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,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (Psalm 90:1–2)
Throughout the course of human history, men and women have attempted to seek for immortality, to live forever without aging, pain, or suffering. They have looked for an elusive fountain of youth or elixir of life, because they feared death. Some have taken extreme measures in their search for immortality. Ponce de León (c. 1460–1521), a Spanish explorer, searched in vain for miles in Florida for a fountain of youth. Two hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Emperor Shihuangdi (r. 221–210 BC) of China became obsessed with finding immortality through an elixir of life. He sent his servants all across his realm and even into Japan to seek unsuccessfully for the elixir. Even today, the quest for immortality continues. The CEO of Alcor, a company that practices cryopreservation of the human body, claimed in a recent interview, “[D]eath is not compulsory, it is optional.” His company’s cryopreservation of the body, he asserts, will give it new life and allow people to cancel death “indefinitely.”
Sadly, Shihuangdi, Ponce de León, and others died without experiencing true satisfaction in life, one that comes only from God. They thought that a potion or fountain would give them eternal life, but they were gravely and eternally mistaken. In stark contrast with their misplaced trust in an immortality apart from God, Moses’ prayer in Psalm 90 reminds us that the source of eternal life is not in a fountain of youth or an elixir of life, but in the eternal God Himself.
The first two verses of Psalm 90 affirm God’s timelessness. God is not bound by time as we are. Moses begins his prayer with an acknowledgement that God has been the refuge for His covenant people, Israel, in all generations. The first verse is strikingly similar to Moses’ words in Deuteronomy 33:27, when Moses pronounced a blessing upon Israel before his death: “The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” In Psalm 90 Moses is reflecting on the history of Israel as a nation. Moses affirmed that God was the refuge of His people Israel for “generations.” The Hebrew concept of “generations” is significant in the Old Testament. “Generations” highlights God’s faithfulness and His keeping of His promises to His covenant people from generation to generation. In Genesis 12, God made His covenant with Abraham in which God promised to make a nation of Abraham and that “all of the families of the earth shall be blessed” through Abraham’s descendants. The promised seed of Abraham finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. By extension, disciples of Jesus today receive the blessing of salvation through Jesus alone. The Lord was not only the refuge for national Israel; He is the refuge for His people of all generations. And by extension, we receive the blessing of God being our refuge, so that we can corporately say with Moses, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place.” History demonstrates that God has been and continues to be a refuge to His people. God has kept and will always keep His promises to His people.
In verse 2, there is a striking resemblance to the narrative in Genesis 1 in which God created the heavens and the earth. Moses declares that the Creator God is before His creation. God existed before the mighty mountains and the whole earth, because He created them. Moses uses the phrase “everlasting to everlasting” to stress that God has no beginning and no end. God is eternal. God’s Creation has a beginning and an end. We have a beginning: the moment we were conceived. God, however, is uncreated and has no beginning or end. God knows no bounds. We are bound by time and age, but God is not. It is difficult for us to conceive the reality that God is eternal. We do not have any category for what is eternal. Though incomprehensible, the reality that God is eternal should be a balm to our soul. Our God is greater than His creation, and therefore wise, good, and able to do anything. He is our God.
Later in Psalm 90, in verse 14, Moses acknowledges that the eternal, covenant-keeping, steadfast-loving God is the only source of ultimate satisfaction and joy. “Steadfast love” speaks to the fact that God always keeps His promises. True satisfaction in God Himself produces true joy and gladness.
Anne Steele (1717–1778), an eighteenth-century English Baptist, suffered much and yet found deep satisfaction and joy in her God. Several days before her wedding day, her fiancé tragically drowned. Around the same time, she broke her hip and had chronic pain for the rest of her life. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and bitterness, she gave herself to the Lord and used her poetic skills for Him. Instead of running away from God, she ran to Him and found satisfaction in God in her suffering. To this day, she remains the most prolific Baptist hymn writer in history, with several thousand hymns to her credit. Her hymn, “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul,” reveals her hope in God, in spite of deep pain in her life:
To Thee I tell each rising grief, For Thou alone canst heal;
Thy Word can bring a sweet relief, For every pain I feel.
God did not allow Steele’s suffering to be wasted, and neither will he allow our suffering and pain to be wasted. He will use every single trial for His glory and our joy.
True satisfaction is found not in this life, but in the eternal God Himself. While others may look for eternal life apart from God, our Lord Jesus Christ declared in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” There is a living Bread who will satisfy us for eternity. His name is Jesus. He alone is the dear refuge of our weary souls. May we hope in God in whatever we face in this life. Trust in the eternal God and be wholly satisfied in Him.
Brian Hanson, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of History and Theology
- Pray that we would be satisfied wholly in God and find in Him an eternal refuge.
- Pray that our students, above all else, would find their satisfaction and joy in God this semester.
- Praise the Lord for a successful Godward Life conference and that the Lord would continue working in the hearts of those who attended.
- Pray for the Lord to meet the needs of our students and their teachers through the Serious Joy Scholarship.