Compiled from the sermon notes of Pastor Don Elmore
Audio not available. Published, in part, in the New Covenant Messenger Jan 2022
1) “Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.
2) Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.”
This psalm (Psalm 90) was written by Moses and was called a prayer. It is supposed that this psalm was penned upon occasion of the sentence passed upon Israel in the wilderness for their unbelief.
- They were punished for all their unbelief, murmuring and rebellion that their carcasses should fall (all those over 20 years old) and be buried in the wilderness.
- That they should be wasted away by a series of miseries for thirty-eight years together.
- And that none of them that were then of age (20 years and older) should enter Canaan.
What if we were living at this time? Suppose we were thirty years old when the punishment was explained to us by Almighty God that we would not be allowed to go into the Promise Land. Everyone over the age of 20 years old, except for the faithful two Israelite spies, Caleb and Joshua, would spend the next 38 years being buried in the wilderness. We would just wander around till the 38 years ended and all of us had died. How depressing would that time period be? Would we need something to help us get though this long time? We couldn’t enter the Promise Land, we just had to wait and wait and wait. How depressing. Moses’ second song was written for this purpose.
The song was calculated for Israelites who were wandering; waiting until all the people over 20 years old died in the wilderness. Probably Moses penned this prayer to be used daily, either by the people in their tents, or, at least, by the priest in the tabernacle service, during their tedious fatigue in the wilderness.
This prayer of Moses can be divided into four parts:
- Moses comforts himself along with his people with the eternity of God and their interest in Him (verses 1 and 2).
- Moses humbles himself and his people with the consideration of the frailty of man (verses 3-6).
- Moses submits himself and his people to the righteous sentence of God passed upon them (verses 7-11).
- Moses commits himself and his people to God by prayer for divine mercy and grace, and the return of God’s favor (verses 12-17).
Moses is one of seven men who are called “a man of God” in the Bible. He was called this shortly before he died. Charles Spurgeon said that “Moses was peculiarly a man of God and God’s man; chosen of God, inspired of God, honored of God, and faithful to God in all his house, he well deserved the name which is here given him.”
He is referred to as being a “man of God” who blessed the children of Israel with this third song that he wrote.
Deuteronomy 33:1 “And this is the blessing wherewith Moses, the man of God, blessed the children of Israel before his death.”
I wondered who the other six were who were called “man of God” in the Bible. Here are the names of the other six:
I think that most listeners to this sermon know the first five men that are listed (including Moses) and are aware of some of the accomplishments that they did. But some may not know or have forgotten who the last two are.
Shemaiah, according to 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles, prevented a war between Rehoboam (king of the house of Judah) and Jeroboam (king of the house of Israel) after the latter had led the northern tribes of Israel to separate from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. King Rehoboam had assembled 180,000 troops to forcefully bring back the ten rebellious tribes.
Shemaiah was known as a “man of God” and he prophesied in God’s words, that “this thing is from Me,” and they were not to go up against their brothers, the northern tribes. Shemaiah’s words were obeyed, and the army stood down. Too bad that America did not have a person like Shemaiah (“a man of God”) during its similar time of separation.
Igdaliah is probably a person who you don’t know. He is only mentioned once in Scripture, in the book of Jeremiah. He is known for only four things:
- Igdaliah was a “man of God” (Jeremiah 35:4).
- His ministry; whatever he did for God and wherever he did it, is never listed specifically,
- His son had a position of leadership during the last days of Judah’s independence,
- He lived in very difficult times: except for Josiah’s 31-year reign. The last several kings of Judah were evil in God’s eyes. How Igdaliah remained true to God, even during the evil days in which he mostly lived, speaks to his commitment to the LORD. America needs men like Igdaliah today!
Verse one of Moses’ song always gives God the praise of His care concerning His people. Now that God’s people had fallen under God’s displeasure, and He threatened to abandon them, they plead his former kindnesses to their ancestors. Canaan was a land of pilgrimage to their fathers the patriarchs, who dwelt there in tabernacles; but then God was their habitation, and, wherever they went, they were at home, at rest, in Him. Egypt had been a land of bondage to them for many years, but even God was their refuge; and in him that poor oppressed people lived and were kept in being.
Moses understood that God’s help to His people did not begin with the exodus from Egypt. From their pilgrim beginnings under their patriarch Abraham to the days of Moses, God had been their dwelling place, their refuge and protections. True believers are at home in God, and that is their comfort in reference to all the toils and tribulations they meet with in this world. In Him we may repose and shelter ourselves as in our dwelling-place.
Moses saw mountains on the horizon and reflected on the truth that God existed before those mountains. It was God who formed the earth and the world. Against all the grievances that arise from our own mortality, and the mortality of our friends, we may take comfort from God’s immortality. We are dying creatures, and all our comforts in the world are dying comforts, but God is an ever-living God.
Psalms 90:3 “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.
Moses had seen the judgment of God turn man to destruction. He saw it with wicked Egypt and disobedient Israel. The eternal God who created all things was and is a God to be appropriately feared and respected by man. God takes interest in the affairs of men and exercises His holy judgment.
Return, O children of men: This was not a call to repentance; it was a command of man to return to the dust from which he came, an echo of Genesis 3:19: For dust you are, and to dust you shall return.
4) “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch[3 hours] in the night.
5) Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up.
6) In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.”
Some of the patriarchs lived nearly one thousand years. Moses knew this very well and had recorded it. But what is their long life compared to God’s eternal life? The long lives of the patriarchs were nothing to God, not so much as the life of a child that is born and dies the same day is to theirs.
7) “For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled.
8) Thou hast set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance.”
In the wilderness Moses and the people of Israel felt consumed by God’s anger and terrified by His wrath. It must have been crushing for Moses to see a whole generation melt away in the wilderness, dying away under the judgment of God.
“This was specially the case in reference to the people in the wilderness, whose lives were cut short by justice on account of their waywardness; they failed, not by a natural decline, but through the blast of the well-deserved judgments of God.” (Spurgeon)
“Consumed; either naturally, by the frame of our bodies; or violently, by extraordinary judgments. Thou dost not suffer us to live so long as we might by the course of nature.” (Poole)
You have set our iniquities before You: The judgment of God came against His people because of their iniquities. When the eternal, holy God saw and considered them, His response was anger and wrath. Moses understood that God’s anger against His people was not unreasonable or unearned.
“We do not understand the full blessedness of believing that God is our asylum, till we understand that He is our asylum from all that is destructive…nor do we know the significance of the universal experience of decay and death, till we learn that it is not the result of our finite being, but of sin.” (Maclaren)
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance: It was not only their obvious iniquities but also their secret sins that God saw. Such sins were not secret before God and His judgment.
9) “For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
10) 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.
11) Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath.
12) So, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
With poetic power, Moses compared the eternal nature of the holy God with the frail, temporary nature of sinful man. God stands forever, but long days have passed away in Your wrath and we finish our years like a sigh.
“It was toward the close of the desert wanderings that Moses wrote this sublime psalm, all the imagery of which is borrowed from the wilderness. The watch around the campfire at night; the rush of the mountain flood; the grass that sprouts so quickly after the rain and is as quickly scorched; the sigh of the wearied pilgrim.” (Meyer)
The days of our lives are seventy years: Moses lived 120 years according to Deuteronomy 31:2 and 34:7. He did not say seventy years as either a promise or a limit, but as a poetic estimate of a lifespan. The emphasis is on the futility of life; even if one should live past the norm of seventy years and live eighty years, the end of it all is only labor and sorrow.
Who knows the power of Your anger? Moses connected the ideas of a relatively short and frustrating life to the fact of God’s righteous judgment. Moses especially saw and lived this in the wilderness.
“Moses saw men dying all around him; he lived among funerals and was overwhelmed at the terrible results of the divine displeasure. He felt that none could measure the might of the Lord’s wrath.” (Spurgeon)
So, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. When Moses considered the frail nature of humanity and the righteous judgment of God, it made him ask God for the wisdom to understand the shortness of life.
“To number our days; to consider the shortness and miseries of this life, and the certainty and speediness of death, and the causes and consequences thereof.” (Poole)
“Of all arithmetical rules this is the hardest – to number our days. Men can number their herds and droves of oxen and of sheep, they can estimate the revenues of their manors and farms, they can with a little pains number and tell their coins, and yet they are persuaded that their days are infinite and innumerable and therefore do never begin to number them.” (Tymme, cited in Spurgeon)
So, teach us means that this wisdom must be learned. It isn’t automatic. Most people live with little awareness that life is short, and their days should be numbered. Young people especially often think their days have no number and give little thought to what lies beyond this life.
That we may gain a heart of wisdom: Learning to number our days will give us a heart of wisdom. This is wisdom not only for the mind, but for the heart as well.
“Let us deeply consider our own frailty, and the shortness and uncertainty of life, that we may live for eternity, acquaint ourselves with thee, and be at peace; that we may die in thy favour and live and reign with thee eternally.” (Clarke)
13) “Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants.
14) O satisfy us early with Thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15) Make us glad according to the days wherein Thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.
16) Let Thy work appear unto Thy servants, and Thy glory unto their children.
17) And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish Thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”
Return, O LORD: This psalm of Moses carefully considered the judgment of God, and yet his prayerful response to that consideration was a plea to God for His presence, for His compassion, and for His mercy –His loyal covenant love.
In verse 3, God spoke to mankind in judgment, telling him to return to destruction (or, to dust). Now, in prayer, Moses asked God to return. It was as if Moses said to God’s people, “If you continue in sin, you will return to the dust; your only hope is for God to return to you.”
How long? This was a meaningful question. Moses asked God not to delay in bringing His presence, compassion, and mercy to His people. It was a bold question, as if accusing God of being late in His help.
“When men are under chastisement, they are allowed to…ask ‘how long?’ Our fault in these times is not too great boldness with God, but too much backwardness in pleading with him.” (Spurgeon)
Satisfy us early with Your mercy: Moses understood that true satisfaction was not rooted in money, fame, romance, pleasure, or success. It was satisfied with God’s mercy, His faithful, covenant goodness to His people.
“Alexander Maclaren said, ‘The only thing that will secure life-long gladness is a heart satisfied with the experience of God’s love.’ This means that nothing will satisfy the human heart ultimately except God.” (Boice)
Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us: Many were the days of their affliction; Moses asked that the days of their gladness would also be many. He hoped the days of gladness would be so long that God’s glory would be evident even to their children.
“Lord, if we must die in this desert, if this whole generation (except Caleb and Joshua) must pass away in the wilderness, then, at any rate, give us the fullness of Thy favor now, that we may spend all our remaining days, whether they be too few or many, in gladness and rejoicing.” (Spurgeon)
Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: Earlier in this psalm Moses spoke of God’s people being consumed and terrified. He prayed that the gracious God would exchange that misery for His own beauty.
The beauty of the LORD our God is great beauty. It is impossible to think of a higher level of beauty or goodness. The beauty of the LORD: “His favourable countenance, and gracious influence, and glorious presence” (Poole). “The faithful beseech God to let his ‘beauty,’ his splendor, the light of his countenance, his grace and favour, be upon them” (Horne).
And establish the work of our hands for us: The final aspect of blessing Moses prayed for was for the permanence of the work of God’s people. Without this blessing in our lives, our work and its effectiveness pass quickly and are of little impact.
Essentially, Moses asked that God work with man. “Fleeting as our days are, they are ennobled by our being permitted to be God’s tools” (Maclaren).
“Good men are anxious not to work in vain. They know that without the Lord they can do nothing, and therefore they cry to him for help in the work, for acceptance of their efforts, and for the establishment of their designs” (Spurgeon).
This Psalm was written about 3500 years ago and is still relevant today. The first verse tells of what our home should really be. It is the same as the one Moses had. Moses grew up in Egypt, lived in Midian, led his people out of Egypt and wandered in the wilderness for 38 years. Where was Moses’ home? He didn’t have any on earth, except when he was young. The rest of his life God was his home. God was his protector. He kept Moses safe.
The people who Moses wrote the song for, were living for 38 years wandering in the wilderness. They did not have a home like we do. They lived in tents. Their lives were in suspension. They all were just waiting till they (all those who were over 20 years old when the degree was given) all died. So, their home was the same as the Patriarchs were – that was the solid Rock – the LORD God of Israel.
Today, our church is our real home. It is the place of our safety and protection; protection from heresy and immorality. It is the place where we offer prayers for the ill. It is the place where we are to do good for each other. It is the place where we are to forgive sins of those who commit them against us. It is the place where we can go if a solidary meeting failed or a group of three members failed. It is the place of where the Spirit of God exists.
Moses talks about the creation of the world and His power of destruction. There is no such thing as a secret sin in the eyes of God. God knows all things. He was going to wait until all the men and women (over the age of 20) died before Israel could enter the Promise Land. Their children would be the ones who would enter the land that was promised to them by the covenant that he made with their fathers. If one disobeys Him, he will make them pay for their disobedience.
Moses lived 120 years. The majority of his ancestors lived longer than that. The psalm was written about 3500 years ago. He says that 70 years; yea, 80 years is the average age of most men. Life is a journey. Happiness, joy, sadness, tribulation, frustration is all a part of life. But life is brief and fragile. The youngest of anyone who died would be 58 years old, before the battle could begin.
We are to number our days, so we may obtain the wisdom of Almighty God. Our lives are so brief. We need wisdom of doing what is right in the eyes of our LORD. I am almost 80 years old. How much time do I have left? How old are you? How much time do we have left? What should I do to ensure where I will be after I die? What do we have to do to earn rewards?
Most of the Israelites didn’t enter the land of Canaan. Who did? Who was victorious? The ones who were obedient to our LORD’s commands.
Let us learn to number our days. We must live our lives as the friend of God. Moses was a friend of God. Moses obeyed God. Moses was a great leader. Moses was a man of God. Moses was a person who put God first.
Our country is limbering between two opinions, just like the ancient House of Israel. Who will we follow? The “way of the heathen” or the “way of our LORD God”? Elijah, too, was a “man of God”. Will our country make the right decision?
Blessed be the LORD God of Israel.