Psalm 90

God’s Eternity and Man’s Transitoriness.

A Prayer of [a]Moses, the man of God.

90 Lord, You have been our [b]dwelling place in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
[c]Or You gave birth to the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it passes by,
[d]Or as a watch in the night.
You have [e]swept them away like a flood, they [f]fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which [g]sprouts anew.
In the morning it flourishes and [h]sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.

For we have been consumed by Your anger
And by Your wrath we have been [i]dismayed.
You have placed our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your presence.
For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a [j]sigh.
10 As for the days of our [k]life, [l]they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
11 Who [m]understands the power of Your anger
And Your fury, according to the fear [n]that is due You?
12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may [o]present to You a heart of wisdom.

13 Do return, O Lord; how long will it be?
And [p]be sorry for Your servants.
14 O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
15 Make us glad [q]according to the days You have afflicted us,
And the years we have seen [r]evil.
16 Let Your work appear to Your servants
And Your majesty [s]to their children.
17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us;
And [t]confirm for us the work of our hands;
Yes, [u]confirm the work of our hands.

The end of this psalm seems kind of weird and out of place. We start with an account of “God’s Eternity”, or more plainly, the fact that God is forever. Before the mountains were born, “You are God”. I love how we see the eternal aspect of God portrayed in the present tense. Because no matter when we are in life or in history, He is.

But I digress, the psalm then turns to a contrast of our short life span. Especially if we squander those days in sin and rebellion, the years become ever shorter–both because of the wasted days, and the potentially shorter life span due to our poor choices.

Yet the psalmist comes back to a heart of repentance, or at least, that’s the only way to see his requests starting in v. 13 come true. He asks God to “be sorry for His servants”, to satisfy them, make them glad, and let His majesty rest on them. Regardless of the squandered years, short as life may be in the light of eternity, he asks for God’s favor.

And then we see it in v. 17, “confirm the work of our hands.” Which may also be translated, “give permanence to the work of our hands.” How is that possible? Can he hear himself–or see what he is writing? He just got done saying God is forever, and our miserable life span is hardly long enough to matter, and then “make our works permanent?”

Alright, maybe you see it already, but the only way for that to happen is for those works to be in building God’s kingdom, and in doing things for the One who is eternal. Go back to v. 12, where he asks God to “teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” In other words, teach us to spend our days wisely, and not to waste them or squander them. And how else, but to use them for His glory?

Perhaps you’ve heard it said, “you can’t take it with you”, referring to material gain. So there’s only one thing that is permanent, even should you be that rare person whose deeds on this earth be remembered for years, decades, or centuries. One day, the earth will cease to exist, and all that will fail to matter. Only what you’ve done for your Savior will live on. Thus Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of Heaven…” Put that as your first priority, and everything else will fall into perspective.

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