Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #266 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Psalm 90 today and our focus is on How Karl Marx Was a Fool and Biblical Christianity is NOT The Opium of the People. Provocative title, I guess. Maybe we’re feeling spicy today! We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Allow me to open today with a quote from Karl Marx, and a disclaimer. I disagree with Marx on just about every major philosophical tenant he is known for. Nevertheless, he is the author of a famous dictum that you’ve probably heard before:
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.
Marx, though highly intelligent, is not known for being a man of great clarity in his writing. Essentially what Marx is saying here is that religion has a practical effect in society – it dulls pain and soothes people much like opium does, but it is illusory – not real, an illusion, and therefore doesn’t make the common person’s situation better. Indeed, as Marx later makes the case, religion might just make things worse for the common person if their eyes are on Heavenly type goals, rather than working hard for temporal and earthly gains.
In the face of Marx’s claims that religion is a pain-killing drug that dulls the senses, I present Biblical Christianity, and let’s use Psalm 90 as exhibit 1 against Marx’s charge. Psalm 90 is a singular and startling Psalm. For those who have grown up on a kind of sweet and saccharine Christianity that rarely makes use of the Bible, Psalm 90 and its description of God is really quite stunning. It begins normal enough- Moses, the author of this Psalm, says that God has been the refuge of His people for generations and that God is God from eternity to eternity. Moses was quite the poet, it turns out. But beginning in vs 3, things take a bit of a turn:
3 You return mankind to the dust,
saying, “Return, descendants of Adam.”
4 For in your sight a thousand years
are like yesterday that passes by,
like a few hours of the night.
5 You end their lives; they sleep.
They are like grass that grows in the morning—
6 in the morning it sprouts and grows;
by evening it withers and dries up. Psalm 90:3-6
What is Moses saying? That God ends the lives of humans and determines their time of death. Wow. Further, that humanity is like fragile and unwatered grass that dies in a day. In other words – humans live for a brief time, and then they die like withered and brown grass. Are you feeling that sweet, sweet rush of morphine yet? That illusionary pleasure that religion is supposed to provide us? No? Me neither! Let’s keep going, surely it gets better – more encouraging – more pain-killing – more opium like, right?!
And, no – it doesn’t. It gets darker and grimmer:
7 For we are consumed by your anger;
we are terrified by your wrath.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 For all our days ebb away under your wrath;
we end our years like a sigh.
10 Our lives last seventy years
or, if we are strong, eighty years.
Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow;
indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away.
11 Who understands the power of your anger?
Your wrath matches the fear that is due you. Psalm 90:7-11
Among all of the people that ever lived, aside from Jesus, a strong argument could be made that Moses knew God better and closer than anybody else in history. After his death, the Bible gives us this epithet about Moses:
10 No prophet has arisen again in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. 11 He was unparalleled for all the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do against the land of Egypt—to Pharaoh, to all his officials, and to all his land— 12 and for all the mighty acts of power and terrifying deeds that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 34:10-12
That’s pretty strong, and when Moses talks about God – we should listen, and in this Psalm, Moses tells us about God’s wrath, His anger and His utter opposition to sin. Who understands the power of God’s anger, asks Moses, noting that God’s wrath should rightly inspire fear in humanity. I ask again – does this seem like a kind of religion that offers fake happiness and pleasantries? I don’t think so. And the end of vs. 10 further strengthens the case against Marx, when Moses notes that even the best of our years have plenty of struggles and sorrows – and our years pass by so quickly, something I am noticing more and more with each passing birthday. I think this Psalm pretty convincingly puts down Marx’s claims that Christianity, at least, is a religion of fake pleasures. There may be preachers that peddle it falsely as such, but neither the Word of God, nor the Son of God, gives us something that could be compared rightly to a drug that brings pleasure and dulls pain.
That said, is Psalm 90 just hopeless? The guy who knows God best basically saying that He is to be feared, and He ends the lives of humans? Well, no – this Psalm does indeed end in a hopeful way and on a hopeful note, but not on an a saccharine, artificially sweetened kind of hopeful way. Moses asks a question, and then pleads:
Turn and have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful love
so that we may shout with joy and be glad all our days. Psalm 90:13-14
How long will we suffer, Lord – HAVE COMPASSION ON US! Satisfy us in the morning with your faithful lovingkindness and let us again shout for joy! What a wonderful prayer – one worthy of being written down on the front page of your Bible, or taped to your bathroom mirror. Is Moses under the influence of a morphine-like amount of joy when he penned this Psalm? NO! Obviously he is going through an incredible time of trouble and pain, and yet he knows who God is – that God WILL turn and have compassion on His people – that He WILL satisfy His people with His faithful love, and that they WILL walk in shouts of joy again. Finally, Moses closes with a prayer of longing and hope:
Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us;
establish for us the work of our hands—
establish the work of our hands! Psalm 90:17
No artificial sweeteners here. No morphine-like high here – just the genuine prayer of a man in distress who knew God best. Let’s read the whole Psalm together.
Bible Memory verses for the month of September: 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2nd Timothy 3:16-17
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