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Friday, March 22, 2013

Today’s Reading | Psalm 90

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,
     from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

You turn us back to dust,
     and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight
     are like yesterday when it is past,
     or like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away; 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.

For we are consumed by your anger;
     by your wrath we are overwhelmed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
     our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
     our years come to an end like a sigh.
The days of our life are seventy years,
     or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble;
     they are soon gone, and we fly away.

Who considers the power of your anger?
     Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
So teach us to count our days
     that we may gain a wise heart.

Turn, O Lord! How long?
     Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
     so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
     and as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be manifest to your servants,
     and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
     and prosper for us the work of our hands—
      O prosper the work of our hands! (NRSV)


Most of us spend our days constantly seeking and striving, living in a world and in a time that places high value on self-reliance and material measures of success. Ours is a society and a culture that makes it difficult to find the quiet space needed to give ourselves fully to our relationship with God. So now and then we need a bit of a reminder, like Psalm 90.

Life can go by all too quickly as we relentlessly pursue achievement or search for fulfillment. And so Psalm 90—and the great hymn reflecting it, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past”—also remind us that it is only in accepting that life is ephemeral and that only God, who is “from everlasting to everlasting,” is not that we can find release from our fears. Now that doesn’t mean that we simply throw up our hands, shrug our shoulders, and just leave it to God to figure out life for us, but as the psalmist wrote, “prosper for us the work of our hands” for what we do with the time we have does having meaning and purpose.

Are we in some way diminished by acknowledging our fears and our frailty and giving whatever time we have over to God’s purpose? What could be frailer than a child born in a stable or more fearful than facing the cross? Giving in to God’s purpose is not about being limited in how we go through life. It’s not about knowing our limits or being limited by our circumstances, because what we can know is that there is no limit to God’s grace. God has shown us in the most striking way: God’s perfectly, yet so humanly, revealed love, Jesus Christ.


God of this and all ages, you alone are everlasting to everlasting. I entrust my time and my vulnerabilities to you, secure in knowing that my present is yours as well. Be with me and profit the work of my hands that they may work to the purpose you have for me. Amen.

Written by Ken Ohr, member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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