Lord--Our Hope Is in You!
O Lord God, as I enter into Your presence for worship this New Year’s Eve may I do so with a heart filled with thanksgiving and a soul confident of Your blessing. You have been good to me this past year—sustaining me amidst every trial and rejoicing with me in every triumph. You have promised graciously to be with me at all times as I go forward. Bless my worship this evening. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Paul’s desire is that we grow closer to God the Father and Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Paul warns us not to be misled by the traditions and philosophies of men, but rather recognize that we are complete in Christ, who is Lord of all!
Jesus urges us not to seek and horde the treasures of this world, but rather to seek those treasures found in heaven. We cannot, He says, serve two masters, for we must choose between God and mammon. When we serve God we will walk in the light, rather than in darkness.
Text: Psalm 39:4-7
“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah
Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them. And now, Lord, what do I wait for? My hope is in You.”
In Christ Jesus, our precious Savior and Lord, dear fellow redeemed:
Today marks the end of the calendar year. The last day of the year offers each of us an opportunity to look back at the old year and reflect, even as we look forward in preparation for the New Year to come. Generally, as we reflect on the past over the last year, we tend to think about those things that went right and those things that went wrong. We then go on to consider what things should then be changed, and what things should be kept the same in the New Year. King David, however, in our text for this evening is not content merely to consider outward matters—the affairs of the kingdom or the situations that arose within his family. Rather, as he reflects upon the past and looks forward into the future, he turns to God to help him evaluate and adjust his entire attitude and approach to all of life. He concludes his thoughts with a statement that I pray will be on all of our lips this evening as we leave God’s house—LORD—OUR HOPE IS IN YOU!
Yes, OUR HOPE IS IN YOU, LORD, therefore, hear our prayer! David’s opening words are a prayer of petition, but a petition unlike many if any we have ever prayed:“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.” David asks the LORD to grant him a proper perspective on his future, especially in view of his own mortality as compared to divine immortality.
We ought to join David in praying this prayer! He first asks the LORD to make him know his end. Now for what is David asking? He surely means that he wants God to help him keep in mind that he will one day die. All of us will one day die! We are mortal, and there is nothing that any of us can do to change that. We generally do not like to think about that, which is one reason why most people do not like to talk about death. Yet we must not only talk about death, but we must develop a proper perspective on the subject, for if we ignore the prospect, we will not be prepared when death comes. We must be prepared, for death is not our “end,” but rather it is merely the beginning of our future life. All that ends at death is our existence in this earthly life. After death we will stand before the judgment throne of God, for we are answerable to Him. We will hear Jesus say either, “Come, you blessed of my Father,inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” or “‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:34, 41). Depending on the words we hear, we will spend the rest of eternity either in heaven or hell. Consequently, when we pray, “LORD, make me know my end” we are asking God to give us a proper perspective on our entire future beyond death! Anything less would be short-sighted, and yet how many of us do spend the vast majority of our time and effort, if not all of it, on the "here and now?" This, my dear friends, reveals an astounding lack of wisdom should that indeed be the case!
Let us join David in prayer by going on to ask God to help us know “what is the measure of my (our) days.” The Bible tells us in Psalm 139, “In Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (v. 16b). In other words God has a plan for each of our lives, and He knows exactly how many days we will live! That does not mean that we can or should become fatalistic…what will be, will be, but rather we can and should take comfort in the fact that God is sovereign and His will has our best in mind. Our life on this earth is limited and, therefore, we ought view every day we are given as a gift of His grace and strive to use it properly to His glory and the blessing of those around us.
The fact of the matter is that we do not know how long our lives will be. Consequently, let us develop a perspective that will truly seek to honor God each day. Three recent deaths demonstrate how important this is for each of us. Nine days ago Ruth Flanagan died. She was 95 years old. She had lived a long life, but everyone expected her to die after her heart attack. She was, after all, very old. Three days ago John Galstad died. He was 65 years old. If you had told anyone ten years ago that John would die at age 65, they would have shook their heads in doubt. He was strong and healthy. His parents had lived to much older ages. Chances were that he would too, but then he developed cancer. His health departed, as did his strength and vigor. He died at a relatively young age. Finally, most of you, if not all of you, have heard of the sledding accident that took place two days ago in a grandparents’ back yard in Dassel Township. No one expected such a tragic accident. No one expected Emmi Barbaro would not return to her fourth grade classroom after the holidays.
LORD, help us to know the measure of our days that we “may know how frail I am (we are).” My dear friends, we are not as strong as we would like to think we are. Our earthly lives can be gone in an instant. David tells us that our lives—even such a long life as that of Ruth Flanagan—are merely a “handbreadth” for God. Our lives, while infinitely valuable to God, are as nothing in comparison to God. After all, for God a thousand years is as a day, and a day as a thousand years (cf. 2 Pet. 3:8). Consequently, a proper perspective on our human condition is that “every man at his best state is but vapor.” That is true for you and me. That is true even for someone like Adrian Peterson, who yesterday nearly broke the NFL record for yards run in a season.
My dear friends, let us join David in confessing: LORD—OUR HOPE IS IN YOU! It is not in ourselves. Let us plead with Him to hear our prayer! Help us develop a proper perspective on life!
Help us, likewise, to set our priorities in life! David goes on,“Surely every man walks about like a shadow; surely they busy themselves in vain; he heaps up riches, and does not know who will gather them.” David addresses a topic that his son, Solomon, would later address more thoroughly both in Proverbs and in Ecclesiastes—the vanity of our present life.
David first suggests that we are all like shadows as we go about our daily lives. What does he mean? A shadow is an image cast by an object when light is directed towards it. It is not real like the object. It has no lasting substance of its own, for it will disappear when sufficient light is cast upon it. We are but a shadow in that we are here, but in reality only for a short time. Then we are gone and little if no evidence will remain of our past existence.
Consequently, David says, we busy ourselves in vain. We seek so very often to heap up riches—the material things of this world, but to what end? David says, we do “not know who will gather them.” Solomon is even more emphatic in his recognition of the vanity of the endless pursuit of riches: “Then I hated all my labor in which I had toiled under the sun, because I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will rule over all my labor in which I toiled and in which I have shown myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity” (Ecc. 2:18-19)
Think of Jesus' parable of the foolish rich man. The man had such good crops that he needed more space to store them. He tore down his old barns and built new bigger ones. He filled them and then said to himself, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”God, however, had other ideas and told the rich man: “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” Jesus' points are that we are to beware of covetousness; that our lives do not consist of our material possessions, which are only a trust given to us by God; and that we are always to be rich towards God, which means that our highest priorities are to serve the will of God in our lives (cf. Lk. 12:13-21).
My dear friends, God has given each of us our lives. They are precious in His sight—gifts of His grace. God has also given each of us our own individual gifts and abilities to be used to accomplish His goals for us. Remember Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). We will only truly be fulfilled and happy as we accomplish our divinely determined purpose in this life. Does that mean that you cannot enjoy the fruits of your labors in this life? Of course not! God gives you many blessings to enjoy through your labors, but those blessings are not to be the object of desires. Rather the object of your desires is to be your Lord and Savior.
Remember, David was a king into whose hands was entrusted great power, many riches, and considerable honor. David knew from bitter personal experiences the temptations and sorrows associated with it all, for he at times lost sight of the Lord and fell into sin. But David was a man after God’s own heart. He repented of those sins and sought in prayer the wisdom and strength to go forward trusting in God’s forgiving love, His revealed wisdom, and His available strength. My dear friends, we are not much different than David. That is why I would urge all of you to join me as we end this year and look forward to beginning a New Year tomorrow by acknowledging in faith: LORD—OUR HOPE IS IN YOU! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!