife Isis, and Hathor (goddess linked with afterlife, motherhood, and sky). And many of these gods and goddesses were created by other gods.

 

When Moses asked God what his name is, God said that his name is “YHWH”, or in English, I am the one who isI am the one who exists. In other words, among all of the gods and goddesses worshipped under the sun, I am the one and only one who actually is.

 

And that is reflected in what the Psalmist is telling us:  God is the uncreated Creator. A Creator without a beginning and end. The only true God.  He is telling us that there is but one God who existed in eternity past and who will exist in eternity future.[1] 

 

In other words, God’s eternal existence is the context for looking at the length of our own lives.  Regardless of what our own lifespan may be, the meaning and value of our lives is tied up to the God who existed from eternity past and will exist in eternity future. 

 

You return people back to dust, saying, “Return (or: come again), you children of man!”  To you a thousand years are like a day that has already passed, like a watch [= 3 hours] in the night.                        Psalm 90:3-4

 

1000 of our years are like 3 hours that that have already passed.  So whether our lifespan is 7 or 27 or 77 or 117 years, our whole lifetime is but a blip, an almost imperceptible tick, to God. 

 

Year to year you sow people (or: you sweep people away).  They are like the grass that greens and blooms in the morning, that flourishes in the morning, and that fades and withers in the evening.      Psalm 90:5-6

 

These words really make no sense in a region with plenty of rainfall.  We have to be understood these from the perspective of someone living in a very arid climate where plants can easily die from a lack of precipitation. 

 

Therefore, from God’s perspective, human life is incredibly, incredibly short. We are barely there and we’re gone again. 

 

Sometimes, we too may get a glimpse of God’s view of our lifetime.  It seems to me that every time I turn around, I’m another 10 years older.  And maybe you’re realizing that as well.  You’ve just spent 10 years in the rat race, possibly working a job you don’t enjoy, trying to make ends meet, and you blink and another 10 years have gone by.    

 

The Psalmist is begging us to ask: “What in the world is the purpose, the meaning, behind the quickly passing, very little, time I have here on earth?  If I am like the grass, here today and gone tomorrow, what’s the point?  Why am I even here?

 

If, in light of eternity our lives are barely a blip in time, we should be forced to ask ourselves the question, “So what’s the point?”  It’s like pulling ourselves from the junk drawer, holding ourselves up, and asking, “What’s this short life for?  What am I for?” 

 

The answer to that question will be different depending on whether or not we recognize that we are made to be connected to something or someone other than ourselves. 

 

On the one hand, like the writer of Ecclesiastes, we can start from the premise that there is no connection outside of ourselves and, therefore, that there is absolutely no point to our existence!  Meaningless, meaningless.  Everything is meaningless.  And if life is ultimately meaningless, let’s forget about some higher purpose and just squeeze as much enjoyment as possible out of life during the time we’re here!  

 

Ecclesiastes is actually where the expression, “Eat, drink and be merry (or: happy), for tomorrow we die" originates (cf. Eccl 8:15).[2]  Since there is absolutely no purpose behind our existence or the things we do, let’s spend our time trying to get as much enjoyment out of our brief existence as we possibly can. 

 

On the other hand, we could recognize that, like the purpose of a cord pulled out of a junk drawer, our own purpose requires connection.  And as long as we are disconnected from the everlasting to everlasting, we are like a phone cord without a phone jack or a phone. We are like an adaptor without an electrical outlet and without the right gadget to charge. 

 

The Psalmist goes on to describe the life of someone who just wastes his or her life.  Someone who does not see the connection. 

 

The summary of the next few verses:  If you’re not careful, you will just wander around, do what is obviously wrong in God’s sight, anger him greatly, face all kinds of negative consequences because of it, and then die.[3]

 

This is how the Psalmist concludes that section.    

 

The years of our life may come to seventy or, if we have the strength, to eighty.  But at best they will be toil and trouble.  Quickly they pass and we soon fly away.

                                                        Psalm 90:10

 

This is the Psalmist’s description of a life wasted.  A life disconnected.  A life of someone who has never figured out the greater context.  It may seem as if someone has a trouble free life.  That life is easy, that money is no issue, that paradise on earth is a reality. 

 

If we fool ourselves into thinking that we can find purpose in our lives by getting out of it as much as possible, by trying to find paradise on earth, by living a life of leisure, by squeezing as much fun, depravity, fame, travel, and as many highs as possible out of our time on earth, eventually we will get to the realization, even if it takes us decades, that we’re still bored, and ultimately no happier than before, and finally, that all of it is still meaningless. 

 

By the way, I hope you realize that ’m not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy life.  But we should never pursue enjoyment as the goal of our lives in the misguided belief that this will give us true happiness.  Like the woman who said, “I feel like a failure.  I’ve been shopping for 20 years and I still don’t have anything to wear.

 

In the next verse is the central verse to the whole Psalm.  The Psalmist is telling us what he really wants his readers to grasp.

 

If we only knew the power of your anger and feared you according to your wrath!                           Psalm 90:11

 

Mmmm.  That sure doesn’t sound like a life verse I want to put on my fridge or mirror to encourage me.  This sounds like somewhat of a downer. 

 

But what point is the Psalmist making?  And I don’t want you to miss this, otherwise you’ll miss the whole point of the Psalm:

 

If we only knew God as he is, ... if we could only catch a glimpse of God as he is... then we would give him the reverence and respect that is due to him.  If we could but glance a glimpse of the awesome, incredible, unfathomable, greatness and majesty of God, we could not but align our lives to his purposes and will, simply because of the reverence and awe we would have.   

 

The problem for most of us is that God is immaterial and spiritual ..., we cannot see or touch him ...  And therefore, we can ignore his presence, his character, his nature, his glory, his majesty. 

 

God purposefully hides himself, in part because not to do so would invite disaster for us.  So I know that you haven’t even had a glance of God’s glory, because if you had, maybe like the characters in a certain movie, your face would have melted off before your head exploded.

 

So, if someone says to you, “God appeared to me”, you could say to them, “No he didn’t.  Your face is not melted off your skull.  God did not appear to you.

 

God’s glory is hidden so we aren’t destroyed by it.   

 

Have you ever met a really famous or beautiful person, who took your breath away so you couldn’t even say anything?  What if that very famous or very beautiful person asks you for a favour, or asks you for your shoes, or asks you to walk with them, or asks you to carry something for them ... would you do it? 

 

If we were truly smitten by another person, my guess is that we would.    

 

If that is possible when it comes to just another fallible human being, what do you think our reaction would be if God actually showed up in all of his glory?

 

The group Mercy Me recorded a song back in 1999 called “I can only imagine.” It is about the time when we enter heaven after our death. Part of the refrain goes like this:

 

Surrounded by your glory
what will my heart feel?
Will I dance for you, Jesus,
or in awe of you be still?
Will I stand in your presence
or to my knees will I fall?
Will I sing hallelujah?
Will I be able to speak at all?

 

I think that if God showed up, we would all be down on our faces in the dust because the glory of God would be so great we would not be able to stand and look at it.

 

God’s face is hidden, in part for our sake.  He has to hide his glory so that we are not destroyed. So if we were to invite God’s presence into your life and get but a glimpse of his glory, then it would bring about a significant change in our lives - because from then on we would live our lives for God’s everlasting purpose, agenda, and glory.

 

We find our true purpose when we, as the creature, are connected to our creator in a significant way.  God created us, you and me, on purpose for his purpose.  And apart from his purpose, apart from him, we are like a chord or gadget without purpose. 

 

Whether it’s an 8-track Tape, a Cassette Recorder, a Bag Phone, or Floppy Discs ... If there’s nothing to plug into, nothing to play, nothing to connect to ... then there is no purpose.  It’s obsolete. It’s useless other than a paper weight or memento.

 

The Psalmist goes on.  In light of all of this:

 

In light of the connection between God an humans - every human being living “in” God, “for” God, and because of God, whether he is aware of it or not.

 

In light of God being from everlasting to everlasting and, in comparison, the span of our lives being but a blip in time.

 

In light of God’s incomparably greatness and glory that should compel us to live for his purposes, the purposes of the One who created us. 

 

In light of all this, we should petition God as follows:

       

So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.                                           Psalm 90:12

 

Teach us to remember that our days are numbered.  Because if we don’t, we will spend them simply on our own, disconnected from our source, disconnected from our purpose, disconnected from our meaning. 

 

Wisdom is the ability to view a topic or subject within a wide or broad context.  A wise person, when asked a question, is able to come up with an answer based on a broad base of knowledge and experience.  It’s to be able to pull back from the specific situation and from emotional entanglement and look at it within the context of what most always holds true. 

 

Time is short.  If we begin to number our days, we will gain the wisdom we need to discern, from all the options, what it means to live a meaningful and purposeful life. 

 

The question that should inhabit our prayers is not: “What am I here for?”  The real question is “Who am I here for?”  You and I are not here for a “what.”  A “what” is too small a thing for us to spend our lives on.  We were not created or designed for a “what”.  We were not created in the image of a “what”. 

 

We were not created to GET something out of life.  We not created simply to live for ourselves.  We were created for God’s purposes. 

 

God is the context of our lives.  He is the one who should determine our actions and the way that we spend our time so we do not miss out on what God is doing.

 

Now if you’re younger, you may say to me to get back to you in 20 years when you’re older and you don’t have a lot of good options anymore because this sounds like God doesn’t want you live your life for yourself, and that doesn’t sound like much fun

 

I guess the point is, that when something is meaningful than that’s better than just having fun or short-term pleasure. It’s rewarding.

 

We are tapping into the purpose of God and there is no better thing to do with our time in this world.  No better life for us to live. 

 

If we understand this, then we will live our lives as if our days are numbered and we will do our level best to find out what God is up to, what he is doing, in this world, and seek to be a part of that.  We will want to be a part of wherever God is active.    

 

If we live our lives according to God’s purposes, we may not be written in history books or mentioned in Wikipedia, but what we do will nevertheless echo in eternity!

 

So we should be praying about what that means with regard to our day to day lives.

 

How do I prioritize my time with my kids, who at times are aggravating and selfish, but who are small today and grown up tomorrow?  How do I lean into God’s purposes when it comes to raising my kids? 

 

How do I prioritize my time at school or college or university, with the classes I take and the friends I hang out and the way I speak and behave?

 

How do I prioritize my time and actions at work so that my time is meaningful?

 

What does living my life for you mean when it comes to my church?  When it comes to my community?  When it comes to my neighbours?

 

The older I get the faster time goes by.  In this fleeting life, please God, help me to be connected to you and to show me your plan for my life.  And let not a day go by where I miss your plan and will!    

 

Why would I want to miss out just to play another round of golf, or sleep in again, or go on another trip, or just hang out with friends again, or watch just another hour of TV?

 

HAVE I EVER CAUGHT A GLIMPSE OF GOD’S GREATNESS AND GLORY?

AM I GIVING GOD THE REVERENCE AND RESPECT THAT IS DUE TO HIM?

AM I SEEKING TO ALIGN MY LIFE TO THE PURPOSES OF GOD?

IF NOT, WILL I DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT?

 

 

[1] However there was on time in the 14th century BC when official religion focused exclusively on the impersonal sun god Aten.  In the reign of Akhenaten (c. 1353-1336 BC) the singular solar deity, the Aten, became the sole focus of the state religion.  Akhenaten erased the god’s names an images, targeting Amun in particular.  Yet the general populace was stilled allowed the worship of other deities in private.  Also, prior to Buddhism, Taoism, and Confuciamism, Chinese belief centered around the worship of a divine heaven or god (from c. 1766 BC onward). 

 

[2] This is actually an amalgamation of Isaiah 22:13 (While the inhabitants of Jerusalem should be mourning and weeping in repentance, instead they are partying and saying, “Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we die”) and Ecclesiastes 8:15 (“And I commend joy, because mankind has no good thing under the sun except to eat, drink and be happy, for this will go with him in his toil throughout the days of his life that God has given him under the sun”).  See also the quote of the Isaiah 22 passage in 1 Cor 15:32 (“If the dead are not raised, then ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’”) andJesus’ negative take on the words of the foolish rich man in his parable in Luke 12:19 (“And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years.  Relax, eat, drink, [and] be happy’”).

[3] Psalm 90:7-9 - “We are brought to an end by your anger, we are destroyed by your wrath.  For you have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.  For all our days pass away under your wrath and we bring our years to an end like a sigh.”