Psalm 90: The Problem of God's Immanence

October 23, 2017 · 509 words · 3 minute read Thought   Sovereignty   Holiness   Immanence   Attributes of God   Psalms   Old Testament  

Psalm 90 deals with one of the most basic challenges facing humanity: If there really is a sovereign, holy God who created everything and knows our every thought but is also immanent, how can man live and find meaning in living?

Before we begin, let’s define some of the terms with which we may not be familiar:

Sovereignty of God: God’s absolute control and rule over everything.

Immanence of God: The tendency of God to relate with His creation and interact in human history.

If both of these attributes, as well as Holiness and Omniscience, are accurate descriptions of God’s character (and they are according to the testimony of Psalm 90 and scripture as a whole), then humans have a big problem; A God who is sovereign (in control), omniscient (knows everything a man does, thinks and feels), holy (separated and opposed to evil), and immanent (He relates with His creation) will produce a conundrum where God interacts and relates with His creation (due to His immanence) while killing them for their sin (because of His omniscience, sovereignty, and holiness). Psalm 90 explores this tension.

The first verse of Psalm 90 establishes the immanence of God specifically as it relates to Israel. Verse two establishes that God is sovereign (He created the world) and eternal. Verses three through six continue to describe God’s sovereignty and eternality especially as contrasted with man’s transitory life. Verses seven through twelve introduce the challenge of God’s omniscience and holiness. If God even considers Israel’s “secret sins”, they has no recourse (Psalm 90:8). God is the one who gets to decide how He will relate to man and He has chosen to be immanent which brings God’s other attributes like sovereignty, omniscience, and holiness into close proximity with men. This spells disaster for sinful and unfaithful people who cannot live up to God’s standard. To make matters worse, man’s meaning and significance can’t be found in his own life, which is but a fleeting shadow. Meaning and purpose can only be fund in God and His purpose for us. Thus, our significance and purpose is tied to God, but we also know we cannot live up to His standards. Thus, the immanence of God is both our damnation and our only hope.

In verses thirteen through seventeen of Psalm 90, Moses pleads with God to restore their satisfaction and purpose, but the tension is never resolved in Psalm 90. If God is who the Bible claims He is, then our meaning and significance are to be found in Him, but we are too sinful to approach Him. This is where God’s love and grace enter the equation. While we were sinful and had no hope of a fulfilling relationship, God took it upon Himself to make a restored relationship with Him possible through Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ, who lived a sinless life, was punished as if He had sinned so that we, who live a sinful life, may have Christ’s righteousness credited to us. God’s omniscience and holiness are no longer against those who trust in Jesus Christ for salvation! We are able to have a relationship with the immanent God!

There is a lot more in this psalm, so I encourage you to dive in and spend some time reading and thinking about it.