Summary: Psalm 90 teaches us to number our days so that we might finish well.
As we get ready to enter into the new year, many of us are busy making some New Year’s resolutions. While I’ve certainly made my share of resolutions over the years, I no longer do that. Probably, like most of you who have done that I find that I haven’t really done a very good job of carrying out many of those resolutions.
But as we end one year and get ready to enter into the next, it is certainly an appropriate time for us to consider our own lives and make sure that we’re living them in a way that honors God and that brings the blessings that come with living life in a manner that is consistent with His character and His ways. So this morning we’ll wrap up the journey that we’ve been on since July through a number of the Psalms by using Psalm 90 to help us evaluate our lives and then determine how we ought to live the rest of our lives in light of what God has revealed to us in that Psalm.
Psalm 90 is the oldest Psalm, and it was the only one written by Moses. Although we can’t be totally certain, it seems likely that Moses wrote these words as God’s people wandered in the wilderness and a whole generation of people died because of their rebellion against God.
According to Numbers 26, all the men over 20 who refused to obey God and go into the Promised Land totaled 600,000 and they were sentenced to die in the wilderness. That means that Moses spent 40 years watching over 1 million funerals when you count the men above 20 and their wives. That is over 70 per day or about 3 each hour.
So it’s not surprising that Moses would write a Psalm that focuses on the brevity of life here on earth and how that should influence the way we live those lives. With that in mind, follow along as I read Psalm 90:
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
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!
Psalm 90:1-17 (ESV)
Like most Hebrew poetry, we find that the climax is not at the beginning or the end, but rather in this middle. A brief outline of the Psalm helps us to see that:
Outline of Psalm 90
1. God is eternal (vv. 1-2)
He existed before this earth was created and He will be around long after it is burned up and gone. That truth undergirds the rest of the Psalm and it also, as we’ll see, should have a tremendous impact on how we live our lives here on earth. That idea leads directly to the second section of the Psalm…
2. Life on earth is short and hard (vv. 3-11)
Compared to eternity, the 70 or 80 years of life that we have here on this earth are very short and Moses uses several different pictures to illustrate that truth.
But not only is that part of our life short, it is also hard because we experience the consequences of sin. We’ve spent some time talking about that lately by looking at Romans 1 where Paul explains how we are currently experiencing God’s wrath as a result of man’s sin. We experience that wrath both personally and corporately.