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Perspective Is Everything

Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting You are God.

You return man to dust

and say, “Return, O children of man!”

For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past,

or as a watch in the night.

- Psalm 90:1-4

The Psalms are a collection of hymns used in worship by the Israelites over many centuries. Centuries… Thinking of a unique people’s relationship with their God for centuries gives me a sense of awe. That is who we are also. Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses, and inasmuch as the Psalms were sung and recorded over a long span of time, I don’t see any reason to disbelieve that. What’s interesting, though, is the juxtaposition of Moses’ authorship and the first line of the Psalm. “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

What an odd thing to come from Moses – the man God called to lead the Hebrew people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Most of his life was spent helping the Hebrews move out of their home of enslavement, through the desert, to their new home in the land of Cana, the land of milk and honey. But the first line of the Psalm proclaims that the Lord as their dwelling place – not the Promised Land, but the Lord Himself. There is a word of wisdom in that for us, perhaps even a word of salvation.

Daily, we are inundated with more information than we can reasonably assimilate, and getting caught in the chase for the latest, up-to-date news stories and reports is so easy to do. I’ve about decided that whoever does the choosing and telling of newsworthy events picks only stories that are crises – or can be told as such. Everything is urgent; nobody can get along, and there’s almost nothing we can do. So, tensions mount, and distrust grows between everybody over everything. When we find ourselves exhausted by the array of angst-inducing controversies of the day, there is an endless array of entertainment choices available to us. It is hard to sit still and be quiet long enough to meet God for a moment, but He calls us to dwell in Him.

We need the perspective of Psalm 90. Actually, the Psalms have such depth of meaning and riches of wisdom that any reading of them draws our thoughts and hearts upward toward God and lifts us from the view of deceit and desolation portrayed at eye level. The words of Psalm 90 especially remind us that what we see is only an instant in time on a very limited horizon. Sometimes, the greatest blessing we can take from prayer each morning is the awareness of how small and inconsequential we are, which makes the magnitude of God’s love all the more astonishing and freeing.

I do not want to imply that it doesn’t matter what we do. Of course, it does! We choose right or wrong. We choose love or apathy. We choose to expend our energy spreading truth, or we capitulate to evil. We choose to strive to make the world a better place, or we succeed in making it a worse place. Our actions matter for us and for everyone we meet and maybe even for people we will never know.

The advent of television, then cable news, and then hand-held computer phones has not served us well, at least not in what is good for our souls. Instead of being connected to the people around us, we connect to people around the world. We shape and form our ideas and opinions based upon the views of people we’ve never met rather than on the shared history and values of those we love.

We know more about what is going on in the world than we ever have before. In the U.S., elections start taking place two years before a vote, at least in the presidential race, with more political opinion – good and bad – than we can possibly consume. Whatever the benefits of technology – and there are many – we fail to account Its harms. Surely, the coalescence of common vision with strangers to the detriment of the limited boundaries of daily life must be one of the most damaging effects of technology. The great expanse of our technological reach grants us a sense of worldliness and influence that is not only false but creates real distance in our immediate proximity. Agreeing with strangers we’ve never seen is much easier than is discussing differences face to face, then learning and compromising.

There have always been self-important and power-hungry men and women who sought their own ends, their own exaltation and glory. History is littered with the names and atrocities of evil and greedy leaders. Yet, history also holds the actions, the good, the care of countless billions of nameless, faceless persons who have made their tiny corner of the world a better place for everyone they touched. Their names and faces are known to God, and that is enough. One generation gives way to the next, but from everlasting to everlasting, God remains. The Lord returns all of us to dust, from the richest and most powerful to the poorest and lowliest, the virtuous and the evil.

We have the privilege, the unmerited and astounding right, to dwell in the Lord. The urgent issues of today are penultimate issues – meaning these are “next to the last” or “secondary” in nature. If the Lord is our dwelling place, then we come to understand the penultimate nature of the most urgent causes and events today. Accordingly, if the Lord is our dwelling place, we know what is ultimate in nature – what is final and eternal. Only then do we have the freedom to act for good in penultimate matters. There is little sense in investing everything in the lesser when so much more is given to us – so we can give so much more – when we invest in the greater.

What we do matters, but it matters only for the blink of an eye, for “a thousand years are like yesterday when it’s past.” Recognizing the true brevity and finite influence of our lives relieves the terrible burden of urgency that arises when we know nothing of God’s faithfulness to His people for millennia.

The Psalm says the Lord returns us to dust, and in the next phrase tells us the Lord says, “Return, O children of man.” Return, O children of Adam. Arise from the dust and come to Me for your dwelling place. As our Lord said, “I go to prepare a dwelling place for you…”

In Christ –

Rev. Elizabeth Moreau

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