Proclamation of God’s Word

-By Thomas E. Brewton

In this new year, we must live to show that the word of God is full of living power.

The Reverend Jason Pankau preached today’s sermon at the Long Ridge Congregational Church (non-UCC; in North Stamford, Connecticut). His text was Psalm 90:1-17:

A prayer of Moses the man of God.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.” For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning- though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered. We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.

The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Relent, O LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.

The focus of Rev. Pankau’s message was Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Wisdom, he noted, is knowledge applied to life in ways that make life work according to God’s will. It is not about gaining our own goals according to our personal plans. If we are to follow God’s will, we must experience and express love and true compassion for our fellows.

An underlying and key concept is stewardship: our lives, our very being, are given to us by God. We did not make ourselves, nor is it our prerogative to direct our lives solely toward selfish ends. We are stewards of our lives and fully accountable to God for how we live our lives.

Failing in this stewardship has consequences, one of the best examples being the forty years’ wandering of the tribes of Israel in the desert wilderness, after their exodus from bondage in Egypt.

God always has plans for us, some of which may require enduring tribulation, but only for our own or the greater benefit. In Jeremiah 29:10-14, the prophet Jeremiah writes from Jerusalem to the Jews enduring the Babylonian captivity:

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity.”

They are, in the meantime, Jeremiah advises them in verses 5-7, to:

Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

Rev. Pankau concluded with the message that the hyper-reality and hyperactivity of the modern world must not be allowed to preoccupy us. Like the Jews in Babylon around 596 BC, we must begin by viewing everything from the perspective of the end that God has in mind for us: to be loving followers of His word.

At the same time, start from the beginning, which is God, who created us and everything we know. Put first things first. And actively seek to follow His will to glorify Him.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001