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BOOK IV

(Psalms 90–106)

Psalm 90

God’s Eternity and Human Frailty

A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.

1

Lord, you have been our dwelling place

in all generations.

2

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

 

3

You turn us back to dust,

and say, “Turn back, you mortals.”

4

For a thousand years in your sight

are like yesterday when it is past,

or like a watch in the night.

 

5

You sweep them away; they are like a dream,

like grass that is renewed in the morning;

6

in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;

in the evening it fades and withers.

 

7

For we are consumed by your anger;

by your wrath we are overwhelmed.

8

You have set our iniquities before you,

our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

 

9

For all our days pass away under your wrath;

our years come to an end like a sigh.

10

The days of our life are seventy years,

or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;

even then their span is only toil and trouble;

they are soon gone, and we fly away.

 

11

Who considers the power of your anger?

Your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

12

So teach us to count our days

that we may gain a wise heart.

 

13

Turn, O Lord! How long?

Have compassion on your servants!

14

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,

so that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

15

Make us glad as many days as you have afflicted us,

and as many years as we have seen evil.

16

Let your work be manifest to your servants,

and your glorious power to their children.

17

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

and prosper for us the work of our hands—

O prosper the work of our hands!


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Verses 1–6

It is supposed that this psalm refers to the sentence passed on Israel in the wilderness, Nu 14. The favour and protection of God are the only sure rest and comfort of the soul in this evil world. Christ Jesus is the refuge and dwelling-place to which we may repair. We are dying creatures, all our comforts in the world are dying comforts, but God is an ever-living God, and believers find him so. When God, by sickness, or other afflictions, turns men to destruction, he thereby calls men to return unto him to repent of their sins, and live a new life. A thousand years are nothing to God's eternity: between a minute and a million of years there is some proportion; between time and eternity there is none. All the events of a thousand years, whether past or to come, are more present to the Eternal Mind, than what was done in the last hour is to us. And in the resurrection, the body and soul shall both return and be united again. Time passes unobserved by us, as with men asleep; and when it is past, it is as nothing. It is a short and quickly-passing life, as the waters of a flood. Man does but flourish as the grass, which, when the winter of old age comes, will wither; but he may be mown down by disease or disaster.

Verses 7–11

The afflictions of the saints often come from God's love; but the rebukes of sinners, and of believers for their sins, must be seen coming from the displeasure of God. Secret sins are known to God, and shall be reckoned for. See the folly of those who go about to cover their sins, for they cannot do so. Our years, when gone, can no more be recalled than the words that we have spoken. Our whole life is toilsome and troublesome; and perhaps, in the midst of the years we count upon, it is cut off. We are taught by all this to stand in awe. The angels that sinned know the power of God's anger; sinners in hell know it; but which of us can fully describe it? Few seriously consider it as they ought. Those who make a mock at sin, and make light of Christ, surely do not know the power of God's anger. Who among us can dwell with that devouring fire?

Verses 12–17

Those who would learn true wisdom, must pray for Divine instruction, must beg to be taught by the Holy Spirit; and for comfort and joy in the returns of God's favour. They pray for the mercy of God, for they pretend not to plead any merit of their own. His favour would be a full fountain of future joys. It would be a sufficient balance to former griefs. Let the grace of God in us produce the light of good works. And let Divine consolations put gladness into our hearts, and a lustre upon our countenances. The work of our hands, establish thou it; and, in order to that, establish us in it. Instead of wasting our precious, fleeting days in pursuing fancies, which leave the possessors for ever poor, let us seek the forgiveness of sins, and an inheritance in heaven. Let us pray that the work of the Holy Spirit may appear in converting our hearts, and that the beauty of holiness may be seen in our conduct.




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