Dr Meredith Lake looks back at our history, the good and the bad, and asks how fear drives our engagement in the world today.


Dr Meredith Lake is a writer and historian whose most recent work, The Bible in Australia, was awarded Australian Christian Book of the Year.

Today's reading is Psalm 90

One of the best things about being an historian is that it gives you a larger human family across time. In my research on Australia, I’ve loved ‘meeting’ past Christians who reached out in love, grace and compassion to their neighbours – and to strangers.

But history also confronts us with the fleeting nature of our lives. Those who went before us are gone, returned to dust. As the Psalmist writes, our days ‘quickly pass, and we fly away’. There’s a plea: ‘Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom’.

The other challenge of history is its disclosure of wrongs. I remember the shocking realisation, as a university student, that Christians in Australia’s past, with whom I felt a connection, had been complicit in devastating injustices. For all their goodwill, for all their striving, they had profoundly damaged others. Sometimes that damage has been entrenched in systems that continue to oppress today. We need to confront our own complicity today.

Psalm 90 describes a God whose anger against unrighteousness ‘is as great as the fear’ that is due to him. In fixing our eyes on this God, we’re invited to fear – but it’s a fear laden with hope, with expectation. In the face of past and present wrongs - and even our own moral failing – we long for God to act, to bring blessing, to satisfy us with unfailing love.

Psalm 90

God’s Eternity and Human Frailty

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

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.

You turn us back to dust,
    and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight
    are like yesterday when it is past,
    or like a watch in the night.

You sweep them away; they are like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning;
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
    in the evening it fades and withers.

For we are consumed by your anger;
    by your wrath we are overwhelmed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
    our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
    our years come to an end like a sigh.
10 The days of our life are seventy years,
    or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
even then their span is only toil and trouble;
    they are soon gone, and we fly away.

11 Who considers the power of your anger?
    Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
12 So teach us to count our days
    that we may gain a wise heart.

13 Turn, O Lord! How long?
    Have compassion on your servants!
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
    so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,
    and as many years as we have seen evil.
16 Let your work be manifest to your servants,
    and your glorious power to their children.
17 Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us,
    and prosper for us the work of our hands—
    O prosper the work of our hands!

Fear Not: An Advent series from Common Grace

This series has been produced by Common Grace,
with support from Christian Super.