“A Prayer of Moses, The Man of God.”
That’s the title of Psalm 90 and why I chose to preach this Psalm.
I feel an affinity to Moses and have wondered what he would pray.
I feel an affinity to Moses, because he was an epic failure.
We seem to forget that, and picture Moses as Charlton Heston with a nice tan.
Moses was a Hebrew slave raised as an Egyptian prince.
If anyone would’ve, could’ve, should’ve set God’s people free, it would’ve appeared to be Moses.
When he was about forty years old, he saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite slave and struck down the Egyptian.
The Israelites didn’t trust him, and Pharaoh sought to kill him, and so he fled.
Moved by his passions he tried to save Israel and failed.
That’s what Kierkegaard referred to as the first sphere of existence—the aesthetic sphere; it is to seek salvation through passion.
The second sphere is the ethical sphere; it is to seek salvation through obedience to the law.
When Moses was about 80, having herded sheep in the wilderness for 40 years, God spoke to him out of the burning bush.
And sent Moses to set the people free.
God performed astounding miracles through the staff of Moses and led the Israelites through the sea and to the mountain of God.
Soon the Israelites complained, for lack of water.
God had Moses strike “The Rock” with his staff.
The word “strike,” is the same word used to describe what Moses did to the Egyptian; Moses “smote” the rock and out of it flowed a river of living—that is, fresh—water.
Then God led Moses up that mountain where he gave him the law—“The knowledge of Good and evil.”
When the people were afraid to enter the promised land, God had them wander the desert for 40 years and die.
When the next generation returned to the edge of the promised land, they too began to complain, for lack of water.
God told Moses to “tell the Rock” to yield its water.
The ancients believed that it was the same rock that Moses had smote once before.
St. Paul writes that it was “the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ.”
Moses says, “Shall we—Aaron and I—make water come out of this Rock for you rebels?”
Then he smote the Rock twice.
Then God said, “Moses you will not bring the assembly into the land, but you will be gathered to your people” …in Sheol.
Then God took him up Mt. Nebo—120 years old, showed him the land, and said, “you will not pass over.” Then, Moses died, there on that mountain.
He did not do, what he set out to do, although he had been given epic tools to do it.
Moses was an epic failure, and maybe each of us is an epic failure.
So, what did Moses pray? He prayed Psalm 90.
It ends with this request: “Let the favor of our Lord be upon us and… establish the work of our hands!”
The work of Moses’s hands was the salvation of Israel… and Moses.
So, did God establish the work of Moses’s hands?
About 1500 years later, Jesus took Peter, John, and James up a mountain, where he was suddenly transfigured—literally “metamorphosed.”
Jesus shone like the sun… and then, Moses appeared with him “in Glory.”
Moses is speaking to the Rock on a mountain in the Holy Land, transfigured in Glory.
And Scripture is clear that the dry bones of the whole house of Israel will rise from their graves, be clothed in new flesh, and enter the land.
Did God establish the work of Moses’s hands? Oh YES.
Moses, the epic failure, is God’s unmitigated success.
And you, the epic failure, are God’s unmitigated and eternal success.
And once you begin to see it, it will entirely change the way you travel.
Kierkegaard called this the third sphere.
In the first sphere, we see that the fruit is good for food and a delight to the eyes.
In the second sphere, we see that the fruit is desired to make one wise.
In the third sphere, we see that the fruit is the Life of Christ, and that what we took he freely gives. We enter God’s rest, for God’s rest has entered us.
And we bear the fruit of Life.
We live by grace through faith, and this not of ourselves.
It is an entirely different way to travel.
But then, we might ask, “Why the journey? Why even try?”
Well, you can’t fail unless you try to not fail.
And if you don’t know your own failure, perhaps you won’t be able to know God’s epic, unmitigated, and eternal success: you.
If you don’t know that you, yourself, can do nothing, you will be utterly crushed by the weight of your own glory—you are the tabernacle of the living God.
The last time I spoke to my Mom was on a Wednesday a few weeks ago.
She kept saying “Peter, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do.”
Finally, I said, “Mom, you don’t have to do anything.” And we prayed.
That Friday—a good Friday—the nurse came in to turn her in her bed.
She looked up and said, “I’m a butterfly and I’m going to fly away.”
Then she did. She was metamorphosed, like Jesus, like Moses…
She is God’s unmitigated and eternal success.