by Jim Jester
May 16, 2021
Scripture Reading: Psalm 31:14-19
14 “But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my God. 15 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. 16 Make thy face to shine upon thy servant: save me for thy mercies’ sake. 17 Let me not be ashamed, O LORD; for I have called upon thee: let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave. 18 Let the lying lips be put to silence; which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.
19 Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!”
In this portion of Psalm 31, David confesses his faith in God, seeks deliverance from enemy persecution, and prays for the premature death of these enemies. “My times are in Thy hand,” means that God controls the events in his life and that He determines his future. David is trusting his God. “Let Thy face shine on thy servant” is an expression for a favorable response to his prayer; and is often found in Scripture. “Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes” (Ps. 119:135). David expresses his gratitude in verse 19, “Oh how great is Thy goodness, which Thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee.”
To “fear” God is not necessarily a fear as we usually use the term, e.g., the fear of a fire or the fear of falling from a height. No doubt, God is to be feared by evildoers, for “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). But, to fear God is to respect and reverence Him by living in a holy or pious manner. Some synonyms for “piety” are: religious, godliness, devoutness, spirituality, saintliness, and reverence. These things true Christians aspire to and live by as much as possible.
However, while piety is a good characteristic, there is a danger in life when it is carried too far, or if other duties are neglected. In other words, pietism alone will not solve all the problems in the world. It is similar to, “It is faith alone that saves, yet faith is never alone.”
Pietism is something I grew up with in the churches I attended; and I have noticed it in Christian broadcasting yet today. They have a certain amount of good teaching, Bible lessons, and music, but they never touch on the real problem, the jew. Instead, jews are lauded as poor and unfortunate. They also do not know who they are as, “true Jews (Judeans/Israel);” and therefore, do not understand the importance of following the laws of God in the real world of politics. Since they do not know that they are Israel, they tend to lose hope in the God of their fathers. They tend to think their only hope is in their theoretical “Rapture” of the church and the “coming of the Lord.”
The following article discussing this topic is from Pastor Trewhella:
The Destructive Influence of Pietism in American Society
Many in American Christianity like to use great swelling words about revival – “ a national revival” – as being the only means whereby the ills of our nation will be reversed or cured. But I submit to you, that even if there were a great revival in this nation, we would not see any of the change in the hearts of men translated into a change in America’s laws. The reason there would be no change is that American Christianity is rooted and wed to Pietism.
Pietism, as a movement, originated in the late 17th century, and was what some saw as a reaction to the cold orthodoxy that had settled in 150 years after the Reformation. Pietists viewed Christianity as being prevalent within Western culture, but believed they saw little of it evident in people’s personal lives. Pietism therefore, went to the other extreme and taught that Christianity should only affect the personal. Pietists believe Christianity or God’s Law has no place for the governance of society. They view involvement in public policy matters to be “unspiritual.” Hence, the Pietist is constantly preoccupied with checking their motives, and listening to countless sermons on inter-personal relationships and self-improvement techniques. Pietism was developed among the Lutherans, impacted the Calvinists, and became prevalent amongst the Baptists [and soon found its way into fundamental Methodists, known as the Holiness Movement, and Pentecostals]. Pietism went on to infect every area of Christianity.
We are now seeing the results of a pietistic Christianity. Because the Pietists retreated from the culture, the institutions of the culture have been annexed and overtaken by pagan men. So thoroughly have they routed Christianity that their current mopping up efforts consist of not allowing Christmas to any longer be called “Christmas.” The Pietist, who has continually retreated for over 200 years, has now made his stand there in defense of Christmas, not realizing that this form of Christianity has brought us to this point. And this is my point: even if there was a great revival, there is no theological means within present day Christianity, whereby biblical morality could become public policy. There has to be a fundamental change in the form of Christianity in order to see it happen.
American Christianity not only has no desire to see the law of God fleshed out in American jurisprudence – it is literally incapable of doing so. We have been skating on the coattails of Christian men who established what is known as Western Civilization for over 200 years now. The “rule of law” for nearly 1500 years has been God’s Law in Western Civilization, not by chance, but because Christian men made it so. We are now witnessing the collapse of the rule of law in our day. We can thank the Pietists, in all their spiritual pride and Gnostism, for it. The Pietist hates God’s Law as much as the pagan. The Pietist and the pagan have something they agree upon: their mutual hatred of God’s Law in society. The pagan hates it because of his rebellion. The Pietist hates it because of his religion. The result is a mutually assured destruction of the culture.
Scholar and historian, Steven Ozment, in his book Protestants: Birth of a Revolution, said that the Protestant Reformers understood that “Reform that existed only in pamphlets and sermons, and not also in law and institutions, would remain a private affair, confined to all intents and purposes within the minds of preachers and pamphleteers.” But present day American Christianity is perfectly content for it to “remain a private affair,” hence, the malaise in our culture. True Christianity understands that it is not an either/or; rather, it understands true Christianity benefits individual men and is a benefit to nations. Pietism is why The Barna Group recently found that 80% of Christians do not know how to apply their Christianity to their everyday life. This is because Pietism fragments everything between the so-called “spiritual” and the “unspiritual;” and thinks God’s Word doesn’t have anything to say about law, government, economics or education [which it is full of]. This results in the individual Pietist conforming to every area of American life because he views Christianity as not applicable to his life, and every area of life.
I recently received a flyer in my mailbox from a “bible-believing” church, which invited me to hear a “sermon series” about “tension.” This is all pietistic Christianity has to offer the nation; and this is what one’s Christianity is reduced to by Pietism – a therapy for tension. Christian men of old saw things far differently. They believed the civil authorities should “kiss the Son, lest He be angry” (Ps. 2:10-12). They sought to win the magistrates of their day to Christ, or to at least respect His rule. They understood that the law of God in society was needed, and that civil government was suppose to be a picture of God’s justice and glory in the earth, causing men to consider matters of eternal salvation. We are not talking about a socio-political utopia here, as the nature of man forbids it. I can assure you however, that when Christian men of old found themselves in a dire situation, they didn’t open up their prophecy charts and begin to examine them. Rather, they picked up their Bibles and looked to construct a Christian society. May the Lord grant us the grace to do likewise. – Pastor Matt Trewhella
1 A Prayer of Moses the man of God.
“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. 3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. 4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. 5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. 6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.
7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. 8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. 9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. 10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. 11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. 12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
13 Return, O LORD, how long? And let it repent thee concerning thy servants. 14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. 16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. 17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” – Ps. 90
It is impossible to decide upon what occasion the psalm was composed; but the probability is, that it was written towards the close of the forty years wandering in the wilderness. It is the only psalm ascribed to Moses. “It was written,” says F. W. Robertson, “evidently in the wilderness, after years of apparently fruitless wandering; its tone is that of deep sadness—retrospective; its images are borrowed from the circumstances of the pilgrimage—the mountain flood, the grass, the night watch of an army on the march.”
“Lord, thou hast been our Dwelling place…” (v. 1). This psalm is a monument of spiritual power. Remember, that Moses had no dwelling place in the wilderness, other than his God (a spiritual “dwelling place”). Generations pass, and centuries mount up into thousands of years; but this ancient psalm lifts up its voice with unfailing strength and serenity. The psalm has been spoken of as “perhaps the most sublime of human compositions, the deepest in feeling, the loftiest in theologic conception, the most magnificent in its imagery” (Isaac Taylor). Even those who question the tradition that it was written by Moses are at a loss to suggest who else could have been its author. Whether Moses or not, he “wrote as he was moved by the Holy Ghost.” The opening statements express these fundamental truths: the eternal existence of God, the dependence of all other existence on the Creator, and our personal covenant relation to our heavenly Father – “…our Dwelling place in all generations.” “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death” (Ps. 48:14).
In verses 2-3, the psalmist (Moses) brings before us the greatness of God. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” The word “earth” is used by the Psalmist to denote our world as distinguished from the heavens; and the word “world” signifies an inhabited fruitful land, or a land fitted for habitation. The “mountains” are mentioned first, because they appear most ancient, stable, and enduring. Upon all the generations that have ever trod this planet, with all their anxieties and cares, all their strife’s and wars, the old hills have cast their calm and silent shadows. They seem to have been there forever, as they are, and that they would forever continue that way. They are the most impressive symbols of the unchangeable and the eternal.
In the poetic language of the Bible, mountains are spoken of as eternal. Jacob spoke of “the everlasting hills” (Gen. 49:26). And Moses, “of the ancient mountains, and of the lasting hills” (Deut. 33:15). Yet, they had a beginning. However ancient the earth may be, it has not been from everlasting. The world is not eternal. God existed before the mountains were brought forth, before the world was created. Someone has said it takes two everlastings (from past to present, and from present to future) to make an eternal. Verse 2 says this about God, “…From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Only God is Eternal.
Eternal God and Transitory Man
In view of God’s eternity and wrath, and man’s mortality and sin, God’s people seek to live wisely. God has been their true home in all generations of Israel’s history. “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them” (Deut. 33:27). Lord, hasten the day, is our prayer.
Verses 5-6 give us three figures for the brevity of life: a flash flood, a night’s sleep, and grass:
In contrast to the infinite God stands finite man. A thousand years are almost nothing to God; and man will soon be dust. The psalmist speaks of mortal life as “carried away as with a flood” (v. 5). We have seen the river swollen with heavy rain rushing irresistibly onward to the ocean. So the races of men are carried away into the vast ocean of eternity.
“…They are like a sleep” (v. 5). Barnes expounds, “They are as sleep appears to us in the morning, when we wake from it: rapid, unreal, full of empty dreams.” Martin Luther says: “We know that sleep is such a thing that it ceases ere we can perceive it or mark it; for, before we are aware that we have slept, sleep is gone and ended. Wherefore truly our life is nothing else than a sleep and a dream, for before we are rightly conscious of being alive, we cease to live.”
Moses also compares our life to the grass. “In the morning let it flower, and pass away: in the evening let it droop, let it be withered and dried up” (v. 6, Brenton). The idea is clear: like the grass or flower, which in the morning is green or blossoming in beauty, and in the evening is cut down and withered by the sun, is man’s life upon earth. Thus, as the ancient curse of Genesis 3:19 says, “… dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
A Plea for God’s Favor
The people pray (v. 13-17) that their Covenant God will return to them in favor, so that they may enjoy the short span of life allotted to them. “Return, O LORD, how long” (v. 13)? They have been very conscious of God’s wrath against sin because of the affliction they have experienced.
Here are three petitions (v. 16-17). Let us look at them in their logical order of thought, rather than their poetic expression.
1. The first petition asks for some visible results from the work attempted. “Let Thy work appear” (v. 16) is a most natural and lawful desire. The worker longs to see some fruit of his work, some positive testimony that he has not toiled in vain. The statesman wishes it, the merchant, the farmer, the teacher, etc. But we all should be aware that God has given us the natural ability to do the work we are capable of. It is, after all, God’s work. Thus, we petition the Lord of the harvest for some visible results of our sowing.
2. The second petition asks for the stability of the work. No one wishes that the thing upon which he has his deepest thought, intent and labor, should be scattered and lost. How long will it endure? “Your glory to their children” (v. 16). Good honest work, even if it were not of the highest type, is the only durable work. It will be passed on down through the family. And what work can compare with “turning men to righteousness?” This all Christians seek as they go about their daily deeds and responsibilities. We should consider, that when Jesus said to “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel,” He meant, “As you go about your world, preach the gospel.”
3. The third petition asks for the succession and expansion of the work, for its widest possible influence. “Establish the work of our hands” (v. 17, mentioned twice for emphasis). The beauty and glory have come upon us, Thy servants, and have descended upon our children. This is the work of the Kingdom of God. The petition is for our descendants, and for all who shall follow us in that grand procession through the ages of living men. Nothing less expresses the fullness of the prayer, “Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, as in heaven so in earth.”
Two cautions we should do well to heed: 1. Prayer without work is a mockery. 2. Work without prayer is vain. – J. Jackson Goadby.
“The Message of the Passing Years” by F. B. Meyer:
“The majestic music of this great psalm separates it from all the rest. It is like the deep bass stop of a mighty organ. Moses’ authorship is stamped upon it. It is worthy of the man who had seen God face to face.
Ps. 90:1-6. The transitoriness of human life is contrasted with the stability of God. He is the asylum and home of all the generations of mankind (Deut. 33:27). The earth and its mountains, the universe and its worlds, were born of Him; but He Himself had no origin, no beginning. Time is but a sigh, a breath, the swift rush of the mountain-torrent, a tale told by the campfire at night, the grass of a morning’s growth.
Ps. 90:7-12. A wail is borne in these verses from the forty years of wanderings. The ceaseless succession of graves was the bitter harvest of Israel’s rebellions. Oh, that we might apply our hearts to wisdom that we may not fail of God’s rest!
Ps. 90:13-17. In the closing words, Moses utters a sublime prayer, which includes us all. Let us seek to do some good work before we go, and may our children be a nobler generation than ourselves! But all beauty of character and permanence of work must emanate from God.” – Meyer
Though our days are few, they can be lived in God and thus take on eternal significance. Thy kingdom come, O Lord.
Psalm 90, Isaac Watts, GERMANY, 8888, “Jesus Thy Blood”
1 Through ev’-ry age, e-ter-nal God,
Thou art our rest, our safe a-bode;
High was thy throne ere heav’n was made,
Or earth thy hum-ble foot-stool laid.
2 Long hadst thou reigned ere time be-gan,
Or dust was fash-ioned to a man;
And long thy king-dom shall en-dure
When earth and time shall be no more.
3 But man, weak man, is born to die,
Made up of guilt and van-i-ty;
Thy dread-ful sen-tence, Lord, was just,
“Re-turn, ye sin-ners, to your dust.”
4 A thou-sand of our years a-mount
Scarce to a day in thine ac-count;
Like yes-ter-day’s de-part-ed light,
Or the last watch of end-ing night.
5 Death, like an overflowing stream,
Sweeps us away; our life’s a dream,
An empty tale, a morning flower,
Cut down and withered in an hour.
6 Teach us, O Lord, how frail is man;
And kind-ly length-en out our span,
Till a wise care of pi-e-ty
Fit us to die, and dwell with thee.