The Bible

 

Psalms 90

Study

  

1 A Prayer of Moses the man of God. Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place In all generations.

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.

3 Thou turnest man to destruction, And sayest, Return, ye children of men.

4 For a thousand years in thy sight Are but as yesterday when it is past, And as a watch in the night.

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

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

7 For we are consumed in thine anger, And in thy wrath are we troubled.

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

9 For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: We bring our years to an end as a sigh.

10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten, Or even by reason of strength fourscore years; Yet is their pride but labor and sorrow; For it is soon gone, and we fly away.

11 Who knoweth the power of thine anger, And thy wrath according to the fear that is due unto thee?

12 So teach us to number our days, That we may get us a heart of wisdom.

13 Return, O Jehovah; how long? And let it repent thee concerning thy servants.

14 Oh satisfy us in the morning with thy lovingkindness, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, And the years wherein we have seen evil.

16 Let thy work appear unto thy servants, And thy glory upon their children.

17 And let the favor 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.

  

Commentary

 

Exploring the Meaning of Psalms 90

By Rev. Julian Duckworth

Psalm 90 speaks of time, permanence and impermanence, and the span of human life. It upholds the eternal nature of the Lord: "Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."

A secondary but connected theme, especially from verses 7-12, is the Lord's apparent anger with us, and his affliction of our lives with troubles. The reason given for this is that we can then learn the true nature of our lives and of our dependence on Him.

The psalm ends with a prayer for the Lord's compassion on us, and for us to be glad all our days, according to the days of our affliction. We wish to know the work of the Lord. We hope that the work of our hands - our purpose and use - will be established.

This is a relatively profound psalm, covering many questions we have about life. It links our sense of our own frailty with the Lord's greater purposes. In the same way that 'time' is basically only an appearance to us, so our unthinking view of life is generally illusory. It can bring us to think of God as angry, and against us. But, nothing could be further from the truth. (See Heaven and Hell 165)

It's important to see that the first two verses are unambiguously true: First, "Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations", and second, "even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God". Spiritually, for us, holding this opening statement in our minds allows us to explore our whole relationship with the Lord. (See Arcana Caelestia 3913)

The next four verses bring out the frailty of our existence, that in a sense we are made from the dust of the earth. Spiritually, this is not said to condemn us, but to remind us that without the Lord, we are nothing. (See Arcana Caelestia 8995)

This humility allows us to come into spiritually positive territory. This is brought out in the context of time being as nothing - "a thousand years in God's sight are like yesterday" - they are carried away and temporary. (See Divine Providence 218-219)

From verse 7 onward come descriptions of the Lord's anger and wrath, along with the brevity and futility of our days in life. "We finish our years like a sigh." All of this is said in the language of appearance - of how it can seem to us - when we consider life only from our viewpoint and not from the Lord's purpose in it. (See Arcana Caelestia 1093 and Sacred Scripture 94.) In reality, the Lord does not ever have or hold anger and wrath.

Verse 12 provides a helpful clue to the verses which come before it. It is a prayer from us to the Lord to teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. This is a lesson learned from our experience in life, with its pitfalls and its speedy passing, when we realise our folly too late.

The last five verses are clearer and brighter, asking the Lord to gladden us in our lives, and for us to see the work of God in all that we go through, and finally for the Lord our God to establish the work of our hands. Note that this positive ending comes from having endured confusion and negative states which we have now worked through, and that they have gone from us. (See Apocalypse Explained 897.)