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90. Psalm 90

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. 2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. 3Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. 4For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. 5Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. 6In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth. 7For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. 8Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. 9For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. 10The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. 11Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. 12So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. 13Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. 14O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. 16Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. 17And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.

8 Thou hast set our iniquities before thee. To show that by this complaint he is far from intending to murmur against God, he asserts that the Divine anger, however terrible it had been, was just, inasmuch as the people had provoked it by their iniquities; for those who, when stricken by the Divine hand, are not brought to genuine humiliation, harden themselves more and more. The true way to profit, and also to subdue our pride, is to feel that He is a righteous judge. Accordingly Moses, after having briefly taught that men by nature vanish away like smoke, gathers from thence that it is not to be wondered at if God exanimates and consumes those whom he pursues with his wrath. The manner of the expression by which God is described as showing the tokens of his anger is to be observed — he sets the iniquities of men before his eyes Hence it follows, that whatever intermission of punishment we experience ought in justice to be ascribed to the forbearance of. God, who buries our sins that he may spare us. The word עלומים, alumim, which I have rendered our secret sins, is translated by some, our youth; 567567     “In the Indies,” says Sir John Chardin, “the parts of the night are made known, as well by instruments (of music,) in great cities, as by the rounds of the watchmen, who, with cries and small drums, give notice that a fourth part of the night is passed. Now, as these cries awaked those who had slept all that quarter part of the night, it appeared to them but as a moment.” — Harmers Observations, volume 1, page 333. If this psalm was the production of Moses, it is observable that night watches were in use in his time. as if Moses had said that the faults committed in youth are brought to remembrance. But this is too forced, and inconsistent with the scope of the passage; for it would destroy the contrast between secret sins and the light of God’s countenance, by which Moses intimates that men hide themselves in darkness, and wrap themselves in many deceits, so long as God does not shine upon them with the light of his judgment; whereas, when he draws them back from their subterfuges, by which they endeavor to escape from him, and sets before his eyes the sins which they hide by hypocrisy, being subdued by fear and dread, they are brought sincerely to humble themselves before him.


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