Psalm 90 As we end 2012 and begin 2013 the text for our meditation on God’s holy Word is Psalm 90--the psalmody appointed for this day. I bring you grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Our psalmody for this New Year’s Eve begins where, no doubt, many of our hearts and minds are fixed as we consider the new year: Let the favor of God be upon us and establish the work of our hands. That’s what we want in the year to come isn’t it: God’s favor upon our lives and God’s blessings upon the work of our hands?
We want this year to be filled with blessings for us and those we love. Financial success. Health. Protection. God’s guidance for our plans. And there is nothing wrong with asking for any of these things in prayer!
Material blessings—the same as spiritual blessings—are still blessings that only God can give. Our lives exist from moment by moment only by his loving will. That we have lived to see this moment is only because God has graciously ordained that it would be so. That we are fed and clothed and sheltered is only because the blessing of God has rested upon our live in this last year and indeed throughout our lives.
God is our Father and we are his children and we know that he loves to give gifts to his children and so to turn to him in prayer and ask for the things that we need and want is only natural for the child of God to do.
In fact, it is an act of faith to do so! We confess and believe that God is our dwelling place in all generations. In other words, he is the one that we can turn to expecting that we will be received as children coming to their Father’s home, expecting a Father’s welcome.
Over countless centuries he is the one who has shown himself mighty enough and powerful enough and loving enough and wise enough to provide for our needs-- for not only is he our Father—but he is the Creator of the world who has given us our lives and everything we need to support those lives. Before the mountains were brought forth, before the earth and world were formed, from everlasting to everlasting he is God.
When we come to God in prayer, asking for his favor in the year to come, beseeching him to bless the work of our hands—this is the confession that is being made about God our Father: that he is our Creator who gladly supplies the needs of his creatures.
But confessing that and believing that, we cannot help but see that other things are true as well—that God doesn’t simply exist up in the sky to be a magic genie who exists only to give us what we want—but that his perspective on what is truly important for us to have in this new year is different from ours-- for his perspective is eternal while ours is very much bound up in moments of time like these.
You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.
That we confess God as our Creator and our Father also contains a confession about us: that we are creatures he called forth from the dust of the earth and that we—no matter how old, no matter how wise in the ways of the world, are still only children.
Of course our first thoughts for the new year are centered on what we want because that is all we know—the immediacy of being whole and healthy and happy. But God has a perspective that is infinitely greater than ours and a view that is infinitely longer than our own.
He knows what is truly important and meaningful and lasting—he knows what is best for us-- and that is why as fervently as we pray for God’s blessing to rest upon the work of our hands in this new year we must always add: Thy will be done! Thy will be done!
When we add those important words to the end of our prayers we are acknowledging that as much as we think we know best for our lives—as much as we have expectations for the year to come—our heavenly Father not only knows more—but our heavenly Father knows best.
He already knows what the future holds because he is the one who holds the future in his almighty hands. He is the one who knows what will work for our salvation in the year to come. And he is the one who has promised to work all things for our good.
When we pray “Thy will be done” we are entrusting our future to the One whose perspective is infinitely greater than our own.
And that God is our Father and we are children—and that he is our Creator and we his creatures-- also reveals something else about us and God besides the difference in perspective. It reveals the holiness of God and our own sin.
We are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 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; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 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.
As we pass from one year to the next our thoughts and prayers naturally turn first to material things for we are fallen people and our thoughts are often fixed only on the things of this world. But what the passing of one year to the next OUGHT to do is re-focus our attention on spiritual things and our need for forgiveness.
Our God and Father is not only a God of might and power he is also a God of holiness while we his creatures are anything but that. As we think back over the last year we see the truth of God’s Word that our iniquities are set before us and even our secret sins are revealed in God’s sight.
To fix our hearts and minds only on material things is to miss the vital opportunity that this evening presents to repent of our sins of the past year and ask for the help of the Holy Spirit to live holier lives in the year to come.
In fact, we need to do that not only tonight as we begin a new year- but every night of our lives because we do not know which year or even which night will be our last and to face the future unforgiven is to imperil our eternal life.
The psalmist asks: Who considers the power of God’s anger and your wrath according to the fear of you? And the answer to that question is: none of us—not really. The height of God’s holiness and the depth of our sin has to be revealed to us for it is unknown to our reason.
The vast majority of men do not even consider this question—rejecting out of hand that there is a God who has holy expectations for their lives.
And for those remaining few in our world whose consciences still reveal the expectations of God and their own failures, they make every effort to bridge that divide on their own: elevating their own goodness and lessening God’s expectations. Even we are tempted to kind of thinking by our flesh.
Only one person really understood the human dilemma of a God who demands that his creatures be holy as he is holy and the failure of those same creatures to meet that standard and that is Jesus Christ.
He came into this world because he knew God’s holiness and he knew God’s wrath over our sin.
He knew that the righteous demands of the law must be fulfilled and so he lived a holy life for us. He knew that the wrath of God over our sins must be reconciled and removed and so he offered up his life in our place on the cross, suffering the wrath of God over our sins—in our place.
Jesus is the reason that the favor of God rests upon us—the reason that we can go to God in prayer—the reason that we can count ourselves children of the heavenly Father—the reason that we know anything at all about what is truly meaningful and lasting.
Jesus is the reason that our prayers for the new year take on a proper, God-pleasing shape, praying: teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
When measured against eternity, the days of our life are very brief indeed! That we would know this and believe it is where our prayers for the new year ought to begin!
And so our prayers for the year to come are not filled, first of all, with the cares and concerns of this world—but are focused on eternal things: asking that God would grant us wisdom to know Jesus Christ as our Savior—that his Holy Spirit would be at work in our lives not matter what our earthly circumstances—and that we would walk with him in holiness of life.
This is how we number our days aright. This is how we gain a heart of wisdom. This is how we confidently face the future.
May God richly bless you in this year with every good gift of body and soul and may the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.