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! (Psalms 90:1-17 ESV)
This psalm is a prayer for wisdom and mercy, based on the humbling contrast between God’s eternality and righteousness and our temporality and sinfulness.
"Lord, you are righteous and eternal; we are sinful and ephemeral. Therefore, please give us wisdom and mercifully show us your joy-giving glory and power."
This psalm is divided into three sections:
Verses 1-2 describe God as our refuge, and praise him for his eternal existence.
Then verses 3-11 are a call for man to repent because of his sin, contrasting man’s ephemeral nature with God’s eternality in the previous section.
Finally, verses 12-17 beg the Lord for his mercy and steadfast love and favor.
Moses makes his first request in verse 12, and all the following verses are requests. Verses 1-11 are all statements within a prayer.
I connected 5 to 3-4, not just to 4, because “them” (5a) refers to “man” (3a), not to anything specifically in 4.
Verses 1-2 are a Progression because of the intensification: “Not only have you helped your people forever, but you have existed from eternity past and will exist until eternity future!”
I originally chose to make 7-11 closely related to 5-6 because 7-11 seemed to be a Ground or an Explanation of 5-6. But then I decided, when summarizing, that 3-4 and 5-6 are both describing our brief lives. That fact is then interpreted in 7-10: people are so short-lived because of God’s wrath on our sins.
But people’s Response to God’s wrath is shocking: people don’t even consider the power of his anger, or fear him!
12a both concludes the entire psalm and follows the theme of 11a-b: “We don’t fear you as we ought; therefore, please teach us!”
I used the word “righteous” in my Main Point Summary because of 1a-b, where God is called the “dwelling place” for his people. This shows his grace and his steadfast love—his righteous character.
- We need a right view of God in contrast with us.
God is eternal, never beginning, never ending. In contrast, we are “creatures of a day,” as John Wesley said, cursed with death by a righteous God. And God is the dwelling place, the refuge, of his people; we are sinful, our iniquities laid bare before God’s angry gaze.
- We need to repent of our sin.
The result of all this should be that we repent of our sin! (see verse 11) We should meditate on God’s greatness and our smallness, on our sin and his righteousness. And then we should bring the cross into view, where the righteous God met our sin with horrible justice and awesome love, punishing his Son so that we could receive his reward.
- We need to pray to this holy God from our position of need.
We must pray for wisdom (12), mercy (13), satisfaction in God (14), joy (15), and God’s work to be displayed in our lives and our children’s lives (16-17).