Summary: 2020 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years for many people. But God has been faithful to us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us (Hebrews 13:5). Therefore, like Moses, we can also say, "Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations." (Psalm 90:1).
Soon we will leave 2020 and enter 2021. For many people, 2020 has been a hard and challenging year. Covid-19 has infected millions of victims. The latest data shows Cases: 81.5M, Recovered: 46.1M, Deaths: 1.78M. Many people lost their parents, spouses, children, relatives, or friends this year due to the Coronavirus. The pandemic has also resulted in an economic crisis everywhere. Hundreds of millions of people lost their jobs, investments/savings, even their houses. Not to mention the problem of mental disorders. The “shelter-in-place” for more than ten months has also resulted in many people experiencing “Cabin Fever” and depression.
Difficult situations and bitter experiences that a person has, tends to make him see life negatively. Therefore, many people are gloomy on this New Year's Eve, feeling sad and anxious in entering 2021 because they are reminded of the bitter experiences this year. As God's children, we need to learn from Moses in seeing our life journey in 2020. Let us read Psalm 90:1-12.
This Psalm, written by Moses, is possibly the oldest in the Book of Psalms. According to the interpreters, this Psalm background can be seen in Deuteronomy 31 and 32, when the people of Israel will enter the Promised Land. Forty years earlier, God called Moses to lead the Israelites out of the land of slavery in Egypt. At first, Moses refused. He knew that the task was overwhelming. Forty years earlier (so it was eighty years before this Psalm was written), Moses fled from Egypt's kingdom, defending an Israeli slave who was beaten by a Pharaoh soldier. He killed the soldier. But instead of his people being grateful to him, they threatened Moses to report what he had done to Pharaoh’s soldier. Fearing that Pharaoh would punish him, he fled and lived in Midian for forty years.
Finally, Moses obeyed God's commands. Under his leadership, more than one million Israelis made it out of Egypt. At first, they rejoiced because they were set free from the slavery they had experienced for decades. But when they faced difficulties, they became sad, afraid, panicked, and angry. They no longer remembered the miracles that God performed in Egypt and the Red Sea. Even when they were almost into the land of Canaan, they still grumbled and did not believe in God's presence. Because of that, God punished them, including Moses too. No one was allowed by God to enter the land of Canaan except Caleb and Joshua. They all had to go on, wandering in the wilderness for forty years. I couldn't imagine how hard it was to live in such a hot and cold nature for so many years in the wilderness. It must be harsh! Right now, we live in our home, and we feel cold, so sometimes we need to turn on the heater. One by one, the people who came out of Egypt died in the wilderness. According to verse 10, most of them died before the age of seventy.
With such a background in life experience, it turns out that the prophet Moses did not start his prayer with a complaint or disappointment, let alone anger at God. Let us read verses 1 and 2. Moses began his prayer with a statement of faith, praise to God, and thanksgiving to God, who had been the shelter of His people for forty years in the wilderness. If Moses had written only these two verses, many would have thought that he had just experienced God's beautiful blessings. But what happened was that he had experienced living in the wilderness for forty years that was very tough. What a testimony of Moses' faith this is!
Verses 3 - 6 show a contrast between human weakness and transience and God's power and eternity. Moses knew that many patriarchs lived to be nearly a thousand years (as recorded in Genesis 5). But such a long lifetime for God is only like yesterday or a watch at night (about 3 hours). God is not limited by time and space.
Verses 7-11 tell of Moses and his people's hardships during the forty years in the wilderness until they all died due to their disobedience and unbelief in God. However, once again, Moses could still express his faith in God, as he mentioned in verses 1 and 2.
Can we say, like Moses, that, even though we have experienced many hardships this year such as failure, loss, disappointment, health problems, difficulties, and had to do “shelter-in-place" for ten months, we still believe in God and that He is our shelter?
Indeed, if we can be like today, it is because of God's blessings and grace. He had guarded and protected us from harm and evil, gave us strength when we were weak and sick. He comforted and helped us when we were in trouble and facing challenges. God has taken care of us for 365 days this year! Therefore, let us focus our hearts and minds on God's grace and faithfulness, not on our hardship and bitter experiences. Let all of the experiences that have occurred this year become valuable experiences that make us wiser, more careful, stronger, and continue to grow in the Lord.