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Psalm Ninety

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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A Prayer of Moses the man of God.

Psalm 90:1 Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

dwelling place. Moses had dwelt in a basket on the river, in the king's palace, in the land of Midian, and then forty years in the wilderness. Like Moses, the ancient patriarchs also had “no certain dwellingplace” (1 Corinthians 4:11). Yet Moses could write that “the eternal God is thy refuge [same Hebrew word as 'dwelling place'], and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). We, like they, are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13), but wherever the Lord is, that's where home is!

in all generations. This psalm has always been identified as “a prayer of Moses the man of God” (superscript). The tone and context of the prayer would indicate that it was composed shortly before Moses was to die, with the children of Israel ready to enter the promised land. He had edited the records of the ancient patriarchs, from Adam down to Jacob and his sons as preserved now in the book of Genesis, and was thinking in terms of “all generations,” and God's preservation of His people in all these ages.

Psalm 90:2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.

everlasting to everlasting. To the skeptical question as to who made God, the only answer that satisfies all the facts of both science and human reason is that God is “from everlasting.” He is the Creator of time as well as space and all things that exist in time and space. This is beyond our mental comprehension, but there is no other rational explanation for our existence, and it is surely compatible with the intuitions of our spiritual comprehension. God satisfies the heart, regardless of difficulties conjured in the mind.

Psalm 90:3 Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.

to destruction. “Destruction” is literally “crumbling” or “dust.” “Children of men” is actually “children of Adam,” and the reference is to God's judgment on men because of sin (Genesis 3:19).

Psalm 90:4 For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.

thousand years. This verse (like 2 Peter 3:8) has often been misinterpreted to justify taking the days of creation as equivalent to geological ages. In this context, however, Moses is referring to the ancient descendants of Adam. Even though they had lived almost a thousand years, by the time of Moses they were all but forgotten.

Psalm 90:5 Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.

with a flood. These children of Adam, who lived a thousand years, were finally destroyed in the Flood and soon forgotten like the actors in a dream.

Psalm 90:6 In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.

Psalm 90:7 For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.

Psalm 90:8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance.

Psalm 90:9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.

tale that is told. This phrase, “tale that is told” is actually only one word in the Hebrew, whose basic meaning is that of a mournful or sighing sound. The idea is one of brevity and sadness. Compare James 4:14.

Psalm 90:10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

threescore years and ten. Moses contrasts the seventy years of a normal life span in his day (even though he himself providentially lived 120 years) with the thousand-year life-span of men before the Flood (Psalm 90:4). It is remarkable that, after over three thousand more years of human history after Moses, including the great medical advances of recent centuries, seventy to eighty years is still the normal life-span.

Psalm 90:11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.

Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

number our days. Compare Deuteronomy 32:29 in Moses' valedictory address to the children of Israel. A person has only about eighteen thousand days in which he could apply his life to eternal values, so it is vitally important to be “redeeming the time” (Ephesians 5:16).

Psalm 90:13 Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

how long. Moses is here praying for the soon fulfillment of God's ancient promise (Genesis 3:15) to return and redeem lost mankind, not realizing that he was hardly even at the midpoint, so to speak, of the divine chronology of human history.

Psalm 90:14 O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

satisfy us early. How much better it is to receive God's forgiving and saving mercy early in life than to wait until only a short time is left to serve Him!

Psalm 90:15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.

Psalm 90:16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.

Psalm 90:17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

be upon us. In this majestic prayer psalm, Moses first spoke of the Creation (Psalm 90:1, 2), then the Curse and the antediluvian world (Psalm 90:3-4), then the Flood (Psalm 90:5), then the present world (Psalm 90:6-13), then His salvation (Psalm 90:14-15) and finally the future world (Psalm 90:16-17) when all of God's great purposes in creating us for His glory will be accomplished.