Ep199_Psalm090. Dwelling Place.
Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.
The title of Psalm 90 reads, “A prayer of Moses, the man of God.” It begins,
Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
Before the mountains were born
or you brought forth the earth and the world,
even from everlasting to everlasting you are God (vv. 1-2).
I have always loved Psalm 90. Its most compelling feature is the mood it creates, a mood of melancholy at the brevity and bleakness of life, a mood of yearning for God’s favor and blessing, a mood of quiet acceptance that our short life can be a good life in God’s care.
The psalm contrasts God’s eternity with the brevity of our life on earth. It does so gently, not with stark factual language or high-tech theological language, but with expressions of relationship and hope. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations” (v. 1). The earth is our brief home, but God is our dwelling place forever.
Continuing, the poet says to God,
You turn us back to dust,
saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.”
For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night (vv. 3-4).
This is a gentle picture, but powerful and realistic. God made us from dust, and one day he will return us to dust. For us, a watch in the night is a long time, especially when we lie sleepless in bed; but a thousand years is a mere moment to God. When our lives end, when our short watch in the darkness is over, God will sweep us gently into the long sleep of death. Like the grass we grow for a day, then the evening of our life is dry and withered, and we pass away with the sunset.
Compare these beautiful and gentle images with philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ description of life outside a structured society. He says such a life is “nasty, brutish, and short” (Leviathan, i. xiii. 9). I prefer Moses’ hopeful and humane view.
Our father, thousands or perhaps billions of years ago you caused the mountains to be born. In the long reaches of time, wind and rain and ice and sand erode them back to dust. We too are dust, breathing for a moment the breath you give, then releasing it forever.
As the poet says,
The length of our days is seventy years,
or eighty if we have the strength,
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow
for they quickly pass and we fly away (v. 10).
So teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom (v. 12).
Yes, Lord. In our brief years we may gain power or influence or pleasure, but they quickly pass. Help us to learn wisdom, to see our lives from your point of view. We journey briefly through trouble and sorrow, until our breath is lost in the air and our body returns to the ground. Help us with Moses to find our dwelling place in you, our shelter in your care, and our home in your eternity.
With the poet we pray,
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted is,
for as many years as we have seen trouble (v. 15).
May the favor of the Lord our god rest on us;
and establish the work of our hands for us–
yes, establish the work of our hands (v. 17).
I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”.