“Let Thy work appear unto They servants, and They glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish Thou the work of our hands upon us: and establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it.”
We have five books of the Bible that are written by Moses, but only one Psalm, Psalm 90.
Moses is unique among God’s prophets. “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.”Deut. 34:10-12.
That Moses was unique is also shown in this 90th Psalm.
It seems to me that Moses stood on the mountain of faith when he began this psalm, and standing there he first looked back and saw God as the dwelling place of all the generations of God’s people.
What a thought! God is the home of the church: they dwell in God!
Yes, he stood on that mountain and looked toward the creation of the world, and began his worship: even from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God!
And then he again saw the generations of God’s people, but Moses weeps. He beholds destruction, the wrath and anger of God, the weariness of the ages because of our sin and iniquity.
Our age is but a span, like unto a mist that is seen for a moment and disappears. Even the best of our days are labor and sorrow.
All because of sin and iniquity. Moses weeps and with tear-stained face he turns to God and begs Him: Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants. Instead of the consuming of our days in labor and sorrow, let us taste mercy, rejoicing and gladness.
By letting the Lord’s work appear unto God’s servants and His beauty and glory unto their children.
Yes, if we see the work of the Lord we certainly will be glad.
If we see the glory and beauty of the Lord we will sing in prisons and at death’s door.
What is that work?
We read of that work of God throughout the Bible. I will quote just two places, one in the Old Testament and one in the New. First attend to Judges 2:7: “And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that He did for Israel.” And also I Cor. 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not vain in the Lord.”
What is that work of the Lord?
And why is it so difficult to see that work?
God works hitherto and I work, said Jesus.
Is it, perhaps, the work of God’s providence throughout all the days of the years of our lives on earth? Oh no.
It is a special work.
It is the work of election and reprobation. And these two works are not coordinate, but subordinate: reprobation serves election.
Let us go to the text and the context. Let us go also, toJudges 2. We read of the work which the Lord had done for Israel.
It was, indeed, a wonderful work: God remembered His eternal covenant of grace. It seemed for 400 years as though the Lord had forgotten. They had cried to Him and prayed, but He did not seem to listen. It was as though God forgot. Did He not speak to Abraham, Isaac and Israel? Did He not give them great and dear promises for them and their seed?
Oh yes, God did speak to them and promised wonderful things. And He certainly had not forgotten about them.
But Jehovah wanted to try His people in the fiery oven of persecution in Egypt. And at the right time He came to them by the call of Moses.
And then the wonderful work of God, begun after the fall in Paradise, once again became clear.
With a great and strong hand He led Israel out of Egypt.
That is election, beloved! Election is a living work of God from everlasting to everlasting. From eternity God saw and willed and knew a people in indescribable love and loving-kindness. And He willed to lead that people through great misery and death unto life eternal. And He willed that this people would never forget this awful state and condition of misery and death, so that unto everlasting they might stand before His throne in the second world and sing to Him: “Thou hast redeemed us unto Thee out of so great a death!”
And God would do all this through and in Jesus Christ the great Mediator.
And Moses was His shadow. And therefore Moses said: Take me out of Thy book! But that was impossible. Moses could not really be the Mediator. That was reserved for the very Son of God, the better Moses.
Now attend to this: so that there might be the terrible way of misery and death, Egypt and Pharaoh have to serve, and now I have to speak of reprobation. It is stated very plainly in a single verse: “And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to show in thee My power; and that My name may be, declared throughout all the earth.” This same text was heard by Paul, and he quotes it in Romans 9, the chapter that is so beautiful, and yet so hated by all those who love man rather than God.
Yes, it is a hard and terrible way through which God draws His beloved people to His bosom. There must be Pharaohs, Nebuchadnezzars, and people like Antiochus Epiphanes. And also men like Pilate, Herod, Caiaphas, Judas and the Pharisees. They are the instruments through which God’s Israel is tortured.
You see that centrally in Jesus, the Child of the Most High.
No one suffered as He did. And no one can fathom that suffering.
And it was this same Jesus who told us, His children: They have hated Me, and they will hate you. And that is God’s purpose also with us. For Jesus said again: Lo, I send you in the midst of the wolves!
So, beloved, be not surprised when they hate you and persecute you and say all manner of evil things against you falsely for God’s sake. It is part of the great work that God does for Israel. The pathway of the elect leads through blood, tears, persecution and death.
And the very central work of this work is the suffering and death, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. With that in mind Moses speaks of the glory and the beauty of God.
Can you conceive of anything more beautiful than that your God Jehovah goes to everlasting hell for you, so that you may go to heaven for ever and ever?
Is it then a wonder that Paul sings in prison with his bloody back? Is it then a wonder that Stephen prays that God lay not this sin to the charge of his murderers?
If you see the work of the Lord which He has done for Israel, you can stand anything and everything. Your fathers and my fathers proved it. They were stoned, tortured, maltreated, and killed. But inherited kingdoms.
But many who dwelled in the church of the wilderness did not see it.
They came to Jesus (I mean Moses, of course) and said: Is it a small thing that thou hast brought us up out of a land that floweth with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, except thou make thyself altogether a prince over us?
These most miserable people saw nothing of the great work which God did for Israel. And their number throughout all the ages is legion.
I called these people most miserable, and that is true. They are much more miserable than anyone outside of the church. They were in this life very close to Jesus, to the true church, to the oracles of God, but they were blind.
And their reward is waiting in horrible death.
It must make our good God very angry when people who have the Bible say: Man is co-worker with God in all the great work which He does for Israel. And it seems that they are right. Even my text speaks of the establishing of the work of our hands upon us. And other texts, very many, speak of the work that sinners do. Work for the night is coming!
But here is the cardinal point: they see not that even our work that is good, is the work of the Lord.
There is a classical text which we all should learn by heart. It should be written with fiery letters in our heart and in the hearts of our children. It is this: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12, 13.
I would plead with you to believe me: except the Lord work in you or your children, you will not do one stitch of work in the great work of God!
Moses found out that all his work did not help, except the living God establish it. And that is why he wept Psalm 90.
Yes, there are the work, the glory, the beauty of God!
They are carefully written down in your Bible, in full detail.
We speak of it, sing of it, and pray it, worship it.
We have our churches, buildings, classes, exercises, endeavors, sabbaths and feasts. But nothing helps, except the Lord Jehovah bless it, establish it, crown it with the Spirit of grace of Jesus Christ, our New Testament Moses.
If He does and when He does, you see the work of God which He does for Israel. Then you see the Cross of Jesus, the central work of all God’s works. Then you see salvation, eternal life, the new earth and heaven.
Then you sing with Paul: For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”