>The literary fingers of the Psalms feel the pulse of the human heart.
I have never liked to designate a favorite scripture passage because I love too many to narrow my choice to one. And different scriptures speak more eloquently during different circumstances. But if I were forced to pick a favorite Psalm, it would be Psalm 90.
This prayer of Moses may seem a rather strange and even morbid choice, since it depicts life as futile and fleeting. But it places this honest assessment of life within the context of God as our dwelling place.
Think about that for a moment; the writer of this psalm about God as our dwelling place was Moses, who knew all about not having a home of his own. As a baby, he was taken from his parents to be raised in the Egyptian court. As an adult, he fled for his life from all that comfort and opulence. He worked for his father-in-law as a humble shepherd in the desert, naming his son Gershom because he said, “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” As an old man and at God’s command, Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and remained their leader during forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Due to one public sin, he was not permitted to live in the promised land; although God allowed him to view it from a mountain top before taking him to his only home.
Moses began his prayer:
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God (1-2).
Moses knew all about the transient character of life, but he also knew that every believer who has ever lived and who ever will live dwells–not in palaces or tents–but only in God. Before God created the earth with its rugged mountain peaks and its surging seas, he had chosen every believer from all the generations of humanity to dwell in him.
God, who is outside the time and space continuum, ordains the length of every person’s fleeting life.
You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.
You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers (3-6).
God determines not only the date of our death, but he also brings trials into our lives. He exposes our private sins in order to convict us.
For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence (7-8).
Verses 9-11 show that our years are full of struggle, but they quickly pass:
For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
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.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?
Do we accurately assess the power of God’s anger? Do we appropriately reverence, honor, and obey him? How few do!
Because life is so fleeting and full of trouble, Moses begs God for wisdom to fully utilize each day; he begs for God’s pity (verses 12-13).
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
But Moses does more than beg for pity; he beautifully juxtaposes the contrasts of reality.
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil (14-15).
It’s easy for me to recall verse 15’s words about afflicted days and evil years, but it’s important not to separate this verse from the previous one. Both should be kept in mind. God is able to make us glad, even for the afflicted days and evil years, because he is the one who satisfies us each morning with his steadfast love. This language is similar to Lamentations 3:22-23. God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. Great is his faithfulness!
Our faithful God, who every morning renews us with his mercies and satifies us with his steadfast love, will manifest his work and power in our lives and in the lives of our children.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children (16).
God’s favor will rest upon believers. And, in spite of our sin and weakness, in spite of our frailty and life’s fleetingness, he will establish our efforts.
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! (17)
Our home is not a rambling ranch or a cozy cottage, our home is not even a faithful family or a saintly spouse. Our home is God. Through all of life’s sin and pain, we can remember that this fallen world is not our home. God is!
With that realistic perspective, we can number our days and become wise. We can be glad all our afflicted days and all our evil years because God will satisfy us each morning with his steadfast love. We can witness his wonders and our children will see his glorious power. And the work we do will not disappear into insignificance. God will rest his favor upon us and establish the work of our hands by giving it significance.
God is our dwelling place. Welcome home!
All scripture references are from the English Standard Version.