(A psalm that contrasts what God is like, an eternal creator God who must judge sin but is also a God of love and forgiveness with mankind who because of sin live short lives that have no hope without God’s love and forgiveness.)

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When I was in Bible College nearly 40 years ago I teamed up with another student named Tom Radford to do ministry through preaching and singing. Tom played guitar and sang the melody of the many Gospel songs we sang and I sang close tenor harmonies. Sometimes Tom preached and other times I took a turn preaching. We ministered in many churches and even tried a bit of street evangelism but one time we were asked to sing and preach at a famous Private schools Sunday night chapel service. That night I preached the sermon after we had sang a few Gospel songs.

I thought and prayed for some days leading up to the chapel service what I should preach on and as I thought of my audience, a large number of active healthy young teenage men who on the whole saw no relevance for God and his word I was led by God’s Holy Spirit to these two verses in 1 Peter 1: 24 – 25, which is Peter quoting Isaiah 40: 6 – 8,

For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall, 25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”

I wandered how I could get my, probably reluctant young audience to sit up and listen to me so I thought of a novel way to do this. I went into a deserted overrun piece of land and found a big clump of spindly grass and put it in a plastic bag. When I got up to the chapel lectern instead of opening in prayer I pulled out from the plastic bag the large clump of spindly grass and raised it into the air and cried out in a loud voice, “Man is like the grass”, and then I threw the grass on the chapel floor in front of the lectern.

The impact was amazing and for some quite amusing but I must say I got their attention and I was able to open up the great truths of these verses in 1 Peter with great effect.

This idea that man is like grass is not only in 1 Peter 1: 24 – 25 and Isaiah 40: 6 – 8 but also appears in Psalm 90: 5 – 6,

“Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered”.

My original idea of a title for this Psalm Talk was, “Man is like grass but God is our eternal home”. I thought this was a bit to long or wordy so I shortened it to, “God is our eternal dwelling place”. My original title picks up the central theme of the whole Psalm, which is the contrast between God who is eternal and man who lives for a limited and short time.

The Psalm explores these twin ideas and even suggests an explanation of why we only live a limited short time, which is because of our sin or as verse 8 calls them, “iniquities”.

The Psalm ends with a prayer to God for his love and compassion to give us relief or forgiveness from God’s judgment on our sin so that God’s favour or blessings might come upon us to do God’s work and fulfil his purpose for our lives.

This an excellent message for people today to hear as most people live their lives either like there is no tomorrow or like they are going to live forever. They see no place or relevance for God and his word and hold in contempt anyone who dares to say that God exists and has any claim or hold on their lives.

This means that men and women today live spiritually barren selfish lives and after living 70 to 80 years or even much less die with no hope of life after death and little to show for the few years they existed in this life.

Who wrote Psalm 90?

The Hebrew heading reads,

“A prayer of Moses the man of God”

 Many scholars believe that book 4 and 5 of Psalms is two final collections of Psalms put together around the time of Ezra and was not finalised to around the first century, just after the time of Christ. This is because the dead sea scrolls that date up to two hundred years before Christ time on earth have a very similar collection of Psalms covering books 1, 2 and 3 but not books 4 and 5, even though many of the Psalms of books 4 and 5 are in the dead sea scrolls.

These final two collections contain some extra Psalms of David (two in book 4) and this possible ancient Psalm of Moses. It would seem then that the editors of the final books of Psalms looked for any older Psalms that were not in books 1, 2 and 3 and then included them in the final two collections of Psalms.

Why didn’t Moses Psalm appear in either books 1, 2 and 3?

The answer to this is in the Hebrew title, namely, “A prayer of Moses”. Maybe Psalm 90 was known and available as a prayer in the Jewish Temple writings up to book 4 was compiled and the editors of book 4 decided to include this ancient prayer as a Psalm in their final collections of the books of Psalms.

To me, the wording and message of Psalm 90 fit beautiful with both the other known writings of Moses and the setting of the Israelites 40 years wanderings in the wilderness. Moses was a very literate man for his day having been brought up in Pharaohs court where he would have learned to read and write both Egyptian writing and other well-known Semitic literature and writing.

Moses was told by God to write down his words particularly concerning the covenant, Exodus 34: 27. Moses wrote, I believe, most of the first five books of the bible during the 40-year wilderness wanderings. In the book of Exodus we have a song of Moses, Exodus 15 and in Deuteronomy 32, we have another much longer song of Moses.

Both these Psalms echo in words and style that of Psalm 90, which started its long life as a prayer used for centuries by the ancient Hebrew people unto one day its was placed in the fourth book of Psalms as its opening Psalm.

With the message of the contrast between the eternal creator God and the limited, sinful short life of man in mind my breakdown for this Psalm is:

  1. 1 God our dwelling place
  2. 2. God the eternal creation
  1. (3 – 6) MAN IS LIKE GRASS
  1. 3 From dust to dust
  2. 4 – 6 Like grass for a day
  1. (7 – 12) SIN IS OUR PROBLEM
  1. 7 – 9 Our sin and God’s judgment
  2. 10 – 12 Life is short learn the lesson of life’s shortness
  1. (13 – 17) GOD’S LOVE IS THE ANSWER
  1. 13 – 15 Reverse our fortunes with you love
  2. 16 – 17 Show us your favor O Lord

This prayer of Moses starts on a high positive note as Moses addresses his prayer to the God, he calls, “Our dwelling place” and its continues to describe this God, in contrast to us as the great eternal creator.

So these two opening verses express two great truths about God;

  1. 1 God our dwelling place
  2. 2. God the eternal creator

Lets have a closer look at these two great truths about God”

  1. 1 God our dwelling place

Moses calls on God and names him Lord, which is “Adonay” (ruler or governor) rather than the covenant name of God Yahweh.

Then he describes him as being our dwelling place or some translate home,

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place”,

 If this was written during the wilderness wanderings when Israel still did not have a country to live in then this is a very remarkable and significant phrase, as Bob Deffinbaugh points out so well when he writes,

“Moses was a fugitive from Egypt and he died without entering Canaan. Israel also was a people without a country. The Israelites had not yet possessed the land of Canaan when this Psalm was written. Therefore one would expect Moses to have described the Land of Canaan, as Israel’s dwelling place. Yet Moses knew that ultimately man’s dwelling is not a place but a person”.

 The idea of home or being at home conjures up all kinds of nice thoughts of warm feelings for most people, except for those who experienced bad or terrifying memories of home or who have had their homes destroyed or cruelly taken away from them. For theses people the concept of home is a wish or desires to know a place they can really call home.

Bob Deffinbaugh completes his comment on the concept of God being our dwelling place with these words,

“God is our Dwelling Place and in him we find security, safety and peace”.

 The term “Dwelling Place” has been used in the Old Testament to describe a number of things but I think the most obvious choice or use that applies here is Psalm 26: 8 implies,

“I love the house where you live, O Lord, the place where your glory dwells”.

 Obviously where God’s glory dwells is where God dwells and he who makes it glorious by simply dwelling there. We saw from many of the Psalms in the previous book of Psalms, book 3 that the Temple in Jerusalem came to symbolize God’s special dwelling place with his people on earth, as we read in Psalm 84: 1 – 2,

“How lovely is your dwelling place, LORD Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God”.

The Psalm goes on to describe God’s special presence in the Temple in Jerusalem yet this was only a symbol of God dwelling with his people and that symbol also represented where God fully dwells, heaven itself.

Jesus spoke to his disciples about preparing a house or a home in heaven for them and for us in John 14: 1 – 3,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.

2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”.

 Peter makes it clear that we are not to consider this world or this life as our home or dwelling place when he writes in 1 Peter 2: 11,

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul”.

 Paul calls us Citizens of Heaven in Philippians 3: 20 – 21,

 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”.

The old Gospel song puts it this way,

This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

But yet, in this life we live in this world and Moses says that God is our Dwelling place at any time in any generation because he goes on to say that God is our dwelling place,

“Throughout all generations”

 So how is God our dwelling place even in this life?

The opening verse of the next Psalm, Psalm 91: 1 gives us the answer to this question,

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty”.

 What is a home, in a good sens is the place we go to for shelter, rest and comfort, a place where we should sense protection from the world around us. Well for the believer in the God of the bible that place is only found in God and according to the New Testament in Jesus tells us we can find that place of security and rest in him, Matthew 11: 28 – 30,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Finally, in this life Paul tells us that The Church is God’s household or home where we dwell with Christ and his fellow followers, Ephesians 2: 19 – 20,

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone”.

 So Jesus and his church in both this life and the life to come in heaven is our home or the place where we find help, safety, support and peace.

  1. 2. God the eternal creator

The second great truth about God in the opening two verses of this Psalm is that our God who is our dwelling place is non other than the very eternal creator God himself, as verse 2 says,

“Before the mountains were born or brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God”.

 Leupold points out that,

“In the scriptures the mountains are frequently regarded as being among the very first elements of God’s creation”.

He sights a number of scriptures like Psalm 65: 6,

“Who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength”.

 So before even the mountains where formed or for that matter the earth was made God existed and he has existed forever,

From everlasting to everlasting you are God”.

 I have been asked, if God created everything who created God?

My answer to that is simple, it is that in the end there are only two logical possibilities to believe in, you either believe in,

  1. Eternal Matter


  1. Eternal God.

The first way of seeing how things were created is by seeing that something has always been there and by a series of amazing and miraculous accidents out of this matter developed everything, right down to the complexity of the human body, so wonderfully made that every part of it is designed to function in a way that life can be sustained in the world in which we live.

The reason why there must be eternal matter is that it is absolutely impossible to see how something can come out of nothing.

The second possibility is to believe in an eternal creator God who decided at one point in time to design and create all things. This possibility explains why we see order and design in the universe. The idea has been put that if a person who had never seen a watch or any other time keeping device found a watch washed up on a beach then when he looked at it with its design and function then he must conclude that there was a designer and maker behind that object he picked up on the beach.

However the main reason I believe there is a creator is because that creator has made himself known and Psalm 90 verse 2 is just one sentence in that revelation of the eternal creator God that reveals who reveals himself.

This verse says again,

“Before the mountains were born or brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God”.

The even clearer revelation of this creator God is found in the person and work of The Lord Jesus Christ, who John says in John 1: 1 – 5,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”.

John makes it clear that he is speaking about Jesus Christ in verse 14 of the same chapter,

“ The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

So Jesus existed then before he came to earth with God in heaven and he also existed before anything was made because he is eternal as the writer to the Hebrews says in Hebrews 13: 8,

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”.

2.  (3 – 6) MAN IS LIKE GRASS

 From the eternal and wonderful nature of God Moses now turns to the mortality or transient nature of mankind. He sets up in this second section of Psalm 90 a complete contrast between God and man.

I have broken this second section into two parts:

      1.  3        From dust to dust

      2. 4 – 6 Like grass for a day

 Lets have a closer look at the first part of this second section of the Psalm:

  1. 3 From dust to dust

Moses the man we believe wrote most of the first four books of the bible wrote theses words about the judgment of God on the first man and women’s rebellion of sin in Genesis 3: 17 – 19

7 “To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,  since from it you were taken; to for dust you are and dust you will return.”

 Now in Psalm 90: 3, he writes,

“You turn men back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, O sons of men”

In Genesis 3 vs. 19, the phrase,

For dust you are and dust you will return”,

This is God’s judgment for sin, which is death and ever since then all men have died.

Now in Psalm 90 vs. 3 we have a very similar phrase,

‘Return to dust, O sons of men”,

This refers more to the limited and fragile nature of life for all mankind which stands in complete contrast to what Moses has just said about God,

“From everlasting to everlasting you are God”.

The interesting poetic symbol of “dust” and “ground” or “earth” is very powerful in the Bible,

Genesis 2: 7, says,

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”.

So God somehow made us from the same elements of dust or dirt but then we are told in Genesis 3: 17 – 19a, part of God’s judgment for our sin will be our struggle with the ground or dust of the earth to produce food to live,

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food”.

Then Genesis 3: 19b and Psalm 90: 3, says that we will die and return to dust or the ground we came from,

“Until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; to for dust you are and dust you will return.”

Many years after Psalm 90 and the book of Genesis was written the great prophet Isaiah spoke of dust in the terms of clay in the hands of God and Isaiah 64: 8 says,

“Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter, we are all the work of your hand”.

But I want you to see that we are not just made of “dust” as Genesis 2: 7b says,

“And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”.

Modern science acknowledges we are made up of the main basic elements of the earth but does not, usually recognize we are not just physical beings but we, like God are also spiritual beings, which we call a living soul.

This is what I believe is the significance of what Genesis 1: 27 says,

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”.

Only, human beings have this special make up that makes it possible for us to commune with God and what Isaiah is speaking about, being molded like clay in the hands of God is similar to what Paul is speaking about in 2 Corinthians 5: 17,

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come”.

One preacher I once heard said that we are like rough raw diamonds when we first come to Christ and then God slowly but surely through the rough and tumble of our normal live chips away at making us into a beautiful diamond jewel.

All true believers are rough diamonds that are in the hands of God and are being transformed into the image or jewel of Christ as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3: 17 – 18,

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”.

  1. 4 – 6 Like grass for a day

From the image of dust to dust to describe the short fragile nature of all men and women Moses turns to the image’s of time and particularly grass to make the same great contrast between God and man.

First of all we have the image of time in verse 4,

“For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has gone by”,

Our time on earth is so short especially compared to the eternity of God our maker, who Peter picks up to say in 2 Peter 3: 8,

“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends. With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day”.

Gordon Churchyard opens up the concept of a thousand years with these words,

“Here may again make us think of the beginning of Genesis. Man and women then lived for a very long time. Methuselah was nearly a thousand years old when he died! The verse means this: What is a very long time to us is a short time to God”.

The other time image in verse 4,

“Or like a watch in the night”.

Has the same idea as the watch of the night was apparently the third part of the night, the early hours of the morning no more than 3 or 4 hours long which comes and goes each night so quickly.

Coffman sums up the meaning Moses has here of the image of time this way,

“It would be impossible to make it any plainer that God’s ‘days’ or God’s ‘years’ cannot be restricted to the limitations of the human understanding of those terms”.

God is eternal or everlasting and we are fragile and die in such a short time frame.

Now verses 5 and 6 turn to the image of grass or men and women being like grass,

“Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered”.

Moses first speaks of death in verse 5 in terms of being like sleep, that is when we sleep in seems that time passes so quickly, we go to sleep and wake up and it is morning, if we have a deep non disturbed sleep pattern.

Then he says that our lives are like grass which Spurgeon opens up so well with these words,

“As grass is green in the morning and hay at night, so men are changed from health to corruption in a few hours. We are not cedars, or oaks, but only poor grass, which is vigorous in the spring, but lasts not a summer through”.

Spurgeon so aptly concludes,

“What is there upon earth more frail than we?”

This is why I chose to wave a clump of spindly grass in front of a chapel full of young men and call out,

“Man is like the grass”!

Particularly when we are young we live our lives like we are invincible or immortal like nothing can stop us but the truth is life is fragile and short and this alone should cause us to think of God and eternity but our sin or rebellion to God stops us and we are deluded to think we are invincible.

In recent special yearly church news sheet our church sends out to people in our community associated with our church but not yet committed to it and its message I read a very interesting testimony of a recent new convert to the faith through the outreach ministry of our church.

Stephen Jackson said this about his life before he came to Christ,

“Bronwyn and I did not grow up in Christian families. Like many, I saw Christianity as the cause of more harm than good in the world. But underneath, while I knew there was something greater, I would not commit to search for God, preferring rather to be consumed by the world in which I lived”.

 Stephen went on to share that his wife nearly lost her life and the life of her new born child and this caused him, in the hospital waiting room one day to suddenly desperately pray for his wife and child’s recovery and promised God that if they pulled through he would have the child baptised.

Mother and child eventually pulled through and Stephen says he did not forget his promise to God. He contacted our church and was offered to attend a Christianity Explained course our church regularly runs to explain and present the Christian Gospel. Stephen and his wife came to Christ through that course and in the article Stephen says this,

“Once I personally accepted Jesus, a general peace washed over me and a lot of anxieties on death and earthly needs were squashed. God placed people in our lives to become mentors and friends. Throughout all of this, God has helped me to be a better husband, father and son”.

 We all need to learn the lesson of the reality of life that we are all like grass which so quickly comes and goes and that the answer to this devastating reality is what Paul simply put in Romans 6: 23,

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

 Many people are living their lives like Stephen was,

“Preferring rather to be consumed by the world in which I lived”.

 However they need to see that death consumes us all and that life is short and the only answer to that is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as we will see in the final section of this Psalm.

  1. (7 – 12) SIN IS OUR PROBLEM

 Moses has already hinted at the cause of mankind’s bleak fate in verse 3, where his words allude to the Judgment of God on the sin of Adam and Eve in the words,

“You turn men back to dust, saying, ‘Return to dust, O sons of men”.

 Now Moses spells out very specifically what mans major problem is in verse 7 – 12.

I have broken this third section of the Psalm into two parts:

  1. 7 – 9 Our sin and God’s judgment
  2. 10 – 12 Life is short learn the lesson of life’s shortness

 Lets then have a closer look at these two parts:

  1. 7 – 9 Our sin and God’s judgment

Moses makes it clear in these three verses why our lives are fragile and short and why death is every man’s fate. I see these verses saying , in brief,

  1. We are consumed by God’s anger (vs. 7)
  2. Because our many sins are always in God’s sight (vs.8)
  3. Which leads to God’s judgement on sin – death (vs. 9)

Let me now flesh out this brief summary of these three verses:

  1. We are consumed by God’s anger (vs. 7)

Verse 7 simply reads,

“We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation”.

 The concept of an angry God, a God who hates sin so much is even an idea many so called Christians today will not accept. In an article in “The Gospel Coalition” in December 2013, I read this,

“Last summer the modern hymn “In Christ Alone” made headlines for its lyrical references to the wrath of God and atonement theology. A hymn committee with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) wanted to add the song to their new hymnal, Glory to God, released this fall.

But in doing so, the committee requested permission from the song’s writers, Stuart Townend and Keith Getty, to print an altered version of the hymn’s lyrics, changing “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” to “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.” The songwriters rejected the proposed change, and as a result the hymn committee voted to bar the hymn”.

 The fact is the whole bible teaches that God does get angry with our sin and here are two classic example of it, one in the Old Testament, Nahum 1: 1 – 3,

“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath.

The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and vents his wrath against his enemies.
The Lord is slow to anger but great in power; the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of his feet”.

And one in the New Testament, Romans 1: 18,

“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness”.

The reality of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) rejection of Stuart Townsend words, “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” and the hymn -book editors replacement words, “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified”, was that God’s love was only magnified because Jesus bore the wrath of God showing us clearly that God is both Just and loving. Just, in that sin must be paid for and loving in that he, through his Son paid the price of sin through his death on the cross.

In Moses day, probably when he wrote this Psalm, the anger of God that appeared so terrifying was probably the condemnation of his people’s sin of not obeying God’s directive to enter the Promised Land of Canaan because they did not believe God could or would help them defeat the enemies they would have to face to gain ownership of the land God had Promised them.

In the first chapter of the book of Deuteronomy the Israelites in the desert grumble and fail to trust God to help them gain access to the Promised land and then in Deuteronomy 1: 34 – 36 we read this,

“When the LORD heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore:

35 “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the LORD wholeheartedly.”

 In the next three verses, 37 – 39, Moses speaks of how even he will suffer God’s anger and indignation,

“Because of you the LORD became angry with me also and said, “You shall not enter it, either. 38 But your assistant, Joshua son of Nun, will enter it. Encourage him, because he will lead Israel to inherit it. 39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it”.

These words of Psalm 90 would have also been very relevant at the time of the editing of Book 4 of Psalms when this Psalm was placed first Psalm in that book as the Jews had just suffered 70 years of exile in Babylon owing to the many years of sin and rebellion to the God of the bible leading up to the Babylonian conquest. That also was a result of God’s anger and indignation to his peoples many sins.

  1. Because our many sins are always in God’s sight (vs.8)

Verse 8 then makes it clear that God’s anger and indignation is a result of his peoples many sins,

“You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence”.

 We all think at some stage or many stages of our lives that our sins go unnoticed but the all seeing all knowing God of the bible sees them all and we cannot hide anything from the sight of God.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke of this in a number of places in his many words to the sinful people of his day, like Jeremiah 16: 17,

“My eyes are on all their ways; they are not hidden from me, nor is their sin concealed from my eyes”.

 David found out the hard way that he could not hide his sins from God when he was confronted by the prophet Nathan who told him that God knew about his sins and maybe this is why David spoke of “hidden” sins or “secret” sins in a number of his Psalms like Psalm 19: 12,

“Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults”.

 After Nathan told David God knew about his sins he tried to hide from him David confessed his sins to God and sought his forgiveness and we believe that Psalm 51 was that confession put into a special Psalm and in verse 3 he says,

“For I know my transgressions and my sin is always before me”.

 Alfred Barnes writes,

“The fact that human life has been made so brief, is explained, only upon the basis that God as arrayed his own mind the reality of human depravity”.

  1. Which leads to God’s judgement on sin – death (vs. 9)

Verse 9 fits really well into the context of the people of Israel in the days of their forced 40 years wanderings which, as I have already said was their punishment for disobeying God or even rebellion to God’s rule in their lives.

The verse simply says,

“All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan”.

 Paul taught in the early chapters of Romans that the basic problem of mankind is sin or rebellion to God’s rule and in Romans 3: 9 – 18 he spells out how everyone is a sinner in God’s sight,

“ What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.

10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.12 All have turned away,  they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” 13 “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.”
“The poison of vipers is on their lips.”

14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” 15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 ruin and misery mark their ways, 17 and the way of peace they do not know.” 18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

 Sin leads to a whole heap of problems in this world and Paul says that God decided not to stop mankind going their own way but rather allowed mankind to go their own way and face its consequences as we read in Romans 1: 28 – 32,

 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”.

 Why are there so many problems in this world?

You might ask, well the answer is we are all sinners and we are living as verse 9 says,

“Under your (God’s) wrath”.

 This means that even our short lives finish with a “moan” as the verse says which The Geneva Study Bible explains as saying,

“Our days are not only short but miserable as our sins daily provoke your wrath”.

  1. 10 – 12 Life is short learn the lesson of life’s shortness

 So sin is our problem that messes up our lives and our world and as we saw from Genesis 3: 19 death was as Paul put it in Romans 3: 23, the wage or wages of sin.

Now in this second part of the third section of the Psalm Moses explains that this judgment of God plays its way out in life as what he has already spoken about, the shortness of life which verse 10a states as the average age most people live to,

“The length of our days is seventy years- or eighty, if we have strength.”

 Most people seem to pass away today somewhere in their late 70”s or 80’s, both my parents and mother in law died in their 80’s but my father in law was only in his early sixties as he was a chain smoker and had cancer in his family and succumbed to lung cancer as a result.

If this was written at the time of the wilderness wanderings and most of the adults where between 30 and 40 then 70 to 80 years would have been the maximum those people lived to so this could also be not a statement of the average age of life but a statement of the average age span of the wilderness generation who the second part of the verse speaks clearly of,

“Yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away”.

 One writer, I consulted, named Kevin McCabe, pointed out that even though 70 – 80 years is similar to today’s average life span it was not up to about 100 years ago.

Kevin rightly points out that the average life expectancy in 1900 was 47 – 49. However I don’t think Moses main point is the average age question but rather no matter whether we live to 60 or even 90, life is short and has been made short by God’s wrath or judgment on sin.

This is what Moses goes on to speak about in the next verse, verse 11a,

“Who knows the power of your anger?

 Not only is the opening part of this verse indicating that the limiting of our life spans a result of God’s wrath or judgment but by putting it as a question it is saying most people fail to recognize that God is angry and has judged our sins. Burton Coffman makes this comment about American societies general attitude to God and judgment with these words,

“The current conception of God in our American society regards him (God) as a rather over – indulgent grandfather who pays little or no attention to the crimes of blood and lust that rage beneath his very nose, assuming that his wonderful loving grace and mercy will ignore and overlook anything that wicked men may do”.

 Coffman wrote these words in the late 20th century and are certainly true of the general view of God in my country Australia today. So people all around me, outside of my church community do not know they are living short difficult lives because of their many sins and God’s judgment on them.

The second of verse 11, 11b,says,

“For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due to you”.

 This phrase became clear to me when I read the New Living Translation version of it, which simply says,

“Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve”.

 Fear here being, reverence or respect for who God is and how he hates sin and must deal with it. This is what people outside my church in my community need to learn but their many sins have blinded them to the truth about God and life.

Moses goes on to ask that even people in his day might wise up to the fact that life is short and they must learn the lesson of the shortness of life caused by their many sins and the judgment or wrath of God that produces, as the verse says,

“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”,

 Bob Deffinbaugh explains this verse the best for me,

“He (Moses) asks that God would enable men to see life as it is and man as he is. Numbering our days involves seeing life as God has described it. We must acknowledge that God is eternal and man is mortal; God is righteous and man is sinful”.

 My wife has said a number of times in recent years, “Life is short and we need to make the best of it while we have it”, for the Christian this is not,

“Eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die”, (1 Cor. 15: 32)

but rather,

“Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15: 58).

 Many great Christian men and women have gone before me serving the Lord and the fruits of their labors have helped me to see life and God aright and I hope that in my time I will be able to help and encourage others now and in the future to do the same.

4. (13 – 17)  GOD’S LOVE IS THE ANSWER

 Some might see that Psalm 90 does not offer us much hope but rather is a prayer that dwells on the frailty and sinfulness of man compared to the eternal nature of God who is very angry at our sinful behaviour in our shortened often miserable lives.

But I see in this last section the major elements for hope and these elements once fully realised by the Christian Gospel or hope offer a very positive answer to the plight of mankind in the face of God’s judgment.

I have broken this final section into two parts:

  1. 13 – 15 Reverse our fortunes with you love
  2. 16 – 17 Show us your favour O Lord

 Lets have a close look at these two parts:

  1. 13 – 15 Reverse our fortunes with you love

I have not made much of a point of the fact so far that this is a Prayer of Moses as the Hebrew heading tells us. In this final section the prayer aspect of this Psalm becomes more obvious and the first thing Moses asked for in this final section of his prayer is for God to relent from his judgment and to change the fortunes of his people now suffering under God’s judgment.

The next three verses mention a number of times the love and mercy of God and this I believe is the basis for everyone’s answer to the sin problem.

In verse 13a we have Moses direct request for God to relent from his terrible judgment on Moses and his people,

“Relent, O Lord! How long will it be?

 Joseph Benson spells out the full Hebrew translation meaning of these words, this way,

“Return, O Lord — To us in mercy. How long? — Understand, wilt thou be angry? Or, will it be ere thou return to us? Let it repent thee, Of thy severe proceedings against us”.

 I said this about the often used question in the Psalms, “How long” ? in the last Psalm talk on Psalm 89,

“I count ten times in the Psalms this cry has been used as a desperate cry to God starting with Psalm 6: 3 and ending with Psalm 119: 84 and Tremple Longman 111 explains,

“The phrase indicates how the sufferer has been long in his pain and sees no terminus in sight”.

 Moses, I believe prayed and recorded this prayer towards the end of his long life when he was soon to climb Mount Nebo in Moab across from Jericho to look into the Promised Land but not enter it as he died their. Moses knew that God was angry with his people because they had suffered God’s judgment on them for not trusting their God and in fact rebelled against his expressed will and word. Moses died along with all the disbelieving Israelites but Deuteronomy 34: 5 – 8 says this,

“And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over”.

Moses therefore did not get an answer to this prayer in this life but we can conclude two things from this:

  1. Moses did go to be with God in Heaven.
  2. The people of Israel through the next generation did enter the Promised Land under Joshua to conquer most of it.

Lets have a quick look at these two ideas:

  1. Moses did go to be with God in Heaven

Moses stated at the start of the Psalm in verse 1,

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations”

 So Moses believed in God as his dwelling place in both this life and the next and we know from the story of the Transfiguration in Luke 9 that Moses along with Elijah appeared in what Luke calls, “Glorious Splendor”, on top of a mountain talking with Jesus (Luke 9: 28 – 31)

2.  The people of Israel through the next generation did enter  the Promised Land under Joshua and conquer most of it.

Following the account of the death of Moses in Deuteronomy 34: 5 – 8, we read this in verse 9,

“Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses”.

 The book of Joshua follows and it tells the story of the successful entry and conquest of the Israelites of the Promised Land. So at least the generation that followed the disobedient generation in the wilderness did trust in the God of the bible and through God’s compassion and love had much to sing about as God blessed them with the long foretold Promised Land of Israel.

The second half of verse 13 simply says,

“Have compassion on your servants.”

 Moses knew that even though his God was a God who hated sin and who will judge people for it, he was also a God of compassion or love. Moses would not have known how his God would have fully worked out what seems to be two opposing ideas about God but we know from the message of the New Testament that God, through his Son on the Cross would pay for sin for us and in doing so show us his amazing love at the same time.

 As Paul declares in Romans 5: 8 – 9,

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!

 Moses continues to appeal to the love of God in verse 14,

“Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days”.

 This verse, again, offers great hope, hope Moses himself came through death to see the morning or dawning when he woke up in God’s presence in heaven. All through the Psalms so far the morning seems to be a image of new hope as David wrote in a day of God’s testing owing to God’s judgment on him in Psalm 30: 5,

“For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning”.

 Moses wanting his wailing or tears of torment to turn into singing and joy and in David’s Psalm 30 he speaks of this happening for him in verses 11 – 12 of that Psalm,

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,12 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

Moses wanted to do what David said he did once he realised God had forgave his terrible sins, sing for joy and be glad of God’s forgiveness all his days and in verse 15 he makes this request even clearer, when he writes,

“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble”.

 Moses would only see this kind of thing fulfilled in what he spoke about at the beginning of the Psalm as I previously mentioned, God being his and his people’s dwelling place. It is the concept of God being their eternal dwelling place is what Moses is asking for and this reminds me of the words of Paul in Romans 8: 18,

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us”.

 Many believers over the long history of the church would have taken comfort from these words of Paul as just as I can sight wonderful stories of deliverance of past Christian sufferers I can also recall stories of faithful believers going to their deaths in the name and service of the Lord Jesus Christ.

However many tragic death stories of faithful Christian believers also include how when they died they had a sure hope of going to be with the Lord, their Eternal Dwelling place.

  1. 16 – 17 Show us your favour O Lord

 Moses brings his prayer to God for deliverance and help for him and his people to an end with a plea for God’s favor to rest on them. He starts this request with the words of verse 16,

“May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children”.

 Leopold writes,

“In the last analysis this verse offers the potent and effective antidote against hopelessness and discouragement”.

 Moses in the face of not being able to enter the Promised Land himself prays for God’s “deeds” or “Your Work” as other translations put it to be shown to God’s servants who the parallel thought in the verse is God’s Children.

Maybe Moses hints here that he knew it was the next generation and the generations to follow them that God’s deeds and splendor would be shown to. He and the generation he lead did see the mighty deeds of God in the Exodus from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of a nation led miraculously by God through the red sea and the many problems and difficulties in the wilderness wanderings.

In one sense Moses and his generation could have felt hopeless and discouraged but looking to the future for their children and their descendants there was lots of reasons for hope and encouragement.

We might struggle to work for the Lord in our ministries today but I can recall many stories of faithful servants of Christ in the past toiling in ministry service with what seemed to be so little results but in the long term perspective their small results where used by God for a great future harvest.

I am reminded again of a verse I quoted earlier 1 Corinthians 15: 58,

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain”.

Finally we have Moses request for God’s favor for him and his people in verse 17,

“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us- yes, establish the work of our hands”.

 Note the repeat of the request, which Alan Harman points out that this shows us the intense importance Moses thought here by repeating it.

The Hebrew heading calls Moses, “The man of God” and he became known as this because of his commitment to and hard work for the God of the bible. This commitment to the work of God shines through this final verse of his Psalm.

He prays that God’s favor would rest on him and his people and that this favor would lead to the establishment of God’s work through them. At the end of Deuteronomy, obviously not written by Moses himself but by he later editors of Moses writings we read this assessment of the life and work of Moses in Deuteronomy 34: 10 – 12,

“Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. 12 For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel”.

These words were written about Moses some time after his passing as it speaks of no one showing God’s mighty power like Moses. So even though it might seem Moses prayer was not answered as he died on top of a mountain in Moab looking down on the Promised Land. However Moses had led his people to the edge of the Promised Land. Without Moses long hard work the nation of Israel would not have been able to possess this land of Promise.

Moses was God’s man to lead his people out of slavery in Egypt. Moses was God’s man to receive the covenant and law of God. Moses was God’s man to record a large chunk of his word to us all.

The writer to the Hebrews says this about Moses in Hebrews 11: 25 – 29,

“He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the application of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.

 29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned”.

Moses led his people through all this and much more so his life was not a failure, even though for forty years he seemed to be lost keeping sheep for his father – in – law out in the desert area of Midian far from his people locked up in slavery in Egypt.

However God called Moses to return and equipped Moses and his brother Aaron to lead his people out of Egypt. Moses after much self-doubt did answer God’s call and returned to Egypt at great personal cost lead his people out of slavery.

In a sense from the day of God’s calling at the burning bush in the desert up to the people going into the Promised Land God’s favour rested on him and that favour established God’s work for the nation of Israel.

We cannot tell what our work for God will eventually lead to but by faith we must trust in the God who is our eternal dwelling place and believe like Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: 58, that our work for the Lord,

“Is not in vain”.

The apostle Paul, like Moses at the end of his great life and work for the Lord wrote a final letter to his young protégé Timothy which we call 2 Timothy and in chapter 4: 6 – 8 Paul speaks of his work for the Lord and hope of being with Christ in God’s eternal dwelling place,

“For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing”.

God’s favour comes to us through the grace of God given to us in and through the person and work of The Lord Jesus Christ as Paul praises God for in Ephesians 1: 6 – 10,

“To the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfilment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ”.


 We have learnt in this prayer of Moses how God is our eternal dwelling place, a home for us to head for in death and a secure place for us to find shelter in this life particularly in difficult times.

We have learnt our lives are so fragile and short especially compared to the eternal God who is the creator of heaven and earth and that this frailty and shortness of life is a result of God’s judgment of our many sins.

We have learnt that our only hope is the love of God that is so great and wonderful that he paid for our sins through the death of Christ and through that act alone we see the amazing love of God for us.

Finally we have learnt that God gives us his love and favour through what Christ has done for us and we now have a great work for him to do which is to establish his people hear on earth to be part of his eternal dwelling place both here and in heaven above.

I close as usual with a original poem and a prayer.


(Based on Psalm 90)

 O Lord you are our eternal dwelling place

The place where we can always go

For you made the mountains

And all the world we know.



But Jesus came from heaven

And paid for sin out of love.

He died upon the cross for us

To make a home for us above.


O Lord we are so fragile

We are made of dust and to dust we’ll go.

A thousand years is like a day to you

But like grass we come and go.




We are consumed by your anger Lord

For your judgment of all our sins,

And this has caused our lives to be limited

It seems like life ends as it begins.




Teach us Lord to number our days

And to realise how life is so short,

So satisfy our deep longing Lord

To know your love within our heart.




O Lord you are our eternal dwelling place

The place where we can always go

May we have your blessing to do your work

So through that work your love will show.


By: Jim Wenman


 Help us Lord above to realise how short our lives really are and that the shortness of life is a result of our many sins. Help us to also realise that the only answer to our sins is your Sons death on the cross for them. May we continually put our faith and trust in your Son, Jesus Christ and do his work knowing that he is our eternal dwelling place. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen.