Psalm 90 begins Book 4 of the Book of Psalms. It is one of four psalms classified as penitential in this book – the other three being 91, 94, and 101. The superscription says it is “a prayer of Moses, a man of God.” This is disputed by some commentators mainly because of verse 10, which says “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty,” while Moses lived to be 120.
But that argument is completely without merit. First of all, after the great flood, God Himself said that man’s years would be 120 (Genesis 6:3). That of course was not intended to be an exact hard and fast number, and certainly at the upper end of the scale, especially as more degeneration in the genome came to pass. We hear of people over 110 even today, even though 70 -80 is certainly a more realistic expectation. Secondly, although Aaron also lived to be over 100, most of the young men 30 -40 years old died after 40 years of the wandering. Moses, obviously not dead when he wrote the psalm, was speaking in general terms.
Now that we’ve spoken our mind on that matter, verse 10 is certainly not the point of this psalm, however. The psalmist begins with noting the timelessness of the Lord, (“from everlasting to everlasting you are God”). It is in verse 4 that a misunderstanding of the text leads some to try to count the days of Genesis 1 as being possibly eons of time “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” Not only does this ignore the context of the verse, but it also ignores the fact that every other occurrence of the word for “day” in Scripture that is connected to a number is most certainly a 24 hour period. A thousand years are not a significant amount to God, certainly. But the same does not apply to us.
The point of this poetic passage is to note the brevity of man’s life compared to the ageless God and His creation. And the plea is for the favor of the Lord, and the gift of wisdom to make the best use of the years that we have by being in His service.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
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