Today, Sunday September 03
A Man of God, A Man of Prayer
A Prayer of Moses the Man of God.
“LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, Or ever You had formed the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.”
Psalm 90 is probably one of the most read and beloved Psalms besides Psalm 23. Next to the book of Job, Psalm 90 is most likely the oldest piece of writing in the Bible. This psalm and probably the anonymous one (Psalm 91), which follows were written by Moses in the wilderness on the way from Egypt to Canaan. Over the years as a pastor, I was privileged to speak in nursing homes to the elderly people. I would often ask them what is your favorite hymn, and we would then sing it. Next, I would ask what is your favorite Psalm that you would like for me to read. Most of the time I would be asked to read Psalm 90. It seemed to be the favorite of the older generation, and for good reason as we will see as we study it.
When Moses wrote Psalm 90, it is of interest to recall that Genesis had not yet been published. Moses may well have already written Genesis, together with Exodus, Leviticus, and parts of Numbers, but these works were not yet in circulation. Thus, Psalm 90 stands in grand isolation as the oldest psalm in history, one of the grandest psalms ever penned, and the first great masterpiece of the Hebrew hymnbook.
Those Jewish scribes, who collected the various psalms, arranged them, and put them into their proper order placed this psalm strategically. They divided their hymnbook into five lesser books, each of which corresponds with one of the books of Moses. The fourth book of psalms begins with Psalm 90, and its songs are songs of the wilderness. It corresponds in tone and teaching with the book of Numbers.
In Number we read how Israel had come up to Kadesh-barnea. The spies had been sent into Canaan, and ten had brought back a negative report. The land, they said, was a dreadful place, full of great, fenced cities and inhabited by giants, the dreadful sons of the Anakim. Two men, Joshua and Caleb brought in a minority report. It is a good land, they said, a land flowing with milk and honey. As for the foe: once get your eye on God, who cares for giants?
The majority ruled, fear drove out faith, the tribes elected not even to attempt to conquer Canaan, and God allowed them to suffer the consequences of their choice. Everyone over twenty years of age would perish in the wilderness. The terror by night, the arrow by day, the pestilence in the darkness, the destruction at noonday, the lion, and the adder would all take their toll. It was the sentence of death on a whole generation.
The wilderness way gave place to the wilderness wanderings. Instead of the promised land, it would be the desert sand. Instead of the conquest of Canaan, there would be woe in the wilderness.
From then on, Israel marched, but she marched without point or purpose. The Israelites simply moved from place to place, leaving behind them a trail of bones in desolate graves hollowed in the sand. They wandered thus for forty years, a year for every day the spies were in Canaan. God held over the unbelieving people a sandglass of forty years during which every man and woman of the older generation would perish.
It was as the Israelites turned gloomily back to the burning sands of Sinai that the stately stanzas of this song were written by Moses, "the man of God." Only eight people in the Bible are called that directly and by name. Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1); Samuel (1 Samuel 9:6-10); David (Nehemiah 12:24); Elijah (1 Kings 17:18); Elisha (2 Kings 4:7); Shemaiah (2 Chronicles 11:2); Igdaliah (Jeremiah 35:4) in the Old Testament; Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11) in the New Testament. Two are complete strangers to us: Shemaiah and Igdaliah. But then, many of God's notables are not readily recognized on earth.
Moses was specially a man of God and God's man; chosen of God, inspired of God, honored of God, and faithful to God in all his house. He well deserved the name which is here given him. Psalm 90 is called a prayer, as we will see as we read and meditate upon it. How did Moses manage to become a "man of God" after forty years in pagan Egypt that ended in failure, forty years in Midian as a humble shepherd, and forty more leading a funeral march through the wilderness? Life was not easy for Moses, but he triumphed, and in this psalm, he shared his insights so that we, too, might have strength for the journey and end well.
Men of God are sure to be men of prayer. May the Lord help us to become a person of prayer that we might be known as a man or woman of God!