According to its superscription, Psalm 90 is “a prayer of Moses the man of God”. It is probably better described as a meditation (vv. 1-11) followed by a prayer (vv. 12-17).
The psalm begins with a contemplation of three unchanging truths about Jehovah:
- He is a refuge for His people. “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (v. 1).
- He is unchanging. “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).
- He prefers to save, not destroy. “You turn man to destruction and say, ‘Return, O children of men.’ For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past and like a watch in the night. You carry them away like a flood; they are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up: in the morning it flourishes and grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withers” (vv. 3-6).
Next, Moses ponders upon three unchanging truths about humanity:
- Human sin is deadly. “For we have been consumed by Your anger and by Your wrath we are terrified. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance” (vv. 7-8).
- Human life passes quickly. “For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh. 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” (vv. 9-10).
- Human imagination cannot fathom God’s wrath. “Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath” (v. 11).
Moses’ meditation culminates in three petitions/priorities for his life:
- To live wisely/make every day count. “So, teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12).
- To seek God vigorously. “Return, O Lord! How long? And have compassion on Your servants. Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy that we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, the years in which we have seen evil” (vv. 13-15).
- To serve God urgently. “Let Your work appear to Your servants and Your glory to their children. 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” (vv. 16-17).
Though written over 3,000 years ago, Moses’ meditation and prayer provide timeless spiritual counsel.