Psalm 090

1  A prayer of Moses, the man of God.


Lord, you have been our refuge

through all generations.

2  Before the mountains were born,

the earth and the world brought forth,

from eternity to eternity you are God.



3  You turn humanity back into dust,

saying, “Return, you children of Adam!”

4  A thousand years in your eyes

are merely a day gone by,

Before a watch passes in the night,

5  you wash them away;

They sleep,

and in the morning they sprout again like an herb.

6  In the morning it blooms only to pass away;

in the evening it is wilted and withered.


7  Truly we are consumed by your anger,

filled with terror by your wrath.

8  You have kept our faults before you,

our hidden sins in the light of your face.

9  Our life ebbs away under your wrath;

our years end like a sigh.

10  Seventy is the sum of our years,

or eighty, if we are strong;

Most of them are toil and sorrow;

they pass quickly, and we are gone.




11 Who comprehends the strength of your anger?

Your wrath matches the fear it inspires.

12 Teach us to count our days aright,

that we may gain wisdom of heart.




13 Relent, O LORD! How long?

Have pity on your servants!

14 Fill us at daybreak with your mercy,

that all our days we may sing for joy.

15 Make us glad as many days as you humbled us,

for as many years as we have seen trouble.

16 Show your deeds to your servants,

your glory to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God be ours.

Prosper the work of our hands!

Prosper the work of our hands!




McCann p. 103: An important psalm, begins Book IV (90 to 106).  The psalms from this point on MAY generally date to the post-exilic era.  “Moses presided over the people before they possessed a land, a temple, a monarchy – all the things that were lost in 587 BCE – and Moses led the people when they understood that their  king was God.”


p. 104   Can be read as an individual lament over loss, or as a community lament over community loss.


p. 104 :  “Despite his heroic status as liberator, leader , and lawgiver, Moses died before entering the promised land.  In essence, even Moses ran out of time.”


Schaefer p. 225: “God’s eternity is contrasted with fleeting human life.”


Verses 1, 2

These opening verses framed by LORD – emphasize that God includes, encompasses all


Sets a tone and confidence that seems to disappear in the middle of the psalm, but then returns at the end


Verses 3 to 10

Time words in this section: years, yesterday, night, morning, evening, days.   In fact, McCann points out on page 106 that in this section it moves from night to morning to evening, mimicking the movement of time.


The wages of Adam’s and all men’s sins = mortality?  McCann – mortality built into being human, Adam’s sin resulted in expulsion from the Garden.   He suggests with James Mays that mortality is the ultimate marker of our finite existence – the ultimate differentiation between us and God.  “Death demonstrates to us that we are not divine, and the reality of death invites us to entrust life and future, including our mortality, to God.”


Human beings are like the grasses or desert flowers – planted by God, come up, whither away, replaced by others tomorrow.  From dust to dust again.


Verse 4 mentions a watch passing in the night – one of the clues that for Schaefer (p. 215) indicate the idea of a liturgical setting in which the community prayed in the evening, kept vigil, and was reassured in the morning of God’s love and  faithfulness.


Verses 11, 12

Verse 12 is the turning point of the psalm.  Martin Luther translation: “Teach us to reflect on the fact that we must die, so that we become wise.”   Live fully, value every day and hour.  Interestingly, the psalmist prays not for forgiveness, not for longer life, not for an end to suffering, but for wisdom.


McCann p. 108: “In short, to receive our allotted time as a gift from God and to live our lives to the fullest every single day is what a “wise heart” is all about.”


Verses 13 to 17

Reintroduction of God’s name indicates another transition, time to wrap up.


Beyond the suffering of life there is (for the wise): mercy, joy, gladness, favor


Psalm 90 for today

Culture in U.S. of ‘perpetual youth’ now being triumphed by the sheer number of aging baby boomers???  Is time / aging / even death still the “enemy”??


Ecclesiastes 7:2 “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting;

For this is the end of everyone, and the living will lay it to heart.”


This was the heart of the existentialist philosophical position –  that our world encourages us to believe that we are immortal, that non-existence so terrifies us that we deny the reality of death.  That true life is not possible without facing the reality that it will come to an end.



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