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Psalm chapter 90

English Standard Version

1A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. 7For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 10The 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. 11Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? 12So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17Let 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!
New International Version

New American Standard Bible

1 Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God. 3You turn mortals back into dust And say, 'Return, you sons of mankind.' 4For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it passes by, Or like a watch in the night. 5You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; In the morning they are like grass that sprouts anew. 6In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; Toward evening it wilts and withers away. 7For we have been consumed by Your anger, And we have been terrified by Your wrath. 8You have placed our guilty deeds before You, Our hidden sins in the light of Your presence. 9For all our days have dwindled away in Your fury; We have finished our years like a sigh. 10As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is only trouble and tragedy; For it quickly passes, and we disappear. 11Who understands the power of Your anger And Your fury, according to the fear that is due You? 12So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom. 13Do return, LORD; how long will it be? And be sorry for Your servants. 14Satisfy us in the morning with Your graciousness, That we may sing for joy and rejoice all our days. 15Make us glad according to the days You have afflicted us, And the years we have seen evil. 16Let Your work appear to Your servants And Your majesty to their children. 17May the kindness of the Lord our God be upon us; And confirm for us the work of our hands; Yes, confirm the work of our hands.
Christian Standard Bible

New Living Translation

King James Version

What does Psalm chapter 90 mean?

This psalm is attributed to Moses. It seems to have been inspired by Israel's wandering in the desert, which was punishment for their disobedience at the borders of the Promised Land (Numbers 13—14). That would make this the oldest text in the collection of Psalms. It's notable that the eldest psalm would contain a reference to the brevity of human life, as seen in verse 10.

Moses opens this psalm with a clear contrast. God is eternal and everlasting; man is temporary and created. The opening phrases establish that God is beyond time and the universe; He has no origin or creation. Rather, as God stated to Moses (Exodus 3:14), He simply "is." Human beings, on the other hand, die and return to the dust from which they are made (Psalm 90:1–4).

One reason for life's brevity is human sin. Judgment from God comes on those who provoke His wrath. Moses uses the analogy of grass, which can change from green and healthy to withered and dead very quickly. As echoed in other parts of Scripture (Hebrews 4:13), God is able to see all things, including secret sins (Psalm 90:5–8).

Because of human sin (Romans 5:12), our lives end like a soft, fading puff of breath. The typical human being, on average, seems to live for about 70 to 80 years. Those with especially good circumstances might live to well over 100. Yet even those who outlive their peers will still die. For this reason, Moses wonders who—if anyone—bothers to consider what will happen when they face judgment before God. In fact, the idea of "number[ing] our days" is directly tied to a wise perspective. A key step in understanding our position before God is realizing our own mortality (Psalm 90:9–12).

Moses ends this prayer with a plea for God to rescue and enlighten His people. The cry of "how long" is a common one from the Old Testament (Psalm 6:3; 35:17; 89:46; Isaiah 6:11; Habakkuk 1:2). It's normal in the middle of hardship to wonder when, or even if, God will respond. And yet, Moses expresses faith that God will give Israel reasons to rejoice. He especially asks for God to demonstrate Himself to the people, to encourage their faith. The psalm ends with a repeated request for God to bless Israel's efforts (Psalm 90:13–17).
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