Where Is God?
Living in the West can have a domesticating effect on our understanding of God. As we look up to the skyline we see monuments to man’s greatness - we see skyscrapers dwarfing the spires of churches that once dominated a town, and high overhead a jumbo jet proclaims our mastery of the heavens. On the ground we see testament to our progress and to our introspection, as people walk busily past engaged with their mobile phones or palm pilots or mini disc players. Where in all this is the God who created the heavens and the earth?
Of course He is still there, but it can be hard for us to see Him. It can be hard to see beyond our own lives to the God who is from everlasting to everlasting. When we are removed from our protective technological bubbles and forced to see the reality of our frailty, we see what sophistication has hidden from us. Namely that life is so transitory… full of promise one moment and swept out of our hands the next - that death is a reality that comes to us all and that it comes at the hands of a God from whom nothing is hidden. We may try to persuade ourselves that we are ‘OK’, but God sees our ‘secret sins’, He knows our iniquities and His wrath is upon us. As the psalmist says, ‘Who knows the power of Your anger? For Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due to You.’ (v11).
We cannot hide from God’s wrath but we do our best to hide the knowledge of His wrath from our eyes. We take refuge in the safety of our world and do not fear the One from whom no secrets are hid. Yet how dangerous and myopic a perspective this is when God can, ‘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’ (vs5 - 6).
However death re-tunes our vision and reorients us back towards God. Moses goes on to say (in our text above), ‘Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom’. As we contemplate our humble beginnings and our dusty endings we are reminded that God is sovereign, and that He is more awesome and terrifying than we could imagine. We are reminded that death is the penalty we pay for having rejected Him and that trouble and sorrow are the hallmarks of living in a fallen world - the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
We cannot fear the God we do not know, yet as we get to know Him and see His awesome might, so also we know Him as our refuge and our dwelling place. There is joy to be found in the sorrow and toil of our fallen lives for the Lord is compassionate. His love is unfailing, so even though life is full of trouble and strife still yet His love satisfies us, fills us to the very core. That we may be able to sing for joy and be glad all our days - no mean feat given what we have seen of the depth of His wrath at our sinfulness, and of the tyranny of death. Yet is that not the splendour of the cross? As we look at our own death we are terrified by God’s wrath, but as we look at Jesus’ death we rejoice at His unfailing love. Death is truly the key to life.