Psalm 90 is our text today at King of Kings Anglican Church.
Pain can lead to prayer and prayer to providence and providence to praise.
You and I have known this transforming power of prayer in our lives. When we have taken the pain of ill-health, shattered dreams, or the strained or broken relationships to the Lord in one of life’s desperate prayers, we have experienced how such pain drives us to prayer and how that same prayer leads to kindly providence that produces spontaneous praise. Yet, some here are living in that difficult parenthetical place of waiting. Prayer has not led to a providence that you can discern. And the praise of answered prayer seems like a remote dream.
Psalm 90 is a place to go to learn to trust God in the pain of life or even the pain of unanswered prayer. Psalm 90 like the rest of the Psalms reflects our own condition while pointing us to the deep, soul-satisfying truth of an eternal sovereign Father who rules and overrules to work all things together for our good.
Psalm 90 is the oldest Psalm in the Bible. This remarkably personal Psalm is composed not by David, but rather by another familiar name: Moses. The context of this Psalm is an unnamed crisis in the wilderness that drives Moses to his knees. We suspect the crisis of leadership is the case of Numbers 14 when the people of Israel rebelled.
Psalm 90 demonstrates the transforming power of prayer and how, in fact, such prayer transforms the one who prays.
There are three main movements of the Psalm that teach us the transforming power of prayer.
1. Our prayers lead to a theology of God (verses 1-2).
The pain that drove Moses to God in prayer immediately reveals a theology that is extruded from prayer. “Lord Thou hast been our dwelling place.” The Israelites murmured and called for another leader because the Promised Land had too many challenges to overcome. Egypt had been a place of bondage and oppression, yet it was familiar. It is easier to return to a slavery that is familiar than to advance to a freedom that requires trust. So the question of “where is our home?” was a pressing question. But what Moses learned in the opening movements of his prayer is that wherever we are God is there. “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place”—our refuge—our home. Wherever you are if you are God’s, then God is your home.
2. Our prayers teach us a theology of self (verses 3-11). Moses prayed. And his prayer revealed not only who God is, but also, who Moses was. He was the creature even as God is the Creator. And the creature is subject to the brevity of life, the vicissitudes of life, and the painful consequences of his own secret sins. Yet, who God is and who we are leads us to a new place:
3. Our prayers produce a resolution with purpose (verses 12-17). We see what we must do: we must embrace the Gospel that the things that have come against us are the very things that God uses to advance us. Even as the cross was an instrument of shame and was transformed into a sign of salvation, from a symbol of death into, now, a symbol of life, so, too, our pain, in Christ, is sent into the catalytic converter of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to become providence that leads to praise. The Gospel law of grace and transformation is more certain than the very law of gravity.
It is this reason why Moses would cry that God would make him happy for the days that he was afflicted. Why? Moses, through the Holy Spirit, sees the power of the Gospel though he cannot yet fully know the name of the One who foresees. But we know His name. And Jesus welcomes you today to bring your pain and deposit it at the Cross where in the name of Jesus and for His sovereign glory your prayer becomes a transport to a providence God had designed to bring about His praise that is our destiny. And thus Moses would pray the prayer that we, too, pray:
“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands for us, yea, establish Thou the work of our hands.”
This is the resolution. This is how a crisis of Moses’ leadership became a prayer made in pain that forged a theology that led to providence. This is the transforming power of prayer.
Pain that leads to prayer leads to a theology that reminds us who God is, who we are, and what we must do.
I once was invited to see a special dance of a girl’s school. When the curtain went up, the girls appeared, all arrayed in beautiful gowns, each holding a streamer that accentuated their perfectly choreographed movement. But the most unforgettable fact of the scene was that these dancers were all in wheelchairs. They were disabled. The presentation was about dancing with disabilities. There is a peculiar beauty of graceful turns and smiling lasses amid the wheelchairs and their cold, steel reality of pain. Love has overcome hurt. The girls dance away not in spite of the disabilities, but in their case, because of the disabilities.
Jesus our Lord bore the cross and bears the scars of that cross forever. His nail-scarred hands are extended to you this morning: repent, believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He suffered. He died. But He rose again. And all for you and your sins. In believing you will live even though you die. It is time to bring your pain to prayer. It is time to learn who He is and who you are. It may even be time to “dance” with the very thing that brought you pain as a testimony to the One who transforms the cross into the crown.
[I plan to bring this sermon, Lord willing, at King of Kings Anglican Church, Charlotte, today; 02 August 2015 10:00 o’clock in the morning (http://www.kingofkingscharlotte.org). I publish this sermon brief with the prayer that the Holy Spirit might multiply His Word and reach that one for whom it is divinely intended.]
Psalm 90King James Version (KJV)
90 Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.
5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.
8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.
9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.
14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.
16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.
17 And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.