1Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
2Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
It’s hard to pull out single verses from this psalm, as lovely as they are. Each line of the poet’s prayer is rich and wonderful, quotable, memorable. But they do not stand on their own. They are woven together in a rich tapestry meditating on the transcendence of God, the frailty of flesh, the steadfast love of God, the burden of sin, that value of wisdom, the hope of mercy.
There is a remarkable confidence in the scriptures that the timeless God cares about timebound creatures. Before the mountains, before the seas, before the swirl of cosmic dust formed the earth, before the sun was born, before the galaxy swept into its great spiral, before the cosmos was flung into being, “from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Yet this everlasting God, this power and presence at the heart of all existence, is our refuge, our habitation – and has been for all the generations. It is wonderful and audacious and overwhelming all at the same time.
There is a danger in this sense of God’s timelessness. Before such majesty we recede to tiny specks of dust. A grain of sand on an endless shore. Of what significance can our lives be when “a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night.”
But there is also a hidden grace in such insignificance. There is something merciful in the notion that the endless wars and cruelties of our age are a speck on the sands of time. A thousand years of hate and bigotry, hunger, greed, pride is but a watch in the night – a few hours in which we sleep, mindless to the passage of time.
There is something liberating in the notion that the cruelties of human history could be swept away. Not forgotten, exactly, but made small and insignificant. They mattered to those who suffered them, of course, but they too are swept up into the timelessness of God. Their sorrows forgotten. Their tears wiped away.
The majesty of God and this great sweep of eternity lightens the burden of my daily troubles and anxieties. They are not eternal. They are “light momentary afflictions.” Real sufferings, to be sure, real sorrows, real fears, and yet swallowed up in something much bigger, much more enduring. They are not forgotten, they are not denied, but they have been robbed of their power, for they are not eternal. It is God who is from everlasting to everlasting. And in all generations he has been our dwelling place.