Hands and Habitations
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text is Psalm 90, and we consider these particular verses: “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. …Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.” Thus far our text
When he was an old man nearing the end of his life, Moses, prompted by the Holy Spirit, wrote the words we just heard. If you read Psalm 90 in its entirety, you realize that Moses doesn’t pull any punches. Moses knew the Law—who better than the one through whom the Lord delivered it to His people?—and he knew his own sinfulness. Sin draws the wrath of God upon sinners. Even if we are permitted to grow old, we still sicken and grow weary and eventually die. It’s not natural—we weren’t created that way—but death is God’s reaction to sin: the sin we inherit as children of Adam and Eve, and the sins we commit in thought word and deed, by what we do and what we leave undone. St. Paul wrote, “As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all men sinned.”
But as you read Psalm 90, you realize that the Lord’s wrath toward sin is only exceeded by His love. For the person whose God is the Lord, the steadfast love of God comforts the believer for as many days as the Lord gives. God makes His dwelling place with and in the believer, and He allows the believer to live with Him.
This is the reality in which our beloved Lyle lived his life. If ever there was a man who knew about dwelling places, it would be Lyle. In his work as a carpenter, not to mention his work with Laborers for Christ, he knew something about building a dwelling place. He knew what it took to build a house, to assemble a meeting room for a church, to erect something meant to last. He also knew how wrath could affect those dwelling places. Whether it was storms or the wrath of earthquakes or the devastation of floods, what can be built up with human hands can be so easily torn apart and left to decay. While he built things to last—while he prayed that the Lord would “establish the work of our hands for us”—he also was smart enough not to put his trust in things that moth and rust can destroy. He knew the truth: “The wages of sin is death.” And because of that, He knew the day would have to come when the Lord would make all things new. There was only one dwelling place Lyle trusted, and that was in Jesus Christ, who has been “our dwelling place in all generations,” who is the “Word made flesh” to “dwell among us.”
Lyle was a baptized child of God. He heard the Word of God and believed the Word of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. He trusted in the promise of his Lord who said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” What a wonderful blessing and honor, to have the Lord be Lyle’s dwelling place! And on the 7th of August, that promise was fulfilled in full, when the Lord called Lyle home to dwell with Him forever. On one occasion when I visited Lyle in the hospital, I remember him and Sarah asking me if the Lord would have any use for Lyle’s abilities in heaven. Honestly, I didn’t have an answer for that. I still don’t. But I can tell you this with certainty: Lyle is now “before the throne of God, and [serves] Him day and night within His Temple; and He Who sits upon the throne will shelter [him] with His presence.” I don’t know what kind of service the Lord will require from Lyle, but I know the Lord will have something for Lyle to do, and whatever it is, it will give Lyle great joy.
The same is true for you. The day is coming when you will be carried away “like a flood;” you will finish your years “like a sigh.” But you will not face that end alone—if, indeed, you can call it an end—for the Lord will be with you, dwelling with you and in you, just as He is now. When the number of your days is complete, He will grant you a blessed end and graciously take you from this vale of tears to Himself in heaven, where He “will wipe away every tear from [your] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain…” And as you await that day, just as He did for Lyle these many years, the Lord will dwell with you and within you “establish the work of [your] hands,” using your work for His glory. God grant it for the sake of Jesus Christ. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.