February 13, 2009

Fearsome Grace

Psalm 90

May the favor [grace] of the LORD our God rest upon us …
Psalm 90:17


Psalm 90 is Moses’ fearsome contribution to the book of Psalms. What language! Forty years of desert wandering will do this to the human soul. God is everlasting, angry, indignant, wrathful, powerful, afflicting, splendid—and hopefully compassionate and loving. We are dust, dry and withered grass, iniquitous, secretly sinful, moaning, troubled, sorrowful, unwise, afflicted.

And yet this psalm, so fearfully descriptive of God and humankind, is cherished by many—perhaps because it is so honest, so authentic, so human, and yet so awe-fully divine. Moses dares to say to God, “You turn men back to dust … You sweep men away in the sleep of death … You have set our iniquities before you … We finish our years with a moan… Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.”

And then the psalmist boldly pleads, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” In other words, “Lord, we’ve had the desert; now give us the dessert.” Who would dare say that? Only someone who, having stood in the presence of the holy God at a burning bush, realized that the miracle was not that the bush was unconsumed but that he was unconsumed!

Our steadfast hope is the closing request: “May the favor of the LORD our God rest upon us.”

God of all grace, we marvel today that you, the all-consuming God, have chosen not to consume us with your anger but to cover us with your fearsome grace. Amen.

About the author — Dale Vander Veen

Dale Vander Veen is a retired Christian Reformed pastor who with his wife, Edith, has ministered in California, Washington, and Michigan. They have three married children and six grandchildren. He currently writes a daily e-mail series of devotions.

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