The eternity of God, the frailty of man. (1-6) Submission to Divine chastisements. (7-11) Prayer for mercy and grace. (12-17)
Verses 1-6 It is supposed that this psalm refers to the sentence passed on Israel in the wilderness, ( Numbers 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.
Psalms 90:1-17 . Contrasting man's frailty with God's eternity, the writer mourns over it as the punishment of sin, and prays for a return of the divine favor. A Prayer [mainly such] of Moses the man of God--( Deuteronomy 33:1 , Joshua 14:6 ); as such he wrote
1. dwelling-place--home (compare Ezekiel 11:16 ), as a refuge ( Deuteronomy 33:27 ).
2. brought forth [and] formed--both express the idea of production by birth.
3. to destruction--literally, "even to dust" ( Genesis 3:19 ), which is partly quoted in the last clause.
4. Even were our days now a thousand years, as Adam's, our life would be but a moment in God's sight ( 2 Peter 3:8 ).
a watch--or, third part of a night (compare Exodus 14:24 ).
5, 6. Life is like grass, which, though changing under the influence of the night's dew, and flourishing in the morning, is soon cut down and withereth ( Psalms 103:15 , 1 Peter 1:24 ).
7, 8. For--A reason, this is the infliction of God's wrath.
troubled--literally, "confounded by terror" ( Psalms 2:5 ). Death is by sin ( Romans 5:12 ). Though "secret," the light of God's countenance, as a candle, will bring sin to view ( Proverbs 20:27 , 1 Corinthians 4:5 ).
9. are passed--literally, "turn," as to depart ( Jeremiah 6:4 ).
as a tale--literally, "a thought," or, "a sigh" ( Ezekiel 2:10 ).
10. Moses life was an exception ( Deuteronomy 34:7 ).
it is . . . cut off--or, "driven," as is said of the quails in using the same word ( Numbers 11:31 ). In view of this certain and speedy end, life is full of sorrow.
11. The whole verse may be read as a question implying the negative, "No one knows what Thy anger can do, and what Thy wrath is, estimated by a true piety."
12. This he prays we may know or understand, so as properly to number or appreciate the shortness of our days, that we may be wise.
13. (Compare Psalms 13:2 ).
let it repent--a strong figure, as in Exodus 32:12 , imploring a change in His dealings.
15. As have been our sorrows, so let our joys be great and long.
16. thy work--or, providential acts.
thy glory--( Psalms 8:5 , 45:3 ), the honor accruing from Thy work of mercy to us.
17. let the beauty--or sum of His gracious acts, in their harmony, be illustrated in us, and favor our enterprise.