One of the prayers of Moses is included for us. His prayer is for Israel that the God who knew them before the beginning will be with them to the end.
I was surprised to see the name of the psalmist for today’s reading. Not being a bible scholar, I had no idea that a prayer of Moses had been turned into a psalm. It also surprised me with its content. Moses is asking God the same question; “How long” (verse 13b) is Your anger and punishment going to last?
When Israel entered the wilderness God had plans to bring them right on through. God had them stop long enough to build the Tabernacle and create an order to things. This occupied their first year; three months into their journey and nine months to complete the building project. He set up their governmental and social structure during that time. Part of it was accomplished through Moses’ father-in-law’s advice but even that was a gift of the Lord.
Even as these groundwork tasks were being completed Israel was grumbling and falling into sin. One of the MAJOR sins during this time was the construction of the golden calf. (Side note: I find it interesting that when Israel split into two kingdoms, golden calves again became ‘their gods’.) God dealt with this sin immediately and with bloodshed. He didn’t pat them on the head and say, “There there little children. All is forgiven.” Through Moses, He stepped HARD on this rebellion. But once it was over, things went back to normal; Him leading and them following. And He was leading them quickly to the Promised Land.
At the very edge of the fulfillment of God’s promise, the people turned back again. This wasn’t the first, second or even third time they had tested God but it was one too many. God had more than He would stand for. He proclaimed that day that NONE of the adults who had come out of Egypt, except Caleb and Joshua, would live to see His promise fulfilled. Moses got himself excluded later on through his own actions, but that’s another story.
I am curious to know if that first year of construction and organization is counted into the 40 years of wandering. Did Israel wander 40 years or were they in the wilderness 40 years? According to Numbers 14:34 is was 40 years of wandering; one year for each of the days they had spied out the Promised Land. God could still have credited that first year to their account. Only He knows for certain.
Even while enduring their punishment they STILL wandered from His ways and the covenant they made with Him. The last of the required lives were lost after they joined themselves with Moab and served their idols.
During this back and forth time of obedience and discipline is when Moses prayed his prayer. I imagine he prayed this prayer MULTIPLE times during those 40 years. I can hear him renewing this prayer every time Israel fell back into grumbling and sin. Each time God disciplined them. “How long is this discipline going to last? How many will fall this time as a result?”
“Who considers the power of Your anger, and Your wrath according to the fear of You? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O Lord! How Long? Have pity on Your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as You have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil” (verses 11-15).
God would ‘satisfy’ Israel with MANY days and show His steadfast love to her FOREVER. He still shows His love to Israel today, but not how He wishes He could. The people whom He called to Himself refuse to accept His Son. That makes them no less His children but it results in a relationship strain like no other. Regardless of their faithfulness, God will be faithful for ALL eternity.
When I was first reading this psalm I was reminded of a song my ex-husband used to say depicted his love for me. The song is “Forever and Ever, Amen” by Randy Travis. It’s a beautiful song but in that song there is an end identified, even if it wasn’t meant to be. Randy’s intent was to say the love would last a lifetime but he used examples that didn’t. “As long as old men sit and talk about the weather. As long as old women sit and talk about old men.” These conversations end. And so did my ex-husband’s “love” for me.
But God’s love NEVER ends! It is from before the foundations of the earth to the end of eternity! He will NEVER take His steadfast love from us. We WILL go through times of consequences but that doesn’t mean He is absent or He has taken His love from us. It means instead that He loves us ENOUGH to discipline us. “For the Lord disciplines the ones He loves” (Hebrews 12:6a). If He didn’t love me He wouldn’t care what I did. His love is BEYOND forever! It is for all eternity!!!
Father God, THANK YOU for Your love! Thank You that Your love NEVER ends. Thank You also for the discipline that I receive, assuring me that I am STILL loved, even in the middle of my messes.
I pray Your love is evident to my children and grandchildren. I know I have placed them in Your hands MANY times over. I put them there once again. Let them see Your steadfast love, including the discipline that Your love demands. I know my children were introduced to You as they grew up but many of my grandchildren don’t have that grounding. They have some lessons from Nanny but I am limited in how far I can take it. YOU aren’t. I do NOT want them to be like the last of the Israelites who had to die before Your people could enter the Promised Land. I pray they hear Your voice before You come again. I wonder if they would listen if the Rapture happened today. I PRAY so!