A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
90:1 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!
[Follow this link for the Order of Worship with embedded videos of the recommended songs that accompany this study.]
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us, in many ways, and will most likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Before this pandemic is over, it seems probable that one or more of our family, friends, or acquaintances will contract the disease, and may even die as a result.
How are we to think biblically about this situation? There are many passages in the Bible that could help us here, but Psalm 90 is especially relevant to what we are experiencing.
[Pray for God’s help, peace, and comfort during these troubling days, and ask specifically for his help as we read, discuss, and meditate on Scripture. Read Psalm 90 out loud to each other.]
Psalm 90 is ascribed to Moses, and some commentators think that the events in Numbers 20 are the backstory to this psalm.
Moses’ sister Miriam has died, Moses and Aaron sinned against God by striking the rock to bring water out of it, instead of just speaking to the rock as God had told them to do; the nation of Edom refuses to let the nation of Israel take the short route through Edomite territory to the promised land; and Aaron dies. These are some hard, challenging days for Moses, and Psalm 90 would have been an appropriate response to these events.
[Read Numbers 20 for all the details of these events, and then Psalm 90 once again, with those events in mind.]
It’s helpful to think of Psalm 90 in four parts:
- A hymn of praise to God for his eternal grandeur, majesty, and power (v. 1-2)
- A lament of our frailty as humans and the brevity of life (v. 3-6)
- A lament of our sin against God and God’s just wrath against sin (v. 7-11)
- A prayer to God showing our need of his grace, in five specific requests to him (v. 12-17)
The eternality of God
[Read Psalm 90:1-2]
Ponder and discuss the eternality of God (no beginning and no end!), the fact that he created everything you see and cannot see – the entire universe and everything in it, and the reassurance that he and he alone is our true dwelling place or refuge.
[Read Psalm 91:1-6, which describes further how God is our dwelling place.]
How are verses 5 and 6 especially appropriate to what we are going through right now?
The brevity of our lives
[Read Psalm 90:3-6]
Ponder and discuss the different perspectives here: how long our lives can seem, but to God they are incredibly brief.
Verse 3 acknowledges that we are but dust that God has breathed life into, and that we, or at least our bodies, will soon return to that dust.
Verse 4: even if we were to live a thousand years, to God that would be merely one day, or even less, a four-hour watch in the night. How does James 4:13-15 describe our lives? Ponder that for a few moments.
In verses 5-6 Moses uses several illustrations to show how short our lives really are. What are the illustrations?
Our sin and God’s wrath
[Read Psalm 90:7-11]
What is God’s just response to our sin?
Is there any sin that he does not know about?
Moses describes our lives as “toil and trouble.” Labor and difficulty. Ponder that. There is no guarantee that our lives will be, or even should be, easy and carefree. Yet that is what we typically want and hope for. It has been said that the troubles that we have in this life are designed by God to loosen our grip on this life, and make us desire all the more the life that is to come – eternity with him.
A prayer acknowledging our dependence on God
[Read Psalm 90:12-17]
There are at least five requests to God in these verses:
- “Teach us to number our days…” Asking God to teach us to think properly about the length of our lives, so that we can be truly wise. In this verse, learning to number our days is a requirement of Godly wisdom. (v. 12)
- “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love….” God and his steadfast (unchanging) love is the only thing that can truly satisfy our longings. Possessions (house, clothing, cars, etc.) will rust, rot, and ultimately perish. People will die. Looking for satisfaction in anything other than God is not wise, but foolish. (v. 14)
- “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us…” Acknowledge that all, every one, of our days are a gift from God, despite the toil and trouble that they are, but we need to ask God to help us gain this way of thinking.
- “Let your work be shown to your servants…” There are echoes here, I think, of Exodus 33:18-19. Moses asked to see God’s glory, and we can, according to this psalm, ask to see something of God’s work and glorious power. (v. 16)
- “…establish the work of our hands!” We all want what we do in this life to have meaning. Someday, all that we have done, and who we are, will be forgotten by people. But God remembers, and Colossians 3:17 is very appropriate here: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
Psalm 90 is a good dose of realism: We may or may not survive the COVID-19 pandemic, but we certainly will not live on this earth forever. Death is coming, but that is no reason to be afraid…if our refuge is in God who is in complete control of everything, and in his son, Jesus, who died and rose again to save us from our sins.
To close, pray through Psalm 90, acknowledging God’s power and eternality, and our frailty and sinfulness, thanking him especially for sending Jesus Christ as the answer and only solution to our hopeless situation. Finally, pray through the five requests in verses 12-17.