GRACE AND PEACE TO YOU FROM GOD OUR FATHER AND THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. AMEN (Romans 1: 7b)
Bliadhna Mhath Úr ! A Happy New Year to You All !
OPENING HYMN – AMAZING GRACE, HOW SWEET THE SOUND, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved; how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
When we’ve been there ten thousand years bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’ve first begun.
LET US PRAY:
LOVING GOD, we come at the start of another year to thank You for Your blessings and Your presence with us. Lead us, teach us, and help us to know Your will, and walk by faith in the year ahead. Though life may not work out as we wish, remind us Lord, that whatever the future may hold, You will be there by our side, able to lead and guide us through Your Word that became flesh in Jesus Christ and strengthening us to remain faithful to You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Holy Trinity, One, Eternal God. AMEN.
PSALM 90 – A PRAYER OF MOSES THE MAN OF GOD.
LORD, YOU HAVE BEEN OUR DWELLING-PLACE THROUGHOUT ALL GENERATIONS. BEFORE THE MOUNTAINS WERE BORN OR YOU BROUGHT FORTH THE EARTH AND THE WORLD, FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING YOU ARE GOD. YOU TURN MEN BACK TO DUST, SAYING, “RETURN TO DUST, O SONS OF MEN”. FOR A THOUSAND YEARS IN YOUR SIGHT ARE LIKE A DAY THAT HAS JUST GONE BY, OR LIKE A WATCH IN THE NIGHT. YOU SWEEP MEN AWAY IN THE SLEEP OF DEATH; THEY ARE LIKE THE NEW GRASS OF THE MORNING – THOUGH IN THE MORNING IT SPRINGS UP NEW, BY EVENING IT IS DRY AND WITHERED. WE ARE CONSUMED BY YOUR ANGER AND TERRIFIED BY YOUR INDIGNATION. YOU HAVE SET OUR INIQUITIES BEFORE YOU, OUR SECRET SINS IN THE LIGHT OF YOUR PRESENCE. ALL OUR DAYS PASS AWAY UNDER YOUR WRATH; WE FINISH OUR YEARS WITH A MOAN. THE LENGTH OF OUR DAYS IS SEVENTY YEARS, OR EIGHTY, IF WE HAVE THE STRENGTH; YET THEIR SPAN IS BUT TROUBLE AND SORROW, FOR THEY QUICKLY PASS AND WE FLY AWAY. WHO KNOWS THE POWER OF YOUR ANGER? FOR YOUR WRATH IS AS GREAT AS THE FEAR THAT IS DUE TO YOU. TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS ARIGHT, THAT WE MAY GAIN A HEART OF WISDOM. RELENT, O LORD! HOW LONG WILL IT BE? HAVE COMPASSION ON YOUR SERVANTS. SATISFY US IN THE MORNING WITH YOUR UNFAILING LOVE, THAT WE MAY SING FOR JOY AND BE GLAD ALL OUR DAYS. MAKE US GLAD FOR AS MANY DAYS AS YOU AFFLICTED US, FOR AS MANY YEARS AS WE HAVE SEEN TROUBLE. MAY YOUR DEEDS BE SHOWN TO YOUR SERVANTS, YOUR SPLENDOUR TO THEIR CHILDREN. MAY THE FAVOUR OF THE LORD OUR GOD REST UPON US; ESTABLISH THE WORK OF OUR HANDS FOR US, YES, ESTABLISH THE WORK OF OUR HANDS.
Who could have ever imagined the turn the year 2020 took when a year ago we wished a “Happy New Year” to each other? Should we, indeed, be very careful of what we wish for, or even must greetings become more than just a wishful thinking? Our Hungarian way of greeting each other at this time of the year is more like a prayer, – “May God give you a Happy New Year!” This, I believe, does not mean that we might be better Christians than other nations are, but rather it is a mutual reminder, by naming God as the source of all our blessings. Traditionally we sing Psalm 90, even at family gatherings. In the second half of the last century it became a kind of “unofficial national anthem” for East European Christians, and sung regularly at the end of worships and gatherings. For me personally there are several passages in this psalm I turn to regularly and find sense and hope in difficult times. Lord willing, I would like us to spend some time this morning, considering the importance of the presence of our Lord God and His blessings for the Year of Grace 2021.
No psalm contrasts the greatness of God and the fragility of humans so effectively as Psalm 90. In this psalm we see Moses the man of God in a period of suffering, with the Lord distant from His people. Moses describes life in this world as brief, sinful and marked by deep hardship. The Lord is described in contrast as our Creator and Refuge, our only Hope, and also our King and our Judge. The human nature and God is contrasted beautifully in this psalm with a constant use of time. Psalm 90 is for those who know what it means to lose hope, who have been beaten down by circumstances which were out of their control, who have ever experienced the sadness and despair that comes from a world marked by evil. Psalm 90 is for those who want to understand why we die and how we are to live. It is a Psalm of Hope for a life that has a meaning beyond the years we are given to live; hope that we can experience the blessings of the Almighty through salvation in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.
- – GOD IS OUR CREATOR AND ETERNAL REFUGE. – (Verses 1-9) – The first verses of this prayer are a powerful declaration of the nature and reality of God. Before the Earth was formed there was God, the ONLY TRUE GOD, who is being described as our eternal dwelling place, a place of safety and refuge in every generation. In fact, we see God as a refuge, preserving His people from the first pages of the Bible: saving the family of Noah, giving Abraham a son, and in the lives of the other Patriarchs. The Lord is our place of refuge and our creator, but He is also the one who returns us to dust, the one who causes us to die. The word DUST, – DAKKA, in Hebrew – points beyond being created from dust. Here has the sense of BEING CRUSHED by God, like one breaking pottery. It is a word that means to be broken not just physically but also broken in spirit, in order to be turned back to God. There is a picture of human lives as grass, being consumed quickly by the fire of the Lord’s anger. Why do we have to die in such a way? The answer is in verse 8: – because of our sin; but not only of our outwardly known and admitted sins, but also of our secret sins. Each of us may be willing to admit to some of our sins, but the sins that no one knows but us, are also laid before Him. The Prophet said, – All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away (Isaiah 64: 6). It is so easy to admit that I am a sinner, with the reservations that I am not an evil person, but there is no classification in God’s righteousness of who is more-a-sinner or less. We are not given the context of God’s particular anger towards individuals, but the Bible makes it clear that the human nature continues to sin and doubt, and we are unable to save ourselves from God’s judgement. So what should we do? Psalm 90 offers the only possible solution: the Wisdom of God’s Salvation. God is our refuge and our strength in order to protect us from all that is destructive in life, and to teach us that death is not a result of our finite being, but of sin, from which only God is able to save us.
2.- WISDOM-PRAYER: TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS ARIGHT. You do not need to be a Biblical scholar or even a believer in God to understand the TRUTH of the following verses (v. 10 – 12). In the time of Moses, thousands of years ago, the human life expectancy was 70 or maybe 80, as it is today. Not much has changed since the time of Moses and despite all our technological advantages we still have roughly the same lifespans that are marked with suffering, troubles and sorrow. It is in these verses we reach a major turning point in the Psalm. Most of what Moses has described until now can be understood from observing life around us. The whole universe declares the reality of a Creator who had to exist before this world was created. While we may minimize and argue about our sins, very few people would claim to be perfect. But what are we to do with this knowledge? Moses understands that he cannot save people from suffering. He turned to God and asked Him to give us a heart of wisdom. But what does it mean to number our days aright? In one sense it is to understand the briefness of our lives in this world, that our time slips away, and all our money won’t be able to buy for us another minute. So Moses asked God to teach us to number our days correctly. One of the major incorrect ways to live a life is to run away from responsibilities in exchange for selfish distractions, and… doing nothing. Moses asked the Lord for a heart of wisdom, believing that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9: 10), respecting our Creator for who He is and what He has commanded us to do. The Lord asks us to return to Him for instruction and help, in order to have our lives completely changed for the better. At this point we come to the HOPE of Psalm 90, hope that is not dependent any longer on our strength or knowledge, but being found only in our Saviour God. Moses asked the Lord to return to His people, and he knew that the only remaining question was, – how long will it be? – because he believed that though life will still have suffering and troubles there also is Salvation when God is with us.
- – THE GRACE OF GOD IS SUFFICIENT FOR US (verses 13 – 17). After all the years of trouble we have seen we can still sing for joy that is dependent on GOD’S GOODNESS, and not on our present circumstances. Returning to the Lord is the certainty of returning to our only and eternal refuge, from a world filled with uncertainties, and troubles, suffering, death, and COVID -19 – Pandemic. As the Prophet said,- Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, “the Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.” (Lamentations 3: 22- 24).
The final verse of this psalm is my favourite. Moses prays twice that the Favour of God would make permanent the work of our hands. Our lives may be brief, but with the Lord on our side our work can have eternal impact. Earlier in the psalm we saw that our lives are like grass that is consumed before a single day passes, but if we return to the Lord the opposite is true. Though our lives may pass away our work will not. We may only live once, but that single earthly life can become permanent – eternal – and profound in its impact with the amazing GRACE OF GOD, in Jesus Christ our Lord. We read in Isaiah 40 that the comfort of God will be found in His ANOINTED ONE, the MESSIAH. Moses himself looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, who would call all peoples to return to the Lord, to experience His blessings and His comfort. The Good News of the MESSIAH ( = Anointed, in Hebrew), in other words, – CHRISTOS (= Anointed, in Greek) has come, and His name is YESHUA, in other words, JESUS (= Saviour, in both Hebrew and the Greek language).
May each and every one of us richly experience the true and lasting blessings of God, and may we take the words of this psalm to heart as we wish the HAPPY NEW YEAR 2021 to each other.
LET US PRAY:
LORD OUR GOD, we thank You for this new day, new month, and new year that is waiting to unfold its secrets. Thank You for the truth that with You, not just some days are special, but all are, each offering new experiences of Your love, fresh opportunities to celebrate, and another reason to turn prayerfully to You. Teach us at the start of another year to live this and every day trusting in Your tomorrow; to embrace the present, secure in the knowledge of Your past faithfulness and leaving the future to You. Lord, we will let go the past – our mistakes, our regrets, our worries, our fear, despair and sadness caused by the pandemic – for You promise to make us new. In that great truth we will live, move and have our being. We thank You that in pleasure and pain, triumph and tragedy, hope and fear, health and sickness, You’ve been our refuge across the years, leading us safely through their ups and downs, highs and lows. Teach us, recalling Your faithful guidance, to trust You for all that lies ahead, knowing that You will remain the same. Lord of past, present and future, we are not so naïve as to think everything in this new year will work out as we hope, for we know well enough life is not like that, but teach us, whatever the days ahead may bring, that You will be there by our side, able to lead us from the old to the new, and in all things working together for good. Loving God, reach out into this broken world, and bring hope, help and healing. Reach out to all who are troubled, and answer their fears, their hurts, their concerns. Shine into the lives of those who wrestle with illness, pain and grief; those who are poor, homeless or weary. However distant You may sometimes seem, however hopeless life may feel, teach us to trust You always. Bless Your Christian Church Universal in all its branches, our Church of Scotland with all its presbyteries and congregations, and all our sisters and brothers in our own church here in Portree. Bless Her Majesty our Queen, the Royal family and all the leaders of the world. Hear our prayers for our loved-ones and ourselves, and for all those whom we now name before You in our hearts…through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.
THE LORD’S PRAYER: – OUR FATHER, WHO ART IN HEAVEN …
CLOSING HYMN (CH-387) – THE LORD’S MY SHEPHERD, I’ll not want. He makes me down to lie in pastures green: He leadeth me the quiet waters by.
My soul He doth restore again; and me to walk doth make within the paths of righteousness, even for His own Name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale, yet will I fear none ill: for Thou art with me; and Thy rod and staff me comfort still.
My table Thou hast furnished in presence of my foes; my head Thou dost with oil anoint, and my cup overflows.
Goodness and mercy all my life shall surely follow me: and in God’s house for evermore my dwelling-place shall be.
To Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the God whom we adore, be glory as it was, and is, and shall be evermore. Amen.
MAY THE GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE LOVE OF GOD, AND THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT BE WITH YOU ALL. (2 Corinthians 13: 14)
Sandor, your Minister.