Summary: A look at life in the face of inevitable death.
While preparing for this sermon I read a number of sermons by some older preachers. One of them commented on the fact that much of what was taboo when he was younger was now brazenly displayed on T-shirts for all to see. However he suggested that something that once was not taboo - death - is seemingly a taboo of today. We have all sorts of dress modes for the Barbie dolls of today but nothing like they used to have one hundred years ago when you could get the ‘black funeral’ clothes complete with coffin. There are a number of modern TV shows and movies where the show is set up by parents dying and leaving their children in their will to others. The parents had obviously discussed the issue but not with anybody else. Today death is far less talked about.
Why is that? Maybe it is because we as humanity have tried to conquer any and ever frontier we have come across, including death. Maybe it is because in our post-modern society death will destroy the many truths we live in. After death people find out though they are accepted with many different beliefs in life, there is only one post-death reality. The Psalm we are looking at today deals with the issue of death. It deals with how we are to live having a right knowledge of death.
This Psalm starts in versus 1 and 2, by giving us a picture of God as the one who was there from before the beginning and who will always be there. He was there before the hills were born, before the earth, the world was made. He was always there. But this isn’t just about God always being there. This is about God always being there as a source of comfort, a source of encouragement, a source of belonging, a home.
The implied comparison for us today is the changeless God versus the never ending change of today. The rate of change today is quite staggering. I’m sure there are many here today who have felt left behind by the rate of change in the world today. For me, six years ago I was working in IT, developing new software for different companies. Now six years later my knowledge of computers in my field is obsolete. I would now struggle to go to back to the work I was doing. Why? Because things are changing so rapidly, six years is an enormous amount of time in my past field.
Whatever else might change in this world the message of God as one who loves and accepts us into his house is one that won’t change. And he isn’t just a house, he is a dwelling, a home, a place that is more than just a building, like a church is more than just a building but the collection hopes, faith, love of the people that come and worship together and fellowship together.
Today we can be assured that the message of God is still the same. Even though the way the message is shared, the people with whom the message is shared mightn’t look the same, and the places in which the message is being share might all have changed, the message is the same. God is still there. God is still our home, our dwelling. That is the message of the scriptures and that is the message of this church. We aren’t changing the message of the scriptures though some of us may at times feel like that. I do want you to be assured of that.
The Psalm goes on to contrast the continuing eternal nature of God with the temporal nature of humanity. We see this in v3-6. God turns us back to dust. He has decreed that we should not live for ever but that we should return to the dust from which we have come. The flesh is to return to the dust and although the Psalmist doesn’t explicitly say it here the spirit back to God. We are to be ‘unmade’. Why? To what is the Psalmist referring? The Psalmist is referring back to Gen 2 + 3 where humanity was to guard the garden from all evil and failed. The perfect humanity that God created was no more. In the words of Tolkien God gave us the gift of death. No longer will fallen humanity live forever. No longer will the sins of one be afflicted on another forever. No longer will those who long for God be denied their home coming.
The Psalmist emphasises the contrast between frail temporal humanity and the enduring God from the perspective of time. For God a thousand years as just like yesterday, the day before today where many of us have forgotten what we had for diner, or lunch, or what was said or done.