Why Psalm 90 is not in the least bit depressing

Today I preached on Psalm 90
At first sight this seems like a very depressing Psalm:

  1. Yes, we are consumed by your anger,
    and by your wrath we are terrified.

Not very encouraging. Let's see how it continues...

  1. You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your presence.

...But it gets worse:

  1. All our days pass away under your wrath,
    we finish our years with a moan.

    [literal translation]
  2. The length of our days is seventy years
    or if we have strength, eighty;
    yet their best is but trouble and oppression;
    for they quickly pass and we fly away.

The Psalm seems to be all about our sin, God's anger and how life is just a short span of suffering. It would be easy to dismiss it as being "Old Testament", and of course Moses was all about law anyway, so what would you expect from a Psalm that he had written? Nothing could be farther from the truth.
After carefully studying it, I believe that Psalm 90 falls into an inverted parallel structure as you can see demonstrated in my analysis
The body of the Psalm falls into two parts, hinging on verse 12.
After that point, every negative statement made earlier is countered by a positive statement that is a result of God's decision to have compassion on his people.
Law becomes grace and a focus on our own sin is turned into a focus on the wonderful things God has done for us.
I found this such an encouraging Psalm, once I had figured it out. Verses 14 and 17 must be some of the most beautiful words in the whole of the Psalms.

Thanks for not avoiding the "difficult" passages

Andrew;
I attended The King's Family Church yesterday - visiting friends of our who are elders in the church and as I was reading through some of their website, came across your blog.

Thanks for not avoiding the "difficult" stuff in your blog. The power and wrath of God's judgment juxtaposed against the potent potential of God's mercy, provision, power - wisdom comes in not remaining with the complaint of what isn't, but with intercession for what can be.

You have stimulated my thinking (and intercession) today. Thanks!

Gareth J Goossen
Make Us Holy

Difficult stuff

Hi Gareth,
Thanks for the comment. I think you are quite right that we often avoid the "difficult stuff". Often it is difficult because we can't easily fit it into our "system" and so it is easier just to ignore it. There is nothing wrong with a system providing we are willing to be constantly refining it and re-thinking it. But if we ignore the words of God that seem "difficult", we will never make any progress in our understanding. We become rigid, fossilized and sometimes proud in our own knowledge.
But on the other hand, the tendency today is to dismiss the possibility of ever really knowing and to give up on any kind of real answers. I am optimistic that with the help of the Spirit we (as a church throughout history) are making progress towards "attaining to the unity of the faith". God actually wants us to understand him better and loves it when we work at it, even though he sometimes seems to be "playing hard to get".

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