Psalm 90 From Everlasting to Everlasting A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. (1) Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. (2) Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (3) You return man to dust and say, "Return, O children of man!" (4) For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. (5) You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: (6) in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. (7) For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. (8) You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. (9) For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. (10) The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. (11) Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? (12) So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (13) Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! (14) Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (15) Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. (16) Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. (17) Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! ESV
Psalm 90 begins Book Four of the Psalter (Psalms 90-106).
The New King James Version of the Bible titles Psalm 90: The Eternity of God, and Man’s Frailty. A Prayer of Moses the man of God. The New American Standard Bible (2020) titles this psalm: God’s Eternity and the Brevity of Human Life. A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
Some have questioned the authorship of Psalm 90, suggesting instead that the author was “some other Moses” from antiquity. But Bible scholars believe the evidence for Moses (of Egypt, the great leader of the Israelites) being the author is strong and withstanding. Psalm 90 is the only psalm with his name attached to it, but he did write other similar pieces in the Old Testament.
Exodus 15 is titled “the Song of Moses,” and begins: Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the LORD (verse 1a).
Also, the end of Deuteronomy 31 (verse 30) says this: then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song until they were ended . . . and Deuteronomy 32:1-43 are Moses’s song reminding the people to follow the Lord always and to teach their children and grandchildren the commandments. He sang this song to the people before he died and passed his leadership over to Joshua.
Deuteronomy 33 is also a blessing song.
It is hard to speak with certainty on an event or time when this psalm was written. Some say the events of Numbers 14 makes sense, others, Numbers 20 or 21. Bible scholars cannot agree; therefore, we will leave it at this: Psalm 90 was written by Moses sometime during the forty years of wandering in the desert (possibly 13th or 14th century BC).
Moses was mighty in word as well as deed, and this Psalm we believe to be one of his weighty utterances, worthy to stand side by side with his glorious oration recorded in Deuteronomy. Moses was peculiarly a man of God and God’s man; chosen of God, inspired of God, honoured of God, and faithful to God in all his house, he well deserved the name which is here given him.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn people back to dust, saying, "Return to dust, you mortals." A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death- they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. Psalm 90:1-6 NIV
During the Exodus and forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the people were constantly looking for shelter, safety, and refuge. This psalm reminds the people: Lord, you are our dwelling place. A reminder when times are hard, when we are afraid and unsure where our help will come from, Lord, you are our dwelling place. A reminder to put our trust in the Lord, and the Lord only.
In Numbers 13, the Israelites approached the Promised Land of Canaan after God freed them from slavery in Egypt. God told Moses to send out spies to explore the land, twelve men, one from each tribe. These men were gone for forty days. Upon returning, they shared their worry of not being strong enough to take the land that God promised them.
Beginning in verse 26, these men shared their fears. Caleb and Joshua were the only two in this meeting who tried to encourage the people and remind them of the strength and promises of the Lord. The other ten spies worried and doubted and fretted despite God’s promises and faithfulness and previous great miracles of protection and defense.
God responded . . .
So tell them, 'As surely as I live, declares the LORD, I will do to you the very thing I heard you say: In this wilderness your bodies will fall- every one of you twenty years old or more who was counted in the census and who has grumbled against me. Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But as for you, your bodies will fall in this wilderness. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness until the last of your bodies lies in the wilderness. Numbers 14:28-33 NIV
Forty years is a long time to wander in a wilderness, but it is not a long time to watch an entire generation die. Those who had seen the wonders of the Lord in Egypt passed on in the desert, except for Caleb and Joshua. Not only were they moving and protecting and guarding themselves every day in an unknown and unsafe place, they were dying, quickly.
Yet, Moses’s words speak of a commitment to God anyway. God is their dwelling place, their safe place. He is everlasting and faithful. Days must have dragged on and on, but God was everlasting. A thousand years was a blink of an eye for God. The Israelites, Moses in particular, understood this, took comfort in this, relied upon this as they wandered and died knowing that God would be faithful to their children and grandchildren.
We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. 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. If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is our due. Psalm 90:7-11
Deuteronomy 31:2 says that Moses lived to be one hundred and twenty years old. So, what is this “seventy or eighty years?” In our understanding, Moses was even an old man when God sent him to Egypt.
Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharoah. Exodus 7:6-7
Justice shortened the days of rebellious Israel; each halting place became a graveyard; they marked their march by the tombs they left behind them.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
The people knew what it was like to face their sin and the wrath of their God. They had sinned against Him. The Lord had performed mighty miracles to free them from Egypt, the superpower of the world. Egypt was nothing compared their God.
But they lost faith, they doubted, and God exposed their sin. It is painful when God does this. But even though God punished the people, He never left them.
Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
This little prayer of verse 12 is good reminder for believers today as well, to live like today is our last and make every day count. Make use of every day, every moment given to us. What is important in this life, in our days, however many they be?
Let Jesus remind us what to fill our days with,
Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and Prophets hang on these two commandments. Matthew 22:37-40
Lord, if we must die in this desert, if this whole generation (except Caleb and Joshua) must pass away in the wilderness, then, at any rate, give us the fullness of Thy favor now, that we may spend all our remaining days, whether they be few or many, in gladness and rejoicing.Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Relent, LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children. May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us- yes, establish the work of our hands. Psalm 90:13-17
Instead of wasting our precious, fleeting days in pursuing fancies, which leave the possessors forever poor, let us seek the forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance in heaven. Let us pray that the work of the Holy Spirit may appear in converting our hearts, and that the beauty of holiness may be seen in our conduct.Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
Moses calls upon the covenant love of the Father, hesed, God’s unfailing mercy and love.
When we become weary or doubtful or tempted, let us call upon the unfailing love of our Father in heaven.
Father in heaven, we wait for you. How long, Lord? Surround us with your mercy and love and faithfulness. Strengthen us and reveal yourself and your love to us today. Thank you for this psalm, another reminder of your grace and faithfulness to those who love you. Amen.