This psalm begins the fourth division of the Psalter and runs through Psalm 106. Each of the five divisions corresponds to one of the books of the Pentateuch and this one is linked to the book of Numbers. The theme is the same as Numbers with key topics of unrest and wandering.
Psalm 90 is a song of Moses which feels in places like a funeral dirge because of the despair of forty years meandering around the desert with no definite timetable for receiving the inheritance God promised. Verses 9 and 10 have the ring of a man who thought he would die before seeing the promise fulfilled: “For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”
We remember from the Pentateuch the carnage of the wilderness wanderings. Before it was through, all of the males that left Egypt above the age of twenty years had died. The cause was the sin of not trusting God even after they saw the amazing plagues brought on Egypt that enabled their freedom from slavery. There were further examples of God’s power such as the parting of the Red Sea. Time after time God showed what He was able to do, but still when they came to the borders of Canaan they were too frightened to enter. They supposed walled cities and giants were too much for God.
From there, it was mostly downhill as time after time Moses’ leadership was challenged. Following God’s way was a reluctant enterprise which angered God. Paul alluded to their faithlessness in 1 Corinthians 10:5-11. Particularly verse 5 gives God’s mood because of their transgression: “But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” Notice how Moses said the same in verse 7 of the psalm: “For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.”
There isn’t much hope expressed in this psalm. It is mostly the pleadings of Moses who often played the role of intercessor for constantly sinful, complaining people. This psalm is a reminder of how our lives can become fruitless and wasted when we are disobedient to God. Why should Christians live in defeat when every resource is available for triumph? God intends we should have a glorious entrance into His kingdom, not one in which we say we barely made it by the skin of the teeth.
This section ends at 106 with a repetition of wilderness sins, but it also mentions God’s faithfulness to never abandon His people. I believe this teaches that it is never too late to experience revival. We desperately need it when holiness is in short supply. Ask God to help this church and all His chosen people not to take His commands lightly. There is a great difference in the success of the Christian life depending on how you serve Christ. I do not want to enter heaven moaning and groaning, but with glorious expectation. May God help us to make it so?
Pastor V. Mark Smith