God’s Love For Us Is Mightier Than Death, AMEN!

This psalm expresses a natural awe in the greatness of God in relation to the finiteness of our humanity. It is, in fact, a communal lament about the causes of the Hebrew communities distress at the time and right from the beginning it turns into a complaint contrasting God’s eternity to man’s brevity. It speaks of man’s life as transitory and compares it to the grass, which, “in the morning springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered.” (verse 6) Whereas, for God, “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”

It is good for us to reflect on these things for they teach us humility. In comparison to God, we are as nothing. And yet, here is the great mystery; he loves each one of us personally with an eternal, unquenchable love. Yes, our lives are full of trouble and sorrow and the years go by too quickly, “If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.” (verse 11) We are challenged here to remember that “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10)

In proper humility, then, the psalmist cries out (as should we), “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (verse 12) The 6th century monk, St. Benedict, taught his fellow monks to, “keep death always before your eyes.” By this he meant that, rather than lamenting our finite lives, or fearing death, we should use the awareness of our inevitable death as a reason to live each day of our lives as fully and as joyfully as possible, doing the will of God.

God is great! We are finite. There is nothing to dispute here. But, like the psalmist, we too can trust in God’s love and mercy enough to raise up the same prayer to him, “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.” (verse 14) This is the great mystery that we have come to believe. God’s love for us is greater than our transgressions, mightier than our failings. Yes, even more powerful than death. Our only proper response to this knowledge is humble thanksgiving.

Let us use the psalmist’s final prayer as ours here too. “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us–yes, establish the work of our hands.” (verse 17) We pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.