by Pastor Keith Graham
Please read the Ninetieth Psalm, and keep your Bible handy. Thank you!
Moses the MAN OF GOD - that superscript, inspired by the Spirit, speaks volumes. Moses was chosen and precious in God's sight, we see that in Numbers 12:1-8
The believer through Christ is likewise chosen and precious. And just as the Lord's prayer for believing disciples and no others begins with "our Father", so the first application we can make here is that you must be born again, you must be in covenant relation with God!
Moses begins by saying that God always has been the dwelling place of His chosen and precious people. You believe God is, but can you call God your HOME? Paul quoted an ancient pagan poet when he spoke on Mars' hill, "for in Him we live and move and have our being."
Are you living and moving and having your being in God as a tenant on the verge of eternal eviction, or as a son or daughter who will dwell in the house of the LORD forever? If it is the former, seek the LORD while He may be found. If it is the latter...
Look with me a little more closely at the content of the prayer of a man of God, one chosen and precious in His sight, one in right relation with Him. To help us do that, I'm going to read a few lines from another prayer.
Like Psalm 90, it comes to us in the form of a song. And like Paul's quote, it comes from a pagan source. You've heard of the prayer of Jabez? I give you the prayer of Janis:
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV?
Dialing For Dollars is trying to find me.
I wait for delivery each day until three,
So oh Lord, won't you buy me a color TV?
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a night on the town?
I'm counting on you, Lord, please don't let me down.
Prove that you love me and buy the next round,
Oh Lord, won't you buy me a night on the town ?
What a contrast between that and our text! Unlike Janis, Moses begins by deliberately and purposefully giving glory to God. Petitions or prayer requests do lie ahead for Moses, but his prayer is first concerned with greater matters.
He begins his prayer as he began his song, recorded in Deuteronomy 32:3: "For I proclaim the name of the LORD: ASCRIBE greatness to our God."
He ascribes - that is credits, or attributes - to God certain aspects of His glory. He ascribes to God His eternity while recognizing man's brief, vapory, trouble-filled life. Included in that is the eternal God's sovereignty over those brief lives of men.
Moses himself had written in Genesis of Methuselah and the other early patriarchs, the days of some of which attained to almost a thousand years. Even a life of such length is like yesterday, like a watch in the night.
Nearer to his own present experience in leading the people out of Egypt, Moses thinks of the numbered men aged twenty years old and above, those able to go to war, who were doomed to die in the forty years wilderness wandering and never enter the promised land.
A man aged forty at the time of the numbering might make it to 80. Whether a lifetine almost a millenium in length, whether Moses' own lifespan of 120 years, whether 80 or 70 years, life in this world is like a sleep...like the grass that flourishes in the morning and is cut down and withers in the evening, but God is from everlasting to everlasting.
And so likewise for us when we pray, it is good ascribe to God His glories, including His eternity. As we do so, we are comforted about our own brief, inglorious existence here. God is our dwelling place. We will go from here to abide with Him for endless ages. 1 John 2:25 "...this is the promise that He has promised us -- eternal life."
Within this context of ascribing, we see that the eternal God is also the judge of man who is not only transitory, but sinful. Psalm 33:13-14 "The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth..."
There is no escape from His all seeing eyes...the inmost, secret sins of our hearts are set before His countenance. God is the Judge Who commands us who were created from dust to return to the dust. He is also the One Who will say on the last day, "Return, o children of men" - when every soul and body is reunited in the general resurrection.Job 14:14-15 Job spoke of that to his friends, when he said, "If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, till my change comes. You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands."
There is an edifying power in thus proclaiming the name of the LORD in prayer, in ASCRIBING to Him the glory He has told us that He has, as well as in ascribing to ourselves what He has told us we are and what we shall be. The apostle John gives New Covenant substance to the Old Covenant foreshadows we have from Job and Moses:1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
We are not informing God in praying this way. Nor are we primarily teaching ourselves or others in this ascribing. By it, we savor the greatness and glory of God in prayer...we remind ourselves of Who He is, and who we are and shall be.
If our prayers are like the prayer of Janis, we will quickly lose heart in prayer. But if we imitate this prayer of a man of God, we will build ourselves up in our most holy faith through prayer, that wonderful means of grace.
It is only after thus deliberately and purposefully giving glory to God in this way that Moses goes on to petitions, or prayer requests as we might call them. We find seven. We'll consider each in turn, seeking insights from the inexhaustible treasury of God's word. First...
1. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."(James 4:13-14)
Moses' own life demonstrates an answer to this prayer. Deuteronomy 34:7 "Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished." God told him when and where he would die. We read of no murmuring on his part, he had been Divinely taught to number his days and to be ready for death. Moses met his end of days on Earth with calmness and faith.
If anyone lacks this kind of wisdom to face life on Earth and its inevitable end, let him ask of God! He will honor prayer according to this word, granting His children that holy fear of the LORD which is the foundation of wisdom - godly wisdom that regards this brief life in its proper context - and enabling them to meet death and all its precursors with calmness and faith like Moses. The second petition is...
2. Return, O LORD! How long? And have compassion on Your servants.
Here is a longing for God...how long? No less than 10 other times is that godly desire written under the Spirit's inspiration in the Psalms alone. How long?
Psalm 63:1-2 O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.
Isaiah , ..."Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down!
This also is a petition we can be sure God will honor. It's simply another way of expressing what the Lord Jesus did when He told us to pray that God's kingdom would come.
Are our prayers filled with zealous desires for personal peace, healing, material things...or are we like Jesus consumed with zeal for God's house, having an unquenchable thirst to see Him glorified!?
The third petition actually begins with the last phrase of the second, "have compassion on your servants", and reminds of the fifth petition of the Lord's prayer, "forgive us our trespasses". It is...
3. Satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
The things asked of God in a prayer like the prayer of Janis will never satisfy, even if God in the mysterious working of His providence gives them! Many have multiple giant screen TVs, fancy cars, and spend every night on the town...but are unsatisfied. God's mercy satisfies deep down because it meets not fleshly desires, but real needs.
God is opposed to the proud who know not their real need of forgiveness, but gives grace to the humble...the contrite sinners who know their greatest need: DIVINE MERCY.
The thief on the cross asked not for deliverance, not that angels would take him down, but that Jesus would remember him in mercy. How he must have rejoiced in the midst of excruciating pain when he heard those words, "Today, you will be with Me in Paradise"!
The one made glad in this way - by God's mercy - cries out according to the words of Psalm 4:7 "You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased." And it is with gladness that the fourth petition further deals...
4. Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, the years in which we have seen evil.
Jonah prayed in great affliction from the belly of a great fish. He was mightily brought him forth after the three days in which God afflicted him, and made glad.
As the Spirit teaches us to pray in the midst of suffering according to this word, we find that "the joy of the LORD is our strength."
We know that Psalm 30:5 "His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."
James (5:13)wrote "Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray." And according to this petition in the prayer of Moses the man of God, we also are to pray - counting it all joy, knowing that our slight momentary afflictions are working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
The fifth petition of Moses' prayer is...
5. Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children.
Psalm 111:2 The works of the LORD are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them.
Psalm 48:12-13 Walk about Zion, and go all around her. Count her towers; mark well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following.
Zion was the place of God's temple. As believers we are growing into a holy temple in the Lord...being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Thousands of years ago, God did a mighty work creating the universe. God daily does wonderful works of providence. God God's GREAt work is His saving work. If you want assurance of salvation for you and your children, this godly petition is for you, and again you can be sure you are praying in God's will when you imitate it.
It's a request that God would make it plain that He is indeed at work in us, to will and to do of His good pleasure, causing that spiritual growth. It's a request that His way may be known on earth, His salvation among all nations, that the generations to come. And so we see that this petition also is full of desire for God's glory.
Psalm 78:5-7 "For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments..."
Teach us to number our days...Return, O Lord...satisfy us with Your mercy...make us glad out of affliction...let your work and your glory appear...and sixth...
6. Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us.
Writing of the day of salvation, the prophet Isaiah (28:5) said, "...In that day the LORD of hosts will be for a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people.
Isaiah spoke further of that beauty later, and when after his temptation in thewilderness, the Lord Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, He quoted that passage (cf. Isaiah 61:1-3)
This beauty for which Moses prays and which the Spirit promises through Isaiah is the beauty of holiness...without which no one will see LORD, which comes only through Christ Who gives to His own glorious and beautiful robes of righteousness.
Finally, having in his fifth petition asked that God's work would be made plain to His servants and their descendants, Moses' final petition concerns man's work. For emphasis, he says it twice...
7. Stablish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.
Psalm 127:1 "Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it..."
That was written by Solomon, the one who built the temple, the house of the LORD that he no doubt had in mind when he wrote the Psalm.
Even though God had promised that Solomon would be the one to build it, that wise man knew that he still needed God to establish the work of his hands.
As there was for Solomon's temple, so far us there is one foundation. 1 Corinthians 3:11-13 "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one's work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is."
Do you want your work, whatever it might be, to stand that testing fire? Make this petition a regular part of your prayer life. As with the other six, you can be sure it is a Biblical, God-honoring prayer request.
As for Solomon and Paul, likewise for us, there is work to be done. There is pressing on, there is striving, there is working out our salvation with fear and trembling, there is kingdom service to be done in public and good works to be done in private - none to be done without prayer that God would establish it...make it endure.
Insofar as it has been true to the Scriptures, may God establish this message by sealing it to our hearts.
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