Moses wrote Psalm 90 many years after the spies he sent into the land of Canaan, promised to the people of Israel, returned with their disheartening report. When we consider that this Psalm was written for those people who wandered in the wilderness, suffering the consequences of their lack of faith in the promises of God, we can better understand the primary meaning of each verse. Let us see:
"Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations" (v. 1). From Abraham, who left his homeland and relatives in Ur of the Chaldees, he and his lineage through his grandson Jacob (known as Israel), until those days of Moses, had no territory of their own. Even during the four centuries in Egypt, they lived in borrowed territory. Moses declares effectively that the dwelling place (refuge) of His people was in the Lord ("Adonai") during this time. The author of Hebrews, after giving a statement about the heroes of faith in the Old Testament, declares: " These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. " (Hebrews 11:13) and about Abraham he says that “he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God" (Hebrews 11:10).
In the same way the saints of the church of Christ are pilgrims and strangers in the world (1 Peter 2:11), they are part of a spiritual building whose foundation is the Lord Jesus Christ (the same "Adonai" from the Old Testament). They do not inhabit a Tabernacle or temple, but are in God, ever since the Lord Jesus with his first disciples founded His church. It is about the saints of the New Testament that the Holy Spirit says, “he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him" (1 John 3:24) and these await a “heavenly country” and a “heavenly city” (Hebrews 11:16, 12:22, 13:14), as well as “new heavens and a new Earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God“ (v. 2). The eternity of the Lord, which we know to be God the Son, comforted Moses for his disappointment in the lost years wandering aimlessly through the desert. They were many and many days, but this meant nothing to He for Whom one thousand years are as the passage of one day to the next (v. 4).
He is always present to shelter, comfort, protect, preserve and enhance what is His, whether it is Israel or the Church. Israel awaits the Promised Land, the Church waits for its nuptials and inheritance in heaven. Both those promises will be fulfilled at the appropriate time.
"You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.” (v.8). The eternal existence of God is mentioned here to expose, by contrast, the brevity of human life. While every death is a result of the entry of sin, Moses realized that what was happening in the desert was a special punishment from God. All who were 20 years old or more, that is, all those who could go to war, in front of Mount Sinai after they left Egypt, would die before the entrance thirty-eight years later in Canaan, for supporting the ten spies who judged it impossible to conquer Canaan, even with the support of God. Justice shortened the days of rebellious Israel; each stopping place became a cemetery; the graves marked their paths. Exception was made of the two spies who trusted in God, Caleb and Joshua: these survived, effectively participated in the conquest, and received their portions of the Land to live there with their families.
The iniquities of the unbelievers weighed on them, declares Moses here, their conscience accuses them, and not only their days, but also their years fly and end up as a sigh, fast as a meditation, and they fear death because for them there is no hope for the future. Not so for believers, because our days pass by enjoying the goodness of the Lord, as David says in Psalm 23:6 - "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever." We are grafted into the olive tree of the goodness of God (Romans 11:16-36), having our conscience cleaned by the blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our lives are illustrations of heavenly goodness, parables of divine wisdom, poems of sacred thought and undying love records; we are really blessed.
“The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (v. 10). Moses lived more than that, but he was the exception, not the rule; in his time, we see that the lives had similar length to those of today. Very brief in comparison with those of greater antiquity, before the flood. Even these were short compared with eternity. Because of their unbelief, the Israelites spent altogether forty years in the desert, and had days of weariness and boredom, deaths for punishment, attacks of enemies and snakebites.
For the ungodly life soon fades, and if they live for more than seventy years, they will see their body lose its beauty, their muscles weaken, their senses lose their usefulness, their memory fade and their freedom thwarted by growing dependence on others. Bad days will come and the years in which they will say, "I have no pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:1).
Not so for believers. The servant of God Spurgeon tells us the following about it: “mellowed by hallowed experience, and solaced by immortal hopes, the latter days of aged Christians are not so much to be pitied as envied. The sun is setting and the heat of the day is over, but sweet is the calm and cool of the eventide; and the fair day melts away, not into a dark and dreary night, but into a glorious, unclouded, eternal day. The mortal fades to make room lot the immortal; the old man falls asleep to wake up in the region of perennial youth.”
"We fly away" says Moses, so "teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). We could remember with sadness those days when we wasted precious time in futile and harmful things, blindly seeking to satisfy our curiosity, selfishness and passions, which may have given us some measure of wisdom. However, we can learn infinitely more from this source of wisdom that the Father of eternity provides us. He is the only one who can teach us the actual position in which we find ourselves and the direction to follow in the path that will lead us into eternity.
The eternal Lord teaches us by His Word, what we can learn about the times in our short life on this earth, and prepare us to live correctly forever in His Kingdom. Paul expressed his desire and prayed to God that the Colossians might be filled with the full knowledge of the will of God, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, because in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 1:9, 2:3).
1. A Prayer Of Moses the Man of God. 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, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
3 You turn man to destruction, And say, "Return, O children of men."
4 For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.
5 You carry them away like a flood; They are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up:
6 In the morning it flourishes and grows up; In the evening it is cut down and withers.
7 For we have been consumed by Your anger, And by Your wrath we are terrified.
8 You have set our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.
9 For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh.
10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
11 Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
12 So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O LORD! How long? And have compassion on Your servants.
14 Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
15 Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, The years in which we have seen evil.
16 Let Your work appear to Your servants, And Your glory to their children.
17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.