By Dr. Matt Ayars
President Wesley Biblical Seminary
Too often I pause and consider the state of affairs in the world and wonder, How in the world did we end up here? How did things become such a mess? Similarly, there are times in my life when I look at the mess that I’ve created for myself and wonder the same thing. When I look back on my life before Jesus I marvel at how in the world God was able to get me out of the disastrous, self-consuming condition I was in.
I praise the Lord that I’m not alone in these questions and these sentiments.
The Israelites were in a huge, self-created mess when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians. God had promised David that he would build him an eternal kingdom and that David’s offspring would extend the holy reign of God to the ends of the earth. And then came the sons and grandsons of David and they were a disaster. Things unraveled more and more with each Davidic king that came along.
God’s people eventually watched from a distance in bewilderment, confusion, desperation, and sorrow as their city was burned to the ground by pagans. They watched and wondered, How in the world did we get into this mess, and how is God ever going to save us?
Psalm 89—which sets the context for 90—expresses these sentiments with this:
But now you have cast off and rejected; you are full of wrath against your anointed. You have renounced the covenant with your servant; you have defiled his crown in the dust. You have breached all his walls; you have laid his strongholds in ruins. All who pass by plunder him; he has become the scorn of his neighbors. You have exalted the right hand of his foes; you have made all his enemies rejoice. You have also turned back the edge of his sword, and you have not made him stand in battle. You have made his splendor to cease and cast his throne to the ground. You have cut short the days of his youth; you have covered him with shame. How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire? Psalm 89:68-46
Thankfully, the book of Psalms doesn’t end there. God has the last word as Psalm 90 speaks directly into this mess.
Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses. It’s interesting that this is the first and only psalm that is attributed to Moses. Up until this point, we’ve heard the prayers and songs of David and the temple singers (sons of Korah and Asaph), but not Moses. This is both strange and surprising because Moses preceded David chronologically. It would make sense that if we heard a prayer of Moses that it would come before David since he lived five hundred years before David.
So why now? Why wait until Psalm 90 to hear the voice of Moses?
It is because in Psalm 90, Moses is interceding for God’s people in their current situation, just like he did in the golden calf incident back in Exodus 32.
The book of Psalms is divided into five sub-books:
– Book 1: 1-41
– Book 2: 42-72
– Book 3: 73-89
– Book 4: 90-106
– Book 5: 107-150
Each of these books corresponds to a period in Israel’s history as follows:
– Book 1: United Monarchy Under David
– Book 2: United Monarchy Under Solomon and the Temple
– Book 3: Divided Monarchy
– Book 4: Exile
– Book 5: Return from Exile
This means that at the end of Book 3, which is marked with Psalm 89, the people are in a mess. They are confused as Jerusalem has fallen and they are being carted off into exile by pagans.
Right on the heels of this confusion comes Psalm 90 which is a prayer of intercession.
Moses interceded once during a crucial moment in the time of God’s people, and here he does it again for Israel. The events recorded in Exodus 32 is a really bad moment for Israel. God put his miraculous power on display for Israel and their enemies with dramatic effect back in Egypt through the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea. He also told them not to make idols! Then, sure enough, they make an idol the first chance they got.
John Calvin was spot on when he said, “The human heart is an idol factory.”
Yes, Moses gets angry at them for their hard-heartedness and lack of gratitude. Exodus 32:19-20 says,
And as soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made and burned it with fire and ground it to powder and scattered it on the water and made the people of Israel drink it (Exodus 32:19–20).
Moses not only gets angry and smashes the idols, but he also intercedes for them. He goes up the mountain and asks the Lord to have mercy on them.
Our country is a mess. Our lives are a mess. We need an intercessor.
We also need to intercede for others. Moses provides an example for us. In Exodus 32, and here again, in Psalm 90, Moses demonstrates for us that redemption is not out of reach, but it requires destroying our idols and intercession.
Like Moses, we have a calling to intercede on behalf of others.
1 Timothy 2:1 says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…”
Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
Hebrews 7:25 says, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Romans 8:34 says, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”
In sum, Jesus is interceding for us and we need to intercede for others, especially in moments like these when it seems as if all else has failed and there’s nowhere to go but down. Our God is one of mercy who hears our prayers and responds in grace even when we’re at fault.
Will you intercede with me?