Weds 3 November - Psalm 90
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling-place
throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the whole world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn people back to dust,
saying, ‘Return to dust, you mortals.’
4 A thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.
5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death –
they are like the new grass of the morning:
6 In the morning it springs up new,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
7 We are consumed by your anger
and terrified by your indignation.
8 You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
9 All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan.
10 Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
11 If only we knew the power of your anger!
Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.
12 Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13 Relent, Lord! How long will it be?
Have compassion on your servants.
14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
for as many years as we have seen trouble.
16 May your deeds be shown to your servants,
your splendour to their children.
17 May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us –
yes, establish the work of our hands.
- - -
Meditation on Psalm 90
As we come into Book IV of the Psalms we are immediately confronted with a new name in the title – i.e. ‘The prayer of Moses the man of God’.
Of the seventeen Psalms in Book IV, only six have a title, of which only two have a named person – Moses (Psalm 90) and David (Psalm 103). There are no ‘Asaph collections’ or ‘Korah collections’ as in other books of Psalms.
Yet, in a skim read across these Psalms there are a number of references to the time of Moses.
- 95:7-11. This is a quote from Exodus 17; Numbers 14 and 20
- 99:6-7. Again, these verses refer back to Exodus 17 and Numbers 14.
- 103:7-8. These verses refer back to Exodus 33:19-20 and 34:5-7
Psalms 105 and 106 are salvation-history Psalms which sum up the Exodus story.
Perhaps the Psalms of Book IV could be called ‘The Exodus Collection’.
Psalm 90 is the basis of Isaac’s Watts great hymn – ‘O God, our help in ages past; our hope for years to come, our shelter from the stormy blast and our eternal home.’
(This hymn is sung on Remembrance Sunday around the Cenotaph in London.)
Three themes that run through this Book IV of Psalms are the eternal nature of God, His unfailing love and His faithfulness.
90:1 ‘…throughout all generations’
90:3 ‘…from everlasting to everlasting you are God.’
99:5 ‘…His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.’
102:12 ‘…you, LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.’
106:48 ‘Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting.’
Back to Psalm 90.
Verses 1-6 PEOPLE ARE FRAIL: GOD IS ETERNAL
Because we are frail, we need a place of refuge. We find this place in the Lord.
In Him is the place of safety, of refuge for all those who put their trust in Him.
Timothy Dudley-Smith wrote the hymn which speaks of our security in the Lord.
‘Safe in the shadow of the Lord, beneath his hand and power,
I trust in him, I trust in him, my fortress and my tower.’
Come back to Isaac Watts’ hymn – the second verse:
‘Under the shadow of thy throne, thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone, and our defence is sure.’
And this assurance takes us back before Creation – verse 2.
For God – ‘from everlasting to everlasting’ – time is ‘like an evening gone’ (Isaac Watts)
For us humans – we are ‘from dust to dust’
The Psalmist uses another illustration of our frailty in verses 5-6: ‘new in the morning and withered in the evening.’
There is a reason for this situation which seems to border on the helplessness of the human predicament.
Verses 7-11 PEOPLE ARE SINFUL: GOD IS ANGRY
Why is God angry? It is because of our ‘iniquities’.
Notice that our iniquities are not placed in front of us but ‘you have set our iniquities before you’. That is, all our sins and iniquities are open before the eyes of God, with whom we have to do.
Remember in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve tried to hide from God, they couldn’t because God knew what they had done and where they were. Adam tried to get out of it by saying, “I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked.”
We, too, are without excuse as our sins are laid bare before the Lord.
Our lives maybe 70+ years but even the best of them ‘are but trouble and sorrow’.
There seems little or no hope in our situation … But
Verses 12-17 PEOPLE PRAY: GOD HEARS
There are six prayers in these last verses.
Verse 12 ‘teach me…’
Verse 13 ‘relent, Lord …have compassion’
Verse 14 ‘Satisfy us … with your unfailing love’
Verse 15 ‘make us glad…’
Verse 16 ‘show us your deeds…’
Verse 17 ‘may your favour rest on us.’
There is HOPE because there is God, who is ‘from everlasting to everlasting.’
- - -