Want to hear some good news? Even Moses didn’t know everything. That was my impression reading Psalm 90 earlier this week, and it was surprisingly encouraging to me. Let me explain:
As a pastor, I have the privilege of reading the Bible and praying all week long, and spending much of my time thinking about God. This means I have a lot of opportunity to grow in my faith. Because of all this focus on spiritual things, you would think that pastors would trust God more than most people.
But there is another thing happening at the same time, because pastors also spend a lot of time dealing with the hard stuff of life. Like people who work in medicine or law enforcement, we see a lot of pain in other people’s lives. And this makes us very aware of all the bad things out there that could potentially happen to us. If you do enough funerals, and counsel enough people who are dealing with bad news from the doctor or heartbreak because of their children, you start to wonder “how long before something like that happens to me?”
And of course, that’s exactly what the enemy of our souls wants. When we start living in the “what if?” we miss out on all the good things that God is doing right now. It’s pointless to fret about the future. We have no way of knowing what will happen tomorrow or next year, and whatever it is, God will meet us there. There’s also the possibility that something really great could be coming our way, and I think God would prefer that we live in hope and expectation rather than fear.
That’s why I was encouraged this week to read about a time in the Bible when a great man of God revealed his complete ignorance about what was coming. The introduction to Psalm 90 says that it is a prayer of Moses, the man of God. It’s the only Psalm Moses wrote; most of them were written much later by David and people who came after him. But here’s the really interesting thing about Psalm 90: It appears to have been written BEFORE most of the famous events in Moses’ life, at a time when he didn’t expect anything extraordinary to happen.
The tone of Psalm 90 is reflective and a little somber. Moses talks about how God has been God since before the mountains were formed, how He is everlasting, how a thousand years in His sight are like a day that has just gone by, how people’s lives are like grass. It feels a little bit like the book of Ecclesiastes: Life is hard, and I am just a speck of dust, and what is the point? But then it gets really interesting at verse 10:
Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
Did you catch that? Moses thought that most of life is trouble and sorrow, and most people live around 70 years, 80 if they’re lucky. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, here’s a refresher on Moses’ life:
He lived his first 40 years as an adopted prince in Egypt, then took a man’s life and had to flee the country as a murderer. From there he settled in the desert, got married, had a couple of kids, and spend the next 40 years as a shepherd. It wasn’t until he was 80 years old that he met God in the burning bush and was called to be the leader whom God would use to set His people free from slavery in Egypt. He became a great man of God who led Israel for its 40 years of wandering in the desert. He was used by God to part the sea and bring water from the rock. He met with God on the mountain and received the Ten Commandments. The Bible says he was the most humble man on the face of the earth. It says God spoke to him face to face, as a man speaks with his friend, and that following his regular encounters with God, his face was radiant for days afterward. The people of Israel wrote songs about him, and Christians and Jews alike speak his name with reverence to this very day.
But apparently Moses wrote Psalm 90 before any of those amazing things had happened. At the time he was an ex-prince, a murderer, and a shepherd. There was nothing glamourous or admirable about his life, and he had no reason to expect anything different for his remaining years. In fact, he assumed that his life was almost over. In the Psalm, he begs God to show compassion to His people, and to make them glad for as many years as they had been afflicted. He had no idea that he was the one God would use to answer those prayers. He prays in verse 16:
May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendor to their children.
Can you imagine? Moses praying for God to show his power through great deeds! There might not be anyone in history who got to see God’s miraculous power on display as much as Moses. This is the man who called down the ten plagues on Egypt! Who ate bread from heaven every day for decades! But there was a time when the prayer of His heart was “God, it would sure be nice to see you do something great for your people before I die, which I expect will be soon.” The forty most fruitful, exciting years of his life were ahead of him, and he had no idea.
All of this makes me think that I have no idea what’s coming for me either, and neither do you. In 2019, many of us made assumptions about what 2020 would be like. Man, were we wrong! It’s tempting to look around me at the people whose kids are a little older than mine, whose bodies are a little older than mine, who are a little further down the road in their career than me, and assume that I know what to expect in the future. But who knows what God has in store for me, or for you? Moses didn’t know. It’s probably best to live faithfully and joyfully in the present, and to trust that God will meet me in the future, whatever it holds. And maybe to pray for great big amazing things to happen, because that just might be exactly what God has planned.