When Life Seems Meaningless

Then Sings My Soul  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  33:45
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To those living a doomed life marked by gloom, God's presence offers hope for a lasting legacy.

I read words like vv.3-10 and I am tempted to ask, “Who poured vinegar on Moses’ oatmeal this morning?” The ruminations of how brief and inconsequential life is can bring much despair.
I asked myself, “What happened to Moses to make him so cynical?” Then I remembered that nearly the last 40 years of his life was spent in a judged reality that he would not enter the promised land and that he would watch an entire generation perish before the next generation would take possession of the promise.
Covid-19 is not the world’s first pandemic, yet that is little consolation when we hear reports of the hundreds of thousands of human lives that require hospitalization and the tens of thousands who enter eternity.
Our neighbors, and even us from time to time, sense that overwhelming dread that makes us cry out, “life is swept away like a flood, humanity seems like grass that fades and withers, we consider the impact of a life and we sigh.”
As I read Moses’ description, I am reminded of Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes, where he refers to “life under the sun” some 29 times before concluding in the last chapter:
Ecclesiastes 12:8 ESV:2016
8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.
Months ago, we were introduced to a dichotomy—is an activity “essential” or not?
2 weeks ago, I was in Branson, MO and I watched a man trying to convince his family of the value of a new boat. There is nothing wrong with resting at the lake, God modeled rest in the first chapter of the Bible. But the idea that a bigger, newer, nicer boat will add significant value to one’s life is misplaced.
Yesterday, I watched on TV as a Dad with a son who plays football in the Big10 made a case for the psychological damage that will happen to his son and teammates if they watch college athletes in other conferences play the sport that his son wants to play.
Students, educators, parents & politicians have been questioning for months when/how to do education. There is general agreement that education is valuable for the well-being of students. But the specifics of extra-curriculars, nutrition services, transportation, and personal contact have created many questions about how important or essential are all these pieces in the scheme of life as a whole.
I’ll throw church into the mix here as well. As some communities have seen their local church close (temporarily or permanent), some ask if the presence of a local faith community is essential. How and when that community gathers has created heated and legal battles.
Transition: The Psalm in front of us today forces us to consider “How important are the activities of human existence?”

The Gloom of the Doomed (vv.1-12)

An Important distinction (vv.1-2)

1. Eternal or temporary; immaterial or earthly?
2. Moses clearly understands that all human generations are bounded by God’s everlasting past and everlasting future.
3. Our dwelling on this earth only happens in a temporary piece of His eternal span.
4. Just as Moses’ first statement about creation was, “In the beginning GOD”, in this psalm before he says a single thing about the nature of human lifespan, he firmly establishes the eternal and omnipresent God.
5. In setting God apart in our mind I like how Derek Kidner comments, “we are his to command, though he is also ours to enjoy[i].” God is both Great and Good!

Human lifespan is Frail & Brief (vv.3-6)

1. V. 3 (in concert with Gen 3:19) is where we get the phrase “dust to dust” in many funeral liturgies. This word only appears 1x in the OT and emphasizes something that is pulverized to dust. This “pounding” introduces the wrath that will be expanded in v.7
2. V.4 – a watch was a 4-hour span as 1/3 of a night. The intent is to highlight brevity.
a poem by Linda Ellis
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.
If we could just slow down enough to consider what’s true and real, and always try to understand the way other people feel.
To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?

Sin has Consequences (vv.7-11)

1. If the writing of this Psalm happened during the wandering in the wilderness (which I believe is most likely from all the recorded events of Moses’ life), the whole reason people are dying is directly related to their sin of disbelief that God would fulfill His promise to give them the Land.
2. If your life is summed up in a little dash and you’re still under God’s wrath regarding your eternity, Now is the time to make a change! Cry out to God in repentance and faith and accept the free gift of salvation that He offers to any who call upon the name of the Lord.

Response to our Situation (v.12)

· Our response to sin’s consequence demands wisdom.
· Make good choices
Transition: To a life marked by gloom and doom, what does a heart of wisdom look like? Wisdom focuses on…

The Hope of Help (vv.13-17)

Despair is bookended with Presence (vv.1-2, 17)

· When we feel ourselves slipping into despair, we need to look for the reliable presence of our eternal God because He is our source of Help.

God is our Hope and Help (vv.12-15)

1. He is our wisdom (v.12, 1 Cor. 1:30),
1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV:2016
30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,
2. He is our forgiveness (v.13, Is. 55:7),
Isaiah 55:7 ESV:2016
7 let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
3. He is our stability throughout our days (v.14, 73:26),
Psalm 73:26 ESV:2016
26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
4. He is our renewal (v.15, Rom. 6:4–8).
Romans 6:4–5 ESV:2016
4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Legacy is found in God’s favor (vv.16-17)

1. Notice v.16 begins with the Lord’s work. Our significance is found not in our appearance or acquisitions. You will never be remembered for your style or your stuff, but by the activity of God in our lives.
2. When God’s power is at work within us, He establishes lasting results. (v.17)
We started this service by asking the Lord to bless the education process this year. Students, straight A’s is not the goal. Teachers, avoiding COVID in your classroom or passing 100% of your students is not the goal.
2020-21 will be legendary if we make the most of every day (verse 12) and allow God’s glorious power to show through us to others. (v.17)
There is a quote that is attributed to famed author Stephen Covey from a 2012 book. But more than 10 years before that book I heard the President of my college say, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” – George Sweeting.
Last week one political party tried to impress upon us what the main thing is. This week another political party is going to tell us that the main thing is something else.
Moses reminds us that the absolute main thing is to remember that God is eternal and we depend upon His favor if this life is ever to be anything more than a brief, gloomy wisp.
[i] Derek Kidner, Psalms 73–150: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 16, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1975), 359.
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