Psalm 90


In the fourth book of the Psalms, Psalms 90-106, we find the theme of the brokenness of the world, including human mortality, in the context of God’s sovereignty.

They teach us that none of us are able to make our own life, never mind the whole world, as it should be. They teach that we will suffer but we can’t protect those we love closest to us from suffering either.

Psalm 90 is ascribed to Moses, and Psalm 101 and Psalm 103 are ascribed to David.

In Book 2 we find that 18 psalms are ascribed to David and 1 to Solomon, Psalm 72, the rest are anonymous. In Book 1 the name ‘Yahweh’ is found 273 times. In Book 2 the name ‘Yahweh’ is found 74 times. In Book 3 the name ‘Yahweh’ is found 13 times and finally, in Books 4 and 5, the name ‘Yahweh’ is found 339 times. As you can see the name ‘Yahweh’ is more popular in Book 1.

In Book 1 the name ‘Elohim’ is found 15 times. In Book 2 the name ‘Elohim’ is found 207 times. In Book 3 the name, ‘Elohim’ is found 36 times and finally in Books 4 and 5 the name ‘Elohim’ is found 7 times. As you can see, the name ‘Elohim’ is more popular in Book 2.

In this psalm, Moses expresses his deep feelings concerning the shortness of life. Although there’s no heading for this in the NIV, the first verse of the KJV tells us it is a prayer of Moses, the man of God, Deuteronomy 33:1 / Joshua 14:6 / Ezra 3:2.

Jewish tradition accredits the ten following psalms to Moses, Psalms 91-100. Other Psalms written by Moses are also found in Exodus 15, and in Deuteronomy 32.

‘Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. 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.’ Psalm 90:1-6

It appears this psalm was written during some time during the wilderness wanderings of Israel on their way to Canaan. It was certainly during those years that God was Israel’s constant shelter, refuge and protection and more importantly, God dwelled among His people, Deuteronomy 33:27.

On route to Canaan, Moses looked around at the mountains and reflected upon how God existed before any of them, it was God who created them and the whole world. God has no beginning or ending, He existed before anything existed, He truly is everlasting to everlasting.

During the wilderness wanderings, Moses say time and time again when God judges people, they return to the dust and therefore He should be feared by all. The word, ‘return’, doesn’t mean repent, was a command of man to return to the dust from which he came, Genesis 3:19.

Moses reminds us that to God ‘a thousand years is like a day’ that have just gone by, in other words, God isn’t retrained by time, 2 Peter 3:8. In contrast to the eternality of God, man is brief as a watch in the night and man I swept away in the sleep of death.

In contrast to the eternality of God, man is like new grass which is new in the morning but withers in the evening. In other words, God’s perspective of time’s passing is very different from ours, Isaiah 40:6-8 / 1 Peter 1:24-25.

‘We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. If only we knew the power of your anger! Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.’ Psalm 90:7-12

Moses now tells us that God who isn’t restrained by time has the divine right to judge His own people. God judges His people with wrath and anger because of their iniquities and their ‘secret sins’, Romans 3:23 / Romans 3:9-10 / 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9.

People are fools to think they can sin and not be seen by the God who sees everything. Both God and man can see the sin that is carried out in behavior. But only God can know all the hidden attitudes of sin that are deep within the heart of man. And so, we pass our days under the judgment of God.

In contrast to the eternal nature of God, man and his sinfulness is temporary. While God remains forever, man’s life finishes with a moan. In other words, the length of our days is as a sighing breath.

If we’re blessed, we will live for seventy or eighty years, but our days will end with trouble and sorrow. We must note that isn’t a promise to live this long, but an estimation of our lifespan. After all, Moses lived to 120 years of age, Deuteronomy 31:2 / Deuteronomy 34:7.

Regardless of the length of life, we are but a breath of wind in comparison to time and when we fly away, that is, die, we will be judged, Hebrews 9:27.

If we were aware of God’s anger, we would fear God more and live our lives right for Him. We would ask God to teach us to number our days, that is, take one day at a time and make the most of that day, Ephesians 5:16, whilst being thankful for the day we now have.

No one is promised a tomorrow, James 4:14, so we should learn wisdom from God in our hearts and minds, James 1:5.

‘Relent, LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble. May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendour to their children. May the favour of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us—yes, establish the work of our hands.’ Psalm 90:13-17

After thinking about God’s judgement upon His people, Moses now asks God how long will He take to return with compassion on man. He asks Him to relent, not to delay in bringing His presence, compassion, and unfailing love to His people.

Only God can satisfy our souls with His unfailing love, He does this ‘in the morning’, every morning, Psalm 30:5 / Psalm 49:14 / Psalm 143:8 / Lamentations 3:23, in order that His people may sing songs of joy and be glad.

Moses asks God that their days of gladness would also be many, so many, that Israel’s children would see evidence of God’s glory, 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Moses desires that God’s favour rest upon His people, and His works would be established. In other words, He’s pleading with God that His salvational work among His people be made known.


Moses taught us about the shortness of life and He asks God to teach His people His ways because life is so short. All too often we deceive ourselves into thinking that we have a tomorrow, when tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone, Proverbs 27:1 / Luke 12:20 / James 4:13-15.

As Christians we need to make the most of today because we’re not promised a tomorrow. Imagine how our lives would be different if we truly believed we only had one more day to live?

I’m sure that most of us would have different priorities and possibly an enhanced sense of urgency in what we would do, Matthew 6:33-34 / Ephesians 5:16.

Chris Rice wrote a beautiful song called, ‘Life means so much’, and a few lines from this song will be a good final thought.

Every day is a bank account
And time is our currency
So nobody’s rich, nobody’s poor
We get 24 hours each

So how are you gonna spend
Will you invest, or squander
Try to get ahead
Or help someone who’s under

Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
That somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much

Every day is a gift you’ve been given
Make the most of the time every minute you’re living.

Go To Psalm 91


"In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Matthew 5:16