Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal Monthly
Themes: Discipleship, Family, Psalm 90
Volume 9 No. 509 January, 2019

III. Bible Special: Psalm 90


Unique among the Psalms, Psalm 90 is attributed to Moses, making it the first Psalm to be written chronologically. The Psalm is well known for its reference to human life expectancy being 70 or 80 ("threescore years and ten", or "if by reason of strength ... fourscore years" in the King James Version), although the Psalm's attributed author, Moses, lived to 120 years, according to Biblical tradition. (Source: wikipedia)

Psalm 90 (Text)

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Commentary on Psalm 90

Psalm 90 is a kind of response to the problem of exile articulated at the end of Psalm 89. ...

Numbering and Being Glad in Our Days: A Meditation on Psalm 90

Psalm 90 is ancient wisdom, but it is the kind of ancient wisdom that is timeless. It is the only psalm written by Moses, at least as far as we know, so it predates most of the psalms by several centuries. ...

Teach Us to Number Our Days

The shortness and weakness of human life are the fruit of sin and judgment in the world. ...

Who Is God And What Is Man?

Psalm 90 begins with a majestic affirmation of the awesomeness of our God, our Lord (Adonai) the word means Master. ..

Dwelling in the Lord Always

God is that dwelling place. He always has been. If we go to him, life will be full. If we ignore him, we’ll always be searching. ...

Live Long, Live Well, Live Wise

Within these brief verses is contained the words of wisdom that teach us how to live long, live well and live wise. ...

A Matter of Life and Death

When Moses speaks of the Lord as our dwelling place, he’s talking about a relationship, not a particular location. ...

I Shut My Eyes to See

Moses reflects on the brevity of life. He compares it to the grass "which sprouts anew. In the morning, it flourishes; toward evening it fades, and withers away." ....

Lord, I Have Time

Teach me, teach us, Lord, to number our days that we may gain hearts full of wisdom. ...

III. Bible Special: Psalm 90

Psalm 90 (Text)
Text (NKJV)

The Eternity of God, and Man’s Frai
A Prayer of Moses the man of God.

90 Lord, You have been our [a] dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You [b] had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

3 You turn man to destruction,
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
4 For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past,
And like a watch in the night.
5 You carry them away like a flood;
They are like a sleep.
In the morning they are like grass which grows up:
6 In the morning it flourishes and grows up;
In the evening it is cut down and withers.

7 For we have been consumed by Your anger,
And by Your wrath we are terrified.
8 You have set our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.
9 For all our days have passed away in Your wrath;
We finish our years like a sigh.
10 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.
11 Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Return, O Lord!
How long?
And have compassion on Your servants.
14 Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
15 Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us,
The years in which we have seen evil.
16 Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.
17 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.

Psalm 90:1 LXX, Tg., Vg. refuge
Psalm 90:2 Lit. gave birth to

Commentary on Psalm 90

Commentary on Psalm 90:1-8 [9-11] 12

by W. H. Bellinger, Jr.

In ancient Israel, crisis brought a response of gathering at the holy place under the leadership of priests and other worship leaders.

There the community articulated the crisis in ardent prayer to God to seek God’s help and deliverance. Psalm 90 is such a lament from the community; most commentators place the crisis portrayed in this psalm in the post-exilic community.

In addition to the life setting of crisis, it is important to consider the place of the text in the book of Psalms. It is the only psalm tied to Moses in its superscription and falls at a pivot point in the movement of the whole book. The tie to Moses and texts associated with him recall an earlier time in ancient Israel’s history and this formative character in the community’s story. The psalm begins Book IV of the Hebrew Psalter (Psalms 90-106). Prayers lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem are evident in Book III (Psalms 73-89), and Psalm 89 concludes that section with a powerful plea in the face of God’s rejection of the Davidic covenant and Jerusalem as its seat.

The superscription to Psalm 90 takes readers back to a time before the Davidic monarchy and before the temple to the time of Moses when there was no monarchy or temple and the people were not even in the land promised to them. Still, it was possible in that time to relate to God in prayer. In its literary setting in the book of Psalms, then, Psalm 90 is a kind of response to the problem of exile articulated at the end of Psalm 89.

The lectionary text is the first part of the psalm (verses 1-12) that contrasts God’s permanence with the brevity of human life. The section moves toward lament, giving way to petition in the remainder of the psalm (verses 13-17). We will consider the lectionary text in two parts.

The psalm begins by addressing God and praising God as the community’s dwelling place for generations. “Dwelling place” here carries the sense of a place where one can hide and find help or refuge. Such a home is a divine gift. The creator -- the one who was before there was a creation -- has given the community refuge throughout the generations. That stability contrasts with the brevity of human life. The poetic imagery is powerful.

God has been present with the faith community and has served as a reliable and strong protector. God’s perspective is the long view of the creator in which a thousand years are like one day or one night. Humans, in contrast, are only like a dream or like grass the morning dew renews only to fade and droop in the evening and so only last a day. Time and its passage are important in these first verses of the psalm. In comparison to the view of the creator, time connotes human frailty and the quick passing of human life. Humans come from dust and return to dust. The contrast between divine permanence and human frailty is central to these opening verses.

The remaining verses in the lectionary text move toward lament. In the context of the precarious human life portrayed in the beginning of the psalm, the community now complains that they have been overpowered by God’s wrath. God sees the people’s sin and the community encounters the oppression of God’s downcast countenance. With verse 9, the theme of the passage of time returns. Human life passes under the cloud of God’s wrath and so the years feel like but a moan or sigh.

Verse ten measures the length of human life as seventy or eighty years at most, and those years are full of trouble and woe. They are gone in the blink of an eye. This moving portrayal of human life in its brevity leads to a plea for wisdom to be able to reflect on life even in its brevity and live it fully. The heart is the seat of wisdom or the will. A wise heart would bring discernment in dealing with the frailty of life confronting persons and communities.

The wisdom here is not so much technique or skill or even information or control. It is rather the ability to acknowledge the creator’s decisive impact on life and so to relinquish life to the creator. It is not unusual for lament psalms to include wisdom teaching as general reflections on life. In Psalm 90, the reflection is on the persistent troubles of life and the plea is for discernment in how to deal with life’s brevity and frailty. Ancient Israel’s experience of exile brought a focus on this dimension of life. The final section of Psalm 90 pleads with God for compassion in the face of such distress.

Psalm 90 takes a full view of life including human frailty and divine wrath and a plea for divine grace. It seems to relate to the specifics of ancient Israel’s experience of exile and the broader human travail. Its hope is to discern the significance of the days humans receive and for divine benevolence in the midst of those days. God is eternal and human life is short.

The center of the psalm is the prayer that God will not overlook such human experience but bring mercy to the congregation consisting of short-lived people. YHWH, our creator and redeemer, is the one who can provide the hope for renewal in life characterized by distress.

Isaac Watts’ 1719 hymn paraphrases Psalm 90:

O God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast
and our eternal home.
Be thou our guard while life shall last,
and our eternal home.
Here is a more contemporary prayer:
You are the memory of where we have been
and the anticipation of where we are going.
Though we are not yet in possession of all we have been promised,
here and there along the way we catch glimpses of our eternal home.
O Lord, you are our home along the way and at the end of the journey.
For traveling with us,
for rescuing us when we are lost,
and for calling us into your holy place,
thanks be to you, O God, our eternal home.1


1 Sharlande Sledge, Prayers & Litanies for the Christian Seasons (Macon: Smyth & Helwys, 1999) 31.

Source: Preaching This Week

Numbering and Being Glad in Our Days: A Meditation on Psalm 90

by Mike Bullmore


Psalm 90 tells us that our lives are ever so brief and it also tells us why. It is the result of God’s just judgment on us. In light of these realities we are instructed, somewhat paradoxically, both to “number our days” and “be glad all our days.” How is this possible? Ultimately Psalm 90 points us to the God who out of his “steadfast love” has done something for his people that reverses the judgment and enables us to live with an abiding, in fact an eternal, joy.

Psalm 90 is ancient wisdom, but it is the kind of ancient wisdom that is timeless. It is the only psalm written by Moses, at least as far as we know, so it predates most of the psalms by several centuries. It is, however, not one bit less relevant today than it was when Moses first wrote its words.

Moses begins his psalm talking to God about what he is like. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations” (v. 1). As soon as we read or hear those words we are immediately drawn to that idea of God being our “dwelling place.” That speaks of security and rest and refuge and it sounds so comforting and attractive, especially if our circumstances are currently challenging. And it’s true. God is the dwelling place of his people. We live in him and the Bible is very eager for us to know that. But, for Moses speaking here, that is almost a given. What he is stressing is not the “dwelling place” part but the “in all generations” part. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

Moses is not marveling here that God is our dwelling place. Certainly he loves that truth, as should we. Here he is marveling at God’s unchangeableness, his eternal unchangeableness. That becomes clear in verse two: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”

It is very important that we correctly identify and not miss that emphasis. But it’s also important that we see Moses’s purpose because even though Moses is stressing the eternal unchangeableness of God his purpose is actually to contrast that with our mortality, and so to confront us with our mortality. Notice the argument and emphasis of verses 1–3: “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!’” It is our mortality he is stressing. Then, in verses 4–6, Moses proceeds to unpack that point, which is his main point, at least in these opening verses.

Consider verse four: “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” What’s the point there? Moses is saying that even if we were to live a thousand years that would be just like a day in God’s sight. In fact it would be less than that. It’s like “a watch in the night,” a brief four-hour span. Even if we lived a thousand years that would be next to nothing to God. And the fact is we don’t live anywhere near a thousand years. This very psalm reminds us that “the years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty” (v. 10).

What is the point of verses 3–4? Unlike God, we are not everlasting. We are mortal and our lives are very brief. Verses 5 and 6 drive this point home: “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.” What is Moses saying? Life is really short.

The Bible is not sparing in its pressing of this point. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jas 4:14). “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath” (Ps 39:5). “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6). “My days are swifter than a runner; they flee away” (Job 9:25). “[My days are] like an eagle swooping on the prey” (Job 9:26). “You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream” (Ps 90:5). The point is clear, and we feel it! And we feel it all the more as time passes.

I am presently fifty-seven years old. In three brief years I will be sixty. That doesn’t bother me much at all. But what can throw me a bit is the fact that in just thirteen years I’ll be seventy. That’s the age that is specifically named in verse 10! When I was twenty it was unfathomable to me that I would ever be seventy. I knew it as a fact but it really didn’t register in my psyche at all. I couldn’t imagine it. In truth, it wasn’t so much that I couldn’t imagine it. I wasn’t even trying to imagine it. I wasn’t even thinking about imagining it. Now I’m fifty-seven and I’m thinking about it.

Bring the point home to yourself. If you are in your fifties or sixties or seventies you are probably already tracking with me. But let’s say you are in your forties, or thirties, or twenties. This psalm is saying it is not too soon to come to terms with the brevity of your life.

I learned in my church history classes that certain medieval scholars would place a human skull on a shelf where it could be regularly seen as they studied, as a vivid reminder of their mortality and the brevity of their lives. It was a regular practice in our own society, until seventy or eighty years ago, for a church to have a graveyard adjacent to the church building, not just as a matter of convenience but as a statement and so that every Sunday there would be a regular reminder of this truth from God’s Word.

God’s Word is very clear. Life is short and we will die. And that raises a burning question in the human heart, present there whether fully articulated or not. Why? Why do I have to die? And why so soon? Why is life so short?

Verses 7–11 provide the uncomfortable answer to that question. “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?” These verses are not easy to understand and once we understand them they are not easy to accept.

When verse 7 says “we are brought to an end by your anger” it is not talking about God’s occasional anger directed toward us. That is talking about a decision, a judgment God made in his righteousness, the result of which is our mortality and the brevity of our lives. There was a clue to this back in verse 3: “You return man to dust and say, ‘Return O children of man.’” That should remind us of something God said back in Genesis chapter three. In Psalm 90 Moses is very clearly alluding to Genesis 3 (which he wrote by the way). When he writes these verses in Psalm 90 he has in mind the curse, that righteous judgment that God made on Adam and Eve (and their progeny) for the sin they committed in Eden. (We hear echoes of Genesis 3 in verse 10 as well.) That’s why there is this reference to our sin in verse 8: “You have set our iniquities before you.”

Do you see how that explains verses 7 and 9? “We are brought to an end by your anger.” “All our days pass away under your wrath.” Our mortality and the shortness of our lives is a direct result of God’s judgment in consequence of man’s sin.

And it also explains the question of verse 11: “Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?” In other words, who thinks about this? Who makes this connection? People don’t typically think of the relationship between their mortality, their sin, and God’s judgment. I’ve never had an unbeliever come up to me and say, “I’m experiencing the wrath of God on my life today as my life hastens to its end.” Yet that is exactly what is happening. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom 1:18). And the main way God's wrath shows up is in our mortality and the brevity of our lives. That is the main, and searing, point of the first eleven verses of this Psalm.

However, all is not lost. Moses says in verse 12: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” The first part of that verse is simply reiterating the point Moses has already made. “Teach us to number our days.” Teach us to recognize that our days are, in fact, numbered. That’s the main truth Moses was teaching in verses 1–11 and here at the start of verse twelve he’s simply asking God to help us get that truth.

But even in that restatement Moses is beginning to suggest what the rest of verse 12 says explicitly. “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Life is short and apparently everything is at stake in this short life so God’s Word is calling us to be wise. And the big question is, “How?” How does that happen? How does living wisely come about? The answer is right there in verse fourteen. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”

The only true wisdom is God’s wisdom and living wisely can happen by only one means and that is being “satisfied” with God’s steadfast love.

But we need to back up for just a moment. Right at verse 13 something turns in this psalm. While Moses is very aware of the situation we live in under God’s judgment he also knows that’s not the end of the story. There is something in him, something very strong in him, that cries out in verse thirteen: “Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!” Translation? “Do something God! Don’t leave us in this situation! Have mercy on us!”

And he just continues in that vein. The entire rest of the psalm is a prayer of Moses pleading with God. You could take those words “O Lord” from verse 13 and distribute them all the way down to each verse. “O Lord, satisfy us!” (v. 14). “O Lord, make us glad!” (v. 15). “O Lord, let your work be shown to us!” (v. 16). “O Lord, let your favor be on us!” (v. 17). O Lord, do something to save us!

And this is not just some desperate prayer in the dark for Moses. He knows what he’s asking for. He knows what he both wants and needs the Lord to do. It is summarized powerfully there in verse 14. In fact, Psalm 90:14 is one of the great summarizing verses of the Bible. “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” That’s what is needed. And the key thing there is in that little two-word phrase “steadfast love.”

That phrase speaks of God’s eternal and unbreakable commitment to love his people. It speaks of his eternal and absolutely reliable love. Sometimes it is spoken of as his covenant love but the key idea is the love that flows out of his character, out of his own heart.

Despite the reality of his judgment, there is still this commitment to love and we can see how critical this is to the thought of verse fourteen: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” We can feel the weight of that, especially after having heard what verses 1–11 have said about our days.

See, God’s steadfast love is not just critical to the thought of verse 14. It’s critical to our existence. It reverses everything! We’ve been wrecked, completely devastated by our sin and God’s righteous judgment on it. We live all our days under that judgment with the brevity of our lives always right there in front of our faces, whether we think about it or not. It’s dismaying. So we cry out, “O Lord, have pity! Rescue us! Bring us out of the hopelessness of all that! Show some favor to us! Instead of dismaying us, satisfy us! Bring us to a place of wholeness!” And we know what will do that. At least Moses knows.

It is the steadfast love of the Lord for his people. It is the demonstration of, the expression of God’s deep-hearted commitment to love his people. It’s his steadfast love and it’s entirely of his own initiative.

I can’t write those words without thinking of Romans 5:6–8: “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

That is the only thing that will cause a people who have been so devastated by sin and God’s judgment to be rescued and, therefore, to be able to rejoice and, in fact, be glad, all our days! If God doesn’t show his steadfast love for us we’re still in verses 7 and 9—still dismayed by God’s anger, passing our days under his wrath with no hope. If God doesn’t show us his steadfast love we’re stuck in verse 10, seventy or eighty short years of life with the terrifying prospect of eternity separated from God to follow.

But now, because “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” anyone who “believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In this we can rejoice and be very glad all our days!

And instead of not giving any thought regarding these things, as we saw in verse 11, we, as steadfast-love-rescued and steadfast-love-satisfied people, can desire God’s saving work to be made much of before God’s people and their children (v. 16). And in the end, it is that demonstration of steadfast love that is the ground we stand on to say, with Moses, whether with reference to our lives, our ministries, or our participation in the larger work of God in the world, “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!”

About The Author:

Mike Bullmore is senior pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin, and serves on the council of The Gospel Coalition.

Copyright © 2019 The Gospel Coalition, Inc. All rights reserved

Teach Us to Number Our Days

by W. Robert Godfrey

“Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalm 90: 12)

This verse is often treated as if it were a proverb that means, “Life is short, so live wisely.” But in the context of the whole psalm, it means much more than that, as we will see. It is a key part of a meditation on God and on living as the people of God.

In Hebrew, verse 12 begins with the words “to number our days.” This phrase picks up the theme of time that is so pervasive in this psalm. A reflection on time leads us to see how weak we are and how short our lives are: “You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’ … 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… 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” (vv. 3, 5–6, 10). Here, Psalm 90 shows its connection to the concerns of Psalm 89 about man’s frailty: “Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man! What man can live and never see death? Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol?” (Ps. 89:47–48). Such realism about our weakness is the necessary foundation of any true wisdom. “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am” (Ps. 39:4).

The shortness and weakness of human life are the fruit of sin and judgment in the world. The psalmist acknowledges that sin frankly, saying, “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence” (Ps. 90:8). He knows that his holy God visits His judgment on sinners. “For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh… . Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you?” (vv. 9, 11). It is surely frightening to think that God’s wrath will equal all the obedience that is due to Him.

Although life is short and the wrath of God terrifying, the mercy and protection of God for His people are great. God is the home of His people: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations” (v. 1). Through all the generations of His people’s existence, reaching back all the way to creation, God has always preserved and protected His people. Even in the garden of Eden, He promised that He would redeem His own (Gen. 3:15). God remains the home of His people because He is the redeeming God.

Moses reminds us that while the life of man is frail and short, God is eternal. “Before the mountains were brought forth or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (v. 2). Moses takes us back before God created the earth to remind us that our God is before and beyond time and this world. He has always been, and He is sufficient to Himself without us. Moses makes this point in another way in verse 4: “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” Time does not have the same meaning for God that it has for us. For us, a thousand years is a time so long that we cannot really imagine experiencing it. For God, it is no different from a very short period of time. He is eternal, above the time that He created.

This eternal God directs the course of history by His infinite power. Moses, who had seen the power of God often displayed in the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, continues to pray that the majesty of God’s works would remain before the eyes of the people: “Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children” (v. 16). As God had brought suffering by His power, so Moses prays that God will send blessing: “Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil” (v. 15). If our need is to number our days by contrasting their shortness with the eternal nature of God, then our prayer to God is that He would teach us: “Teach us to number our days.” We will never learn that lesson in our own strength. We are not only ignorant if left to ourselves, but we suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). We convince ourselves that we have a long time to live, and as long as we are healthy, we really believe that we will live forever in this body. We need a teacher, and the only teacher who can rescue us from ourselves is God.

This excerpt is adapted from Learning to Love the Psalms by W. Robert Godfrey.

© 2019 Ligonier Ministries

Who Is God And What Is Man?

by DannyAkin
President, SouthEastern Seminary

Scripture: Psalm 90


1) “The same yesterday, today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8). “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

Two profound, yet very different statements:

One, the first, is appropriately applied to our God who is described in Psalm 90:1 as “from everlasting to everlasting.”

The second, is appropriately applied to man, concerning whom v. 3 say is returned to the dust. God is forever. Man is “dust in the wind.”

Puts things in perspective does it not?

2) – Psalm 90 is the first psalm of book 4 of the Psalter (Psalms 90-106).

– Kidner notes that Book I (1-41) tends to be personal, Book II (42-72) and Book III (73-89) tend to be national, and Book IV (90-106) and Book V (107-150) are more liturgical.

– In book IV, the name Yahweh or Jehovah is prominent.

– Most of the psalms are anonymous, though Ps. 90 is attributed to Moses, and Pss. 101 & 103 to David.

– Psalm 90, written by Moses, is the oldest psalm. Moses also wrote at least 2 other songs: Ex. 15:1-18 and Deut. 32:1-43.

– This psalm inspired Isaac Watts to write “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

– It is a psalm of praise (1-2), lament (3-12) and prayer (13-17).

I. Remember that the Lord is eternal. 90:1-2

• The psalm begins with a majestic affirmation of the awesomeness of our God, our Lord (Adonai) the word means Master.

• It comes from Moses, described in the superscription as “the man of God.”

1) Let the Lord be your refuge. 90:1

• Generations come and go, but God remains constant in His concern and care for His children.

2) Trust in the Lord forever. 90:2

• The reason the Lord can be a refuge in all generations is explained in v. 2. He has always existed. He is always there.

• You are the one who reveals Himself in Jesus who is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

II. Remember that man is temporal. 90:3-6

Verse 3-6 and 7-12 will not make you feel good about yourself. They do not fit well into a man centered philosophy or prosperity theology that says you should seek “your best life now” and “become a better you.” Such a message may give hope, but it is a false hope and a pipe dream destined to disappoint.

1) Do not forget you have a date with death. 90:3

• With echoes of Gen. 3:19 ringing in our ears (“From dust you are, and to dust you shall return”), we are reminded of our frailty and finiteness.

• We are weak and we are brief. We are only a moment. A vapor, dust in the winds of time. Death is certain. God is forever and we are not.

2) Do not forget you have a limited time of life. 90:4-6

• From the Lord’s eternal perspective, a thousand years is like a single 24 hour period that quickly passes and is gone. (v.4).

• No, it is less than that. It is like “a watch in the night” (v.4), a short 3 hour period of time.” V. 5: “You [God] carry them away like a flood.” Suddenly without warning we are gone and we sleep the sleep of death.

• Vs. 5-6: we are like morning grass that sprouts quickly and looks so vibrant, but by evening “it is cut down & withers”, gone forever without memory or a second thought. Amazingly many don’t get it. We are like the fool of Luke 12:16-21.

III. Remember that man is sinful. 90:7-12

• Sometimes I am asked, “is it normal to fear death, especially for the Christian?”

• I believe the answer is yes, because death was never our divinely intended destiny. It is an un-welcomed intruder into human history. It is an un-desired, but well deserved antagonist.

• Why is there death? Human sin and divine justice are the answers.

• Verses 7-12 flow naturally and theologically from vs. 3-6. Three aspects of our sinfulness are brought to light.

1) God will judge our sin. 90:7-8

• Why is there death and eternal judgment? Because the wrath of God, His steady and constant opposition to sin, consumes us.

• Further, He sees and knows all our sin, down to the very last one.

• Further still, our secret sins, the things we do in the privacy of our thought life and personal life are in plain view

• Sin’s penalty required God to crush His Son (Is. 53:10). God takes sin seriously. He will judge our sin.

2) God will measure our lives. 90:9-10

• These verses develop the theme of vs. 3-6. Our days are quick, even shortened, because of God’s judgment on sin. They simply “pass away.” Our years come to an end like a “sigh” or “moan” (NIV).

• Moses notes that a normal life can be measured to about 70 years, and an extended life about 80. What is 70 or even 80 years in comparison to “forever?”

3) God will teach us wisdom. 90:11-12

• The brilliant American theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-58) in his resolutions said:

- Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time; but improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can.

- Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live.

- Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

- Resolved, To think much on all occasions of my own dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death.

- Resolved, That I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die. Such a perspective on life grows out of a biblical and spiritual wisdom whereby God: 1) teaches us to number our days and 2) enables us to gain a heart of wisdom.

IV. Remember that the Lord is merciful. 90:13-17

• This 4th and final stanza is a prayer for the Lord’s mercy, His hesed (v. 14), His unfailing love and covenant faithfulness.

1) We should long for His mercy. 90:13-15

• Building on God’s compassion, we can request His mercy or “unfailing love” (NIV). Here we receive a triple blessing: 1) satisfaction, 2) rejoicing, and 3) gladness. Such joy and gladness and satisfaction will accompany us “all our days” (v. 14), even in those days when the Lord has “afflicted us” (v. 15) and “we have seen evil” (v. 15). Here is the anticipation of Rom. 8:18-30.

2) We should look for His glory. 90:16

• That which is done for self will perish. That which is done by God in us will last and…reveal the glory of God in and thru and to His children. His work of salvation, sanctification, glorification will redound to His praise and glory, not ours.

• It will be God’s best life now and forever. Now that is a life worth living. Oh to see God’s works and His glory put on display rather than our iniquities and secret sins (v. 8). That is a picture show I will gladly go and see.

3) We should live for His beauty. 90:17

• Verse 17 builds on v. 16. “His works…His glory…His beauty.” His works are made visible in our works, what our text calls “the work of our hands” (repeated for emphasis).

• “Beauty” could be rendered “favor.” (NIV, NASV). Life lived only under the sun (Ecclesiastes) may be vanity. Life lived under the Lordship of God, of Jesus Christ, has purpose and meaning. Amazingly what is temporal can become eternal.


Our God, Our Help in Ages Past
By Isaac Watts, 1674-1748

1. Our God, our Help in ages past, Our Hope for years to come,
Our Shelter from the stormy blast, And our eternal Home!

2. Under the shadow of Thy throne, Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is Thine arm alone, And our defense is sure.

3. Before the hills in order stood, Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting Thou art God, To endless years the same.

4. A thousand ages in Thy sight, Are like an evening gone,
Short as the watch that ends the night, Before the rising sun.

5. Thy word commands our flesh to dust: “Return ye sons of men!”
All nations rose from earth at first, And turn to earth again.

6. Time, like an ever-rolling stream, Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten as a dream, Dies at the opening day.

7. Like flowery fields the nations stand, Pleased with the morning light;
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand, Lie withering ere ‘tis night.

8. Our God, our Help in ages past, Our Hope for years to come,
Be Thou our Guard while troubles last, And our eternal Home!

Dwelling in the Lord Always

by Gary VanLeeuwen, Georgetown, ON

Why does it seem that the older we get the more quickly the years pass?

Someone once explained it: When we are five years old, each year is 20% of our lives. When we are 50 years old, each year is just 2% of our lives. “It’s all relative,” this person said.

It makes me wonder: what if the majority of people experienced their 500th birthday? That would mean that each year is a mere 0.2% of their lives. And if we would live to be 5000 years old, that would mean that each year is just 0.02% of our lives. That would make a year seem to fly by.

The theme that runs through Psalm 90 is “time.”
Listen again to the references:

- From everlasting to everlasting (for all eternity)
- A thousand years are like a day
- a watch in the night (about 3 hours)
- morning and evening (a day)
- 70 or 80 years (the normal lifetime)

There are more references than these, but these are the main ones.

As we look at these references to time, we will notice that the psalmist is helping us put things in perspective so that we can live our lives appropriately.

Background of the Psalm

It is helpful, when reading a psalm, to try to determine when it was written and who wrote it and for what occasion. Sometimes it is impossible to tell, but with Psalm 90 we have some helpful information in the superscription. According to the superscription this psalm was written by Moses, and that makes Psalm 90 one of the oldest psalms in the Bible.

Moses lived millennia ago, and he had the privilege of living in a very unique period of the history of God’s people. As we are well aware, Moses lived during the time of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. This was the great salvation story of the Old Testament, and God’s people referred back to it often, much like we refer back to the death and resurrection of Jesus as a turning point in our history. God was doing great things in the time of Moses.

But even though God was doing great things, the experience of God’s people was not always positive. We don’t know exactly when Moses wrote Psalm 90, but it is very possible that he wrote it sometime in the last 40 years of his life. The Israelites had already been freed from Egypt, and they had already once been at the border of the land that God had promised to them. But, because of their unbelief and faithlessness, God turned them back and forced them to wander in the desert for 40 more years. During that 40 years every person who was over 20 years old at the time of the Israelite rebellion would die and would be buried in the desert. Moses, because he sinned as well, was told that he would not enter the Promised Land either.

This setting for the psalm helps us understand why it can appear to be so negative. We have to be honest when we say that Psalm 90 does not have a whole-hearted optimistic view of life. There seems to be some disappointment and even disillusionment with how we as human beings experience the life we have been given.

In fact, the psalm does seem somewhat pessimistic. However, as we read it more closely, we will notice that the pessimism can also be seen as realism. And, if we are realistic about life, we are better equipped to deal with it.

To look at this psalm, we are going to divide it into parts. I encourage you to keep your Bibles open as we look at the individual verses that make up this psalm.

Verses 1-2

Verses 1-2 are a statement made by Moses to God. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place forever. You have always been God to us.” This opening statement tells us what Moses thinks about God. The word, “dwelling place,” is used most often to describe a remote place of safety where wild animals like lions and jackals go at the end of their day for safety and rest. The wandering Israelites must have certainly seen those very places as they wandered in the deserts, and they must have envied the wild animals. Here they were, a homeless band of refugees, without a home, while the wild animals had a place to stay.

As Moses begins to pen the words of this psalm he admits that while the Israelites did not have a place to call home, God is that place. He is the one who provides the safety and rest that we normally attribute to dwelling places, places like homes and home towns and land masses within the boundaries that make up our country. God is that for us, Moses states.

And then we see the first reference to time. God has always been that. While we might not experience God in that way, that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t provided us with safety and rest. Our problem, when we don’t experience that in God, is not God’s problem. It is ours. When we don’t experience God as our dwelling place, it’s because we are probably finding our safety and rest elsewhere. God has always been our dwelling place.

These first two verses serve as an opening statement. But then the question is asked: “So what?” So what if God is our dwelling place forever? What difference does that make?

It may seem a bit arrogant to ask the question in that way, but it seems that Moses anticipates a bit of arrogance in his listeners. The Israelites with whom he was dealing every day were an arrogant people. Just because God provided himself as a dwelling place didn’t make the Israelites trust him more.

In a sense, people today are a lot like the Israelites of old. While many people recognize that God is powerful (think about how many people turn to prayer when times get tough), they don’t really trust him as they should in daily life. And perhaps, even though we are Christians, there are times when our trust in the Lord is not as it should be. And that makes us a bit arrogant.

We do need to hear the answer to the question, “What difference does it make that God is a place of safety and rest for us?”

To tell us Moses turns to a discussion about time. We will see as we look at following verses that he compares God’s experience of time with ours.

Verses 3-6

In verses 3-6, Moses’ first comparison has to do with our perception of time. He speaks of human beings returning to dust. That speaks about our mortality, a mortality that is founded in our sin. We were created from the dust of the earth, and because of our sin we will return to it. We are mortal people. We don’t live forever.

But what about God? Moses gives us a picture: God perceives a thousand years as if they were yesterday, or like a watch in the night.

I am sure that most of us can talk about some of the things we did yesterday. If I would ask, “What were you doing at 2:00 yesterday afternoon?” most of us could answer that. We could give a brief summary of the day. We would remember most things.

That is God’s experience of the last 1000 years. A thousand years, something incomprehensible to any of us because we haven’t experienced that length of time, is like a short day to God. It wasn’t all that long to him. It was only a thousand years, not much compared to the totality of his existence.

Often times, when a year ends, we spend some time reflecting on what happened. What did we do? What were some of the major events of the year? How has the world changed? Often times we can’t remember even significant events, things like tornadoes or wars or changes in government unless we are reminded. Then we say, “Right, that did happen in this past year. I had forgotten about that.” We might forget about the past year, and we certainly can’t remember everything that happened in the last decade, but, thankfully, we can remember yesterday.

God can remember the last 1000 years like they were yesterday. And he doesn’t need a news magazine to help him remember significant events. They are right there in his immediate recall. He experienced it all.

We, on the other hand, are like grass which grows up and then disappears. Our lives are so brief compared to God’s. Compared to God’s experiences, we last but for a day.

This is humbling, isn’t it? In 500 years even our names will be forgotten except, perhaps, in someone’s family tree or perhaps in a few references in some electronically stored ancient newspaper. It’s humbling. We are such a small part of history, an insignificant part, really.

Moses makes this comparison, not to belittle us, for God knows our names, and he calls us each his child, if we belong to him through Jesus, but rather Moses makes this comparison because he wants us to know that God has things in control.

What difference does it make that God is our dwelling place? A lot. God oversees whole swaths of history, and he does so easily. We may not understand how history is unfolding or comprehend why it is unfolding as it does. But we do know this: God knows what is going on. He has it under control.

God is the overseer of our lives. Perhaps we can think of him doing the same kind of work a general does in the army. A general can see the bigger picture. He (or she) knows where the resources are, where the enemy is, and what needs to be done to win the battle. The soldier in the trenches is given orders, and he must carry them out. Often times the soldier does not understand the reasons for the orders, but he must trust that his general knows best. A soldier also must believe that his general would not put him needlessly in harm’s way.

It is the same way with God. We do not always understand why God allows many things to happen in history, but we can be sure that when he calls us to live for him, and when he teaches us how to do that, he knows what is best for us and the world. Sometimes our experience of life is not all that positive. We can’t understand why we suffer. But we must trust that God sees the bigger picture, and our suffering is not pointless. He can and does use our struggles for the greater good, and we may never understand how he does it. We simply need to trust him.

When confronted with the brevity of our lives in comparison with God’s everlasting existence, we are called to simple trust and faith. We will never understand everything, but God does. Therefore, we can trust him completely to be our dwelling place.

Verses 7-12

Now, in verses 7-12, Moses goes on to talk about the life of an individual. So far he’s been speaking in general terms, but now he moves things to my life and your life.

“We are sinful people, and because of our sin, we don’t live long on this earth. Life can be pretty troublesome in this sinful world.”

It is helpful to remember that every single adult among the Israelites had received a death sentence. Not one of them who was over 20 at the time the Israelites first stood on the border of the Promised Land would live to enter into that land of rest. They would all die in the desert. Life, for them, must have seemed pretty futile.

It is true that our lives are rather brief, and they can seem very futile. Probably every one in this church right now has fewer decades than they have fingers and thumbs. Very few people live beyond 10 decades. And those decades are pretty much determined for us.

- The first two and a half decades are usually dedicated to discovery, learning, and education.
- The next four are usually dedicated to working, raising a family, and establishing a sense of permanence around ourselves.
- The last decade and a half, if we have that, we spend in retirement and realizing that life is not so permanent after all.

When we think about life in terms of decades, it’s not all that long.

What is worse, we can easily waste those decades. We don’t get time back even if we make mistakes with it.

I think Moses realizes this very well. I’ve alluded to it a couple of times, but it’s helpful to remember what got the Israelites wandering in the desert in the first place. Recall that when the Israelites first came to the banks of the Jordan River and were about to enter the land, Moses sent 12 spies to see what things were like there. When they returned 2 of the spies were confident that God could give them the land while 12 were not very optimistic. These 10 led the people to think that God couldn’t possibly do what he had promised. As a result God gave the people what they deserved: if they believed that they couldn’t enter the Promised Land even with his support, he would send them back to the desert.

What happened there was that the people made the mistake of not trusting God with their lives. And the result: their lives became futile and meaningless.

Often times people (mostly men), when they reach about the age of 50 or 55 realize that they have been working hard for a lot of years but think they haven’t accomplished anything significant. They find life boring and monotonous. So they try to spice up life. Sometimes they do something relatively harmless like buy a red sports car, or sometimes they try to spice up their lives by doing something far more harmful, like developing a relationship with someone who is not their wife. They have reached a mid-life crisis, one brought on by the belief that life is meaningless.

The Israelites could have avoided their punishment and we can avoid mid-life crises if we learn to use our time appropriately. Thus, Moses prays, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

We could reword that saying, “Teach us to make the best use of our time so that as we do we can become wise.” If only the Israelites had thought about things for a moment. All they had to do was think back to the years that God had been with them in the past.

- He had defeated the Egyptians so that they could be free.
- He had blessed them with safe passage through the Red Sea.
- He had given them manna in the desert and water to drink where there had been none.
- He had given them victory over their enemies.

If only they had numbered their days, if only they had counted the ways in which the Lord had been with them – things would have gone so much better. Instead of wandering in the desert, they would have enjoyed life in the Promised Land. But they didn’t number their days. They didn’t think about the past, and they didn’t think about the brevity of the future. Rather, they thought only of the present.

While it is true that we cannot change the past and we shouldn’t worry about the future, at the same time we cannot live as if the present is the only thing there is.

As Christians, we do need to think about the past. Our very existence as children of God is rooted in the great historical event at the cross. When Jesus died for our sins, he made freedom from sin possible. He turned away the wrath of God and brought it on himself. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, His victory over sin becomes part of our history.

That changes how things are for us. We must reorder our priorities. We must work for things that matter, not for things that don’t. We pray that God will teach us to number our days aright so that we can be wise.

Verses 13-17

Now notice in verses 13-17 that Moses doesn’t say, “so that we can have full and meaningful lives.” That is already true for us. He prays, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love.” It’s not the things we do that give us satisfaction; it is the love of our God and heavenly Father.

Moses concludes the psalm with a prayer: “Establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.” That’s the bonus. Having accomplished something that lasts does not fulfill us. Only God fulfills us. But when we do God’s work, the work that we do becomes permanent. And we can take great pleasure in that. When we do God’s work, our accomplishments become eternal.

Moses wants us to know that we will never find fulfillment or satisfaction from life by the things we do. If we seek to be fulfilled by the things we do, we will become disillusioned with a life that seems increasingly futile. Rather, we find our fulfillment by resting in the safety of God’s love. We find fulfillment in the fact that God is our dwelling place.

This is the point that Moses wanted to make all along. In all the rigors and struggles of life, at the end of the day, the only place we can turn to in order to be truly safe and at rest is the Lord. There is no one else who can make life fulfilling.

I mentioned earlier that the word for “dwelling place” is often used to describe the place where lions and jackals have as their home. It is remote, but it is safe. After a day of scouting, stalking, hunting, and struggling for survival, the wild animal returns to its lair and enjoys a time of rest.

In life, we need that place to return to time and again. God is that dwelling place. He always has been. If we go to him, life will be full. If we ignore him, we’ll always be searching. God is our dwelling place. Let us be confident of that.

© 2019 CRCNA. All rights reserved.

Live Long, Live Well, Live Wise

by Bobby Earls, Center Point, AL

Scripture: Psalm 90:1–12

Text: Psalm 90:1-12

Luther Rice, pioneer missionary to India, wrote in his personal journal of 1836:

“The Lord in His mercy has brought me to the beginning of another year.
I think I have made some progress in religion the past year, but far less
than I ought. God grant I may do better, should life be preserved through
this year also. I think it right to plan, act, and labor, as if I might have
thirty years of service yet before me; for even in that period, I should not
have reached the age of my ancestors; but also to live, plan, act, and labor,
as though I might die soon, any day, or hour.”

When Rice wrote these words, he had no way of knowing that he had only nine months to live. He died on September 25, 1836.

This morning I’d like to share with you a message I’ve entitled, “Live long, live well, live wise.” Take your bible and open and read Psalm 90:1-12.

There are those who believe Psalm 90 is the only psalm to be written by Moses. If this is true, then Psalm 90 would also be the oldest psalm in the Book of Psalms. It is very clear from the internal evidence of the psalm that it was written near the end of the 40 years of wilderness wanderings by the people of Israel.

You may recall how Moses led the children of Israel out of the Egyptian bondage to Mount Sinai where he gave them the commandments of God and the Law before bringing them to the entrance of the Promised Land. Here the people refused to follow the leadership of Moses and claim their Promised Land. They halted in faith, refused to enter and spent the next 38 years drifting in circles in the desert. Moses buried 2 million of his own generation that never saw the Promised Land.

Some have called Psalm 90 a psalm of death. I call it a psalm of life. Within these brief verses is contained the words of wisdom that teach us how to live long, live well and live wise.

Notice that this psalm like so many psalms is more than a song, it is a prayer. Moses begins by asking the Lord to help us remember that our days are not long on earth, that we are to make the most of them, and that we are to live wisely.

There are two great truths you need to take home with you today from this psalm if we too are to learn to live long, live well, and live wise. Some may call this a philosophy of life, or a culture of understanding. It is the basic Judea-Christian viewpoint, a Christian worldview.

It begins with an awareness of the eternal nature of God.


The person who wishes to live long, well and wise, acknowledges that God is and that God is eternal. Look again at the first two verses.

Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2 Before the mountains were created, before you made the earth and the world, you are God, without beginning or end.

God is eternal with no beginning or ending. It is the first and most basic premise of the Bible, “In the beginning, God….”

Some may wonder how that is possible. May I just say, that’s the reason He is God. Think about it this way. We believe in time. Time has no beginning or end. It has always been and always will be.

We believe in space. If there is a beginning to space, then where is it? If we found the beginning or the end of space, what would be on the other side of it?

If we can believe in time and space without beginning or end, then why not in God who has no beginning or end? God is eternal. He is Sovereign, meaning He is in control.

We live in a world today where many people reject the concept or the reality of God. But if you’d like to have some fun with someone who claims to be agnostic or atheistic, then try this with them.

Ask them, are you sure about that? Are you absolutely certain there is no God? Then say something like this. Then if you are sure there’s no God you must be one of the smartest, most knowledgeable people who has ever lived. In fact, to know there is really no God must mean that you know practically everything there is to know. Would you say that? That’s incredible. Especially in light of the fact that knowledge and new information, facts, new data is doubling every 10 years in our lifetime. It’s amazing how you keep up with all of it!

Well, would you say you know at least 90% of everything there is to know? 90% of all the history, facts, information, 90% of everything there is to know? How about 75%? Then maybe you know at least 50%?

Then if you agree that you don’t even know half of all the history, facts, truths and everything there is to know would you agree that just perhaps somewhere in the 50% of everything you don’t know, that God could very well be a part of what you do not know or understand?

To live wisely which leads to living long and well, you must begin with the knowledge that God is, and that God is eternal.


The wise person, who lives long and lives well, is also aware of man’s brief, frail existence in this world. Over against the eternal nature of God, Moses pictures the frailty of man in verses 4-9.

A. He compares our life on earth to a watch in the night, v. 4

For you, a thousand years are as yesterday! They are like a few hours!

The KJV compares the days of our lives as a “watch in the night.” What does that mean?

In ancient days cities had walls built around them for protection. At night sentries were placed on the wall to keep watch. A watch was a three, sometimes a four hour shift of sentry duty at night. To a soldier or guard on duty, the long, dark hours before dawn must have seemed endless, but they really passed quickly.

Our life is like that. When we are young and look forward, it seems as though tomorrow will never come. As we grow older, we cannot believe how fast the years have passed.

B. Life is described as a story, v. 9. “we spend our years as a tale that is told.

In the days before the printed page, most teaching was done by telling stories. A story always had a beginning, an end, a moral, and it was quickly told.

I enjoy reading authors who are great story tellers. I just finished Christian author Frank Peretti’s new book Monster. It’s the first book he has written in six years. Some of you have read his other books such as This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness, the Prophet, among others. I recently finished reading another great historic Christian story teller, C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.

Our lives are like a story. They are not without purpose and meaning. But they soon come to an end, and sometimes, it’s a surprise ending!

C. Life is pictured as a Dream, v. 5 “You sweep people away like dreams that disappear”

Have you ever heard anyone say, “I dreamed all night?” It may seem that way, but those who study dreams tell us that dreams only last a few seconds. The older you are the more your past life seems like a dream that has too quickly passed. Life is frail and life is brief.

D. Life is compared to a Flood, v. 5, “You carry them away like a flood;”

Floods can come so quickly and often without warning. In moments the works of a lifetime can be swept away. We’ve certainly seen too many examples of the devastation caused by floods when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

E. Life is described as Grass and Flowers, vv. 5-6, “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.”

I enjoy gardening. I love beautiful flowers. I love the rich, dark green symmetry of a freshly mowed lawn. But it only takes a few days of draught to wither, dry and destroy the grass and flowers. Such is life.

To live long, to live well, to live wise, we must understand not only the eternal nature of God, but also the frailty of man. That’s why Moses prayed, “Lord teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” v.12

David prayed the same kind of prayer and had the same perspective of life. Listen to his own words in Psalm 39.

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered,
and that my life is fleeing away.

5 My life is no longer than the width of my hand.
An entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
human existence is but a breath.”

6 We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth for someone else to spend.

7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.

Somewhere, and I’m not sure where, and sometime, and I’m not sure when, but a long, long time ago, I came across this poem. It has meant much to me through the years. Perhaps you’ve heard it. It’s entitled, “So Brief Our Days.”

So Brief Our Days

So brief our days, so very brief
Like an autumn rose with its falling leaf
A moment’s light, a glance of the sun
And then our pilgrimage is done.

As the rainbow fades in the summer sky
As the green grass flourishes to die
This moment’s triumph, too, will wane
And none shall call it back again.

Write quickly then, while the candle glows
A little while and the book will close
Go carve your figure of renown
For soon you must lay your chisel down.

Use well this hour’s joy, its grief;
For life is brief, so very brief.

Some wise person who undoubtedly lived long and well once said, “Tis but one life to live, twill soon be past, tis only what’s done for Christ that shall last.”

Copyright 2019 Faithlife

A Matter of Life and Death

by Dr. Philip W. McLarty

Scripture: Psalms 90:1-17

Psalm 90 is one of the most well-known psalms of the Psalter. You often hear it at funeral services. That’s because it speaks so poignantly of the limits of our mortal lives and of the timeless dimension of God’s power and love.

What you may not know is that it’s thought to have originated from the lips of Moses. That makes it the oldest of the psalms, dating back some 3,000 years or more.

As we listen more closely to the words of this psalm, I’d like for you to imagine the setting: Moses and people of Israel out in the wilderness. It would be forty long years before they reached the Promised Land. Almost all of those who were part of the Exodus would die along the way, including Moses’ sister, Miriam, and his brother, Aaron.

It was an arduous journey fraught with pain, and it taught Moses two things: The frailty of life and the sovereignty of God. It gave him a healthy perspective on the temporal nature of this world compared to the eternal nature of God.

My hope is we’ll adopt that perspective for ourselves. As I hope you’ll see: It’s a matter of life and death. The psalm begins,

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place
for all generations.” (Psalm 90:1)

When Moses speaks of the Lord as our dwelling place, he’s talking about a relationship, not a particular location. That’s hard for us to grasp. We like to think of a dwelling place as something tangible and concrete – a structure with a physical address.

And yet, where you dwell is not necessarily the same as where you live. It’s where your heart is, where your passions lie – which may be different from where you are at the moment.

You’ve all seen the bumper stickers that say: “I’d rather be … fishing … flying … skiing … swimming … scuba diving … golfing … quilting,” … or some other hobby. You may be working at a desk or driving a truck, but your heart is high atop a mountain peak or lounging beside a quiet stream. That’s where you’d rather be.

If you were to pick out a bumper sticker for your car today, what would it say? What would you rather be doing? Where would you rather be? In what direction do your thoughts and dreams and fantasies lead you?

It’s no crime to want to be somewhere else; just understand, it’s a pretty good indication of where your heart is, of where you dwell.

Out in the desert, moving from place to place, the people of Israel lived in tents. They didn’t have the luxury of comfortable homes. They lived, more or less, in the open. As such, they spent a lot of time with the Lord. They looked to God to give them manna from heaven and water from the rock; they depended on God to protect them from predators and warring tribes; they prayed to God to shield them from disease and natural disaster.

They walked by faith for so long that walking by faith became their way of life. What difference did it make where they were? All that mattered was that God was with them, leading the way. And so, Moses prayed,

“Lord, you have been our dwelling place for all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
before you had formed the earth and the world,
even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God”
(Psalm 90:1-2).

The more your dwelling place is the Lord – the more your thoughts and feelings and passions are rooted in Christ – his words, his example, his Spirit at work within you – the more likely you are to experience the fullness of life in any given moment of time. Moses goes on to say:

“You turn man to destruction….
You sweep them away as they sleep.
In the morning they sprout like new grass.
In the morning it sprouts and springs up.
By evening, it is withered and dry”
(Psalm 90:3, 5-6)

How long do you think you’ll live? What is your life expectancy?

One day in seminary, Dr. Elliot made this statement: “Most people have a pretty good idea of how old they’ll be when they die, and the likely cause of death.”

He was a psychologist. He taught Pastoral Care and Counseling. Sure enough, he went around the room and asked every student to say how old he thought he’d be when he died, and what the cause of death would be. Some predicted a fairly short lifespan, dying of cancer or a heart attack, because that ran in their family; others predicted a ripe old age, because that ran in their family.

Someone once said, “The secret of longevity is to have old parents.” How long do you think you’ll live? I can tell you this – you won’t live forever. Moses said,

“The days of our years are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty years;
yet their pride is but labor and sorrow,
for it passes quickly, and we fly away”
(Psalm 90:10)

God is eternal; we are not. In the grand scheme of things, our time on earth at best is but a blip on the radar screen. Just go out to Rose Hill Cemetery and walk among the graves. You’ll recognize many of the names, some more notable than others. They all lived at one time or another, made their contribution, however great or small, and died. As Isaiah put it:

“The grass withers, the flower fades;
The Word of our God stands forever.”
(Isaiah 40:8)

When it comes to death and dying, we all live with a certain amount of denial. Oh, we know it’s going to happen; still, it’s hard to fathom. Whether we think we’re immune or invincible or that it simply doesn’t apply to us, it’s hard for us to take our mortality seriously. Since the first moment of consciousness this life is all we’ve known; how could it go on without us?

And yet, it will. Life goes on. Only God is eternal. No one knew this better than Isaac Watts, who wrote:

“Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream dies at the opening day.
O God, our help in ages past, our hope for years to come;
Be thou our guide while life shall last and our eternal home.”

So, what can you do about it?

I heard a preacher say one time: “Plan for tomorrow as if you’re going to live forever; live today as it were your last.” Moses prayed simply,

“So teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
(Psalms 90:11).

Psalm 39 echoes the thought:

“Yahweh, show me my end,
what is the measure of my days.
Let me know how frail I am”
(Psalm 39:4).

Have you ever known someone who had a close call – a brush with death – someone, say, who was in an accident and could’ve been killed but was not – who said, after the fact, “I guess it just wasn’t my time”?

Well, there’s a certain truth to that. It’s found in Psalm 139, where it talks about how God created us and how we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” It goes on to say,

“For you formed my inmost being.
You knit me together in my mother’s womb….
My frame wasn’t hidden from you,
when I was made in secret….
Your eyes saw my body.
In your book they were all written,
the days that were ordained for me,
when as yet there were none of them”
(Psalm 139:13-16).

Truth to tell, you may have some notion about how long you’ll live, but, in the end no one knows for sure. You may live many more years; you may die today.

What you need to remember is that you won’t live forever. If you’re smart, you’ll learn to count your days … then do your best to make every day count.

Psalm 90 ends with a petition. Having established the fact that God is eternal and we are but mortal beings, Moses prays:

‘Relent, Yahweh! …
Have compassion on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your loving kindness,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days….
Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us;
establish the work of our hands for us;
yes, establish the work of our hands”
(Psalm 90:12-17).

What’s ultimately important is not how long you live, but how well you live; and how well you live is not a matter of fame and fortune, but of a deep and abiding relationship with God.

• It’s to wake up in the morning with a prayer on your lips: “Thank you, Lord, for a good night’s rest.”

• It’s to sit down at breakfast praying, “Thank you, Lord, for this food and the blessings of this day.”

• It’s to look for signs of God’s presence throughout the day in the beauty of nature and in the faces of those you meet.

• It’s to encounter trials and tribulations, asking God to show the way.

• It’s to share others’ pain and pray for them, “Lord, have mercy.”

• It’s to sing God’s praise when things go your way, and it’s to sing God’s praise when things don’t go your way… trusting that, if you don’t get what you ask for, God has a better plan; that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord.

• It’s to rejoice in the Lord always, and to pray without ceasing.

• It’s to come to the end of the day taking inventory of everything that’s happened and turning it over to God as an offering of your faithfulness and service.

I said at the outset that it’s a matter of life and death: Living in relationship with God versus being tossed to and fro by the turbulence of the world around you. It’s to walk in the footsteps of Jesus … to follow the leading of his Spirit … to feel his presence within you and about you … to be empowered by his grace and love.

• It begins as you acknowledge your need of him and trust him to be the Lord and Savior of your life.

• It grows as you become more aware of the sacrifice he made to redeem you from your sinful nature and reconcile you to himself.

• It blossoms as you awaken to the fact that the riches of this world pale by comparison to knowing the Lord God Almighty as your closest companion and friend.

But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Austin Miles. He’s the one who penned this beloved old hymn:

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

Friends, make the Lord your dwelling place, and your life will be complete.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Copyright 2011, Philip McLarty. Used by permission.

I Shut My Eyes to See

by Margaret Manning Shull

"I shut my eyes in order to see," said French painter, sculptor, and artist Paul Gauguin. As a little girl, though completely unaware of this insightful quote on imagination, I lived this maxim. Nothing was more exhilarating to me than closing my eyes in order to imagine far away exotic lands, a handsome prince, or a deep enough hole that would take me straight to China!

In fact, like many, imagination fueled my young heart and mind. After reading C.S. Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia, I would walk into dark closets filled with warm winter coats fully expecting to be transported like the Pevensie children into foreign and wonderful land. Charlotte's Web took me to a farm where I could talk to my dog, like Fern talked to Wilbur, or to the spiders that hung from intricate webs in my garage. Pictures on the wall came to life and danced before me; ordinary objects became extraordinary tools enabling me to defeat all those imaginary giants and inspiring me toward powerful possibilities fueled by vivid imagination.

Sadly, as happens to many adults, my imagination has changed. I don't often view my closet as a doorway to unseen worlds, nor do I pretend that my dogs understand one word of my verbal affection towards them. Pictures don't come to life, and I no longer pretend my garden rake or broom is a secret weapon against fantastical foes. Often, I feel that my imagination has become nothing more than wishful thinking. Rather than thinking creatively about the life I've been given, I daydream about what my life might be like if… I lived in Holland, for example, or could backpack across Europe, or lived on a kibbutz, or was a famous actress, or a world-renowned tennis player, or any number of alternative lives to the one I currently occupy.

Sadly, the imagination so vital in my youth doesn't usually infuse my life with creative possibility, but rather leads me only to wonder if the grass is greener on the other side. Mid-life regrets reduce imagination to restlessness and shrivel creative thinking to nothing more than unsettled daydreams. Rather than allowing my imagination to be animated by living into God's creative power, I allow it to be tethered to worldly dreams of more, or better, or simply other.

The psalmist was not in a mid-life imaginative crisis when he penned Psalm 90. Nevertheless, this psalm attributed to Moses, was a prayer to the God who can redeem imagination for our one life to live. Perhaps Moses wrote this psalm after an endless day of complaint from wilderness-weary Israelites. Perhaps it was written with regret that his violent outburst against the rock would bar him from entry into the Promised Land. Whatever event prompted its writing, it is a song sung in a minor key, with regret so great he feels consumed by God's anger and dismayed by God's wrath.

Whether prompted by deep regret, disillusionment, or a simple admitting of reality, Moses reflects on the brevity of life. He compares it to the grass "which sprouts anew. In the morning, it flourishes; toward evening it fades, and withers away." Indeed, he concedes that "a thousand years in God's sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night." Before we know it, our lives are past, and what do we have to show for them? Have we lived creatively? Have we used our imagination to infuse our fleeting, one-and-only lives to bring forth offerings of beauty and blessing?

Imagination, like any other gift, has the potential for good or for ill. It has power to fill my one and only life with creative possibility, or it has the potential to become nothing more than wishful thinking. As the psalmist suggests, our lives can be full of creative possibility when we desire hearts that seek to live wisely, live joyfully, and live gladly before the Lord, the God of infinite imagination and creativity.

Imagination built upon a foundation of gratitude invites us to live our lives with hope and with possibility to imagine great things for our God-given lives. "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard….all that God has prepared for those who love him" (Isaiah 64:4; 65:17). Can you imagine it?

In light of our transience, we have the choice to live creatively and imaginatively or wishfully longing for another life. We can choose to dwell in the presence of the God of infinite imagination for what our lives can be or we can choose to waste our time peering over to the other side. Yet we only have one life to live: "So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom….that we may sing for joy and be glad all of our days….and confirm the work of our hands."(1)

About The Author:

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the writing and speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.


(1) Psalm 90:12, 14b, 15a, 17.

Source: A Slice of Infinity; Copyright © 2014 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved.

Lord, I Have Time

by Michel Quoist

I went out Lord,
People were coming and going
Walking and running.

Everything was rushing: cars, trucks, the street, the whole town.
People were rushing not to waste time.

They were rushing after time,
To catch up with time, to gain time.

Good-bye, Sir, excuse me, I haven't time.
I'll come back. I can't wait, I haven't time.
I must end this letter, I haven't time.
I'd love to help you, but I haven't time.
I can't accept, having no time.
I can't think, I can't read, I'm swamped, I haven't time.
I'd like to pray, but I haven't time.

Lord, you have made a big mistake in your calculations.
There is a big mistake somewhere.
The hours are too short,
The days are too short,
Our lives are too short.

Quoist concludes his prayer with words full of the wisdom he has learned:

Lord, I have time,
I have plenty of time,
All the time that you give me.

The years of my life,
The days of my years,
The hours of my days,
They are all mine.

Mine to fill, quietly, calmly,
But to fill completely, up to the brim,
To offer them to you, that of their insipid water
You may make a rich wine such
as you once made in Cana of Galilee.

I am not asking you tonight, Lord, for time to do this and then that,
But your grace to do conscientiously, in the time
that you have given me, what you want me to do.

Teach me, teach us, Lord, to number our days that we may gain hearts full of wisdom.

Source: Michel Quoist, Prayers, p. 96-99.

About The Author:

Michel Quoist is a French Catholic priest who reveled in presenting Christianity as part of gritty daily reality. In the early 60's, his wonderful little book called Prayers of Life was translated into English.


Malankara World Journal is published by
Copyright © 2011-2019 Malankara World. All Rights Reserved.