Summary: New Year's Day. Our newness of life is found not in turning a calendar page or making a fresh start, but in Christ, Who forgives us and renews us.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen. (Ps. 19:4).
“A New Chapter”
It’s 2015. The door on last year has closed. The New Year has opened. It’s a time to reflect back, and a time to look forward. To think of what is to come in this year. What we shall make of it, and what might it make of us. Our psalm today starts with that theme of reflection in the words, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” Here the word “generations” does not mean only ancestors and descendants – father, son, grandson. Rather it refers to periods of times. One could say, “in all the ages,” or stages of life. The chapters of life, as it were.
With the New Year, we start a new chapter of our life. Our psalmist – not David but Moses – yes, Moses – knew about the chapters of life. His life started with the chapter as a boy growing up in Pharaoh’ s house. Then a chapter as prince of Egypt. There was the chapter as outlaw and exhile, and the chapter of the plagues and the Exodus. His time with God on Mt. Sinai was a chapter of its own. Wandering in the wilderness was a long chapter of forty years. And then that final chapter, where the children of Israel entered into the Promised Land without him.
As we start a new chapter, what does this psalm have to say for us?
First, the psalm tells us that God is God, and we are not.. It is God who brought the world, and us, you, me, into existence. It is God who brings life to end, saying, “Return to dust, O Son of Man.” For us, the New Year marks one of our human attributes: We are created beings, existing in time.
Time sets boundaries for us. We can move and travel. We can be in more than one place. But we cannot be in more than one place at a time. We cannot be both “here” and “there.” Most of the time, we think that we are limited by space, by geography: that we cannot be in two places. But it is time that limits us as much, if not more so. Consider this. You and I are the same person we were as a youngster. And while we may still live in the same place, we aren’t in the same place are we? We can’t be young and old at the same time. Time separates us from ourselves. And just as we cannot live in yesterday, we cannot live in tomorrow, either. We are not only limited to the here, we are limited to the now.
God, though, is God. A thousand years in His sight are but an evening gone. (Paraphrase of the first line, stanza four, of “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”) From everlasting to everlasting, He is God, Moses writes. Before the world began, God was. He is now. And when the world passes away, God will still be. God is God, and we are not.
Time separates us from ourselves. But sin separates us from God. Moses knew this. He saw it and he lived it. Moses saw sin separating people from God when He came down Sinai with the Ten Commandments, and found the Israelites worshiping the golden calf. God, being God, did not stand idly by their idol-ness. The earth opened up and swallowed many of them. As Moses writes here in verse 11:
“Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?”
We do. Or we ought. God is God and we are not. God is holy and we are not. Moses knew this, too. Moses did not enter into the Promised Land. Why? Because he did not trust the word of the Lord, and struck the rock for water, instead of speaking to it as God had commanded. (Numbers 20:12) His sin separated Him from the Promised Land, or where his home should have been. Earlier, his sin had separated him from where his home was.
Remember how in building the monuments of Pharaoh, the Egyptian slave driver had beaten an Israelite. And how Moses, first looking to see that no one was watching, had killed the Egyptian, and buried him in sand? But Moses crime of murder was not as secret as he thought. Though he covered the body in sand, his sin did not stay covered. Soon, the Israelites asked him if he were going to kill them as he did the Egyptian. Moses had to flee from Egypt.
So here, in his psalm, Moses writes, “You, [O God] have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.” (Ps. 90:8 ESV) Our secret sins, it says. Not Moses’s, but ours. Mine. Yours. Ours. What about our secret sins? What shall we do with them? Shall we bury them in the sand? But God is God, and He is everywhere. Shall we just wait from them to fade away? Time heals all wounds, the world tells us. But that is not so, and we know it. We know that we have wounds from long ago, wounds that still hurt. We also think about the wounds we have caused. How my actions long ago are still hurting others.