Psalm 90 is a most moving, deeply resonating, prayer of past anguish and present anticipation.
Psalm 90 in Psalter Sequence
Canonically positioned by Ezra at the beginning of Book IV of the Psalter, it provides a long-term solution to the trauma of the exile and Dynastic kingdom crisis.
The congregation returning from Babylon in the Second Temple Persian period now answers the call of the Prophets of the LORD, and at last turns back to Moses.
Past Anguish v1-11
A heart-rending, broken-hearted, cry of repentance bubbles up from the depths of pain of Israel's shepherd-man-of-God on the plains of Moab in sight of Pisgah.
The prayer of this penitent, face-to-face, with the Eternal, Holy, God, confesses repeated, rebellious, Covenant breach and fully-deserved, all-consuming, terrifying, deadly, wrath.
For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? - Psalm 90:7-11
For the Generation who fell in sand, before Israel reached the Promised Land, there could be no escape - as Adam found out, there is no such thing as truly-secret sins with God. All is laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
For the Generation who fell by sword, the experience of Jews in Exile was the same - chastened by wrath both now unite, by the Spirit of Christ, to break with their guilt and come back home to God, their true and timeless Dwelling Place.
The stench of the deconstruction of death now gives way to the smile of the reconstruction of renewed covenant life and Israel's everlasting hope
Present Anticipation v12-17
With selfless intercession, the brother of High Priest Aaron prays for the conquest generation - and by implication, he also supplicates, for the post-exilic remnant he knew would return, sorely-chastened, just as he had predicted.
And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice - Deuteronomy 4:27-30
With tough truths taught and lasting lessons learnt, the dying embers of church prospects begin to glow warm and bright. Time is wisely reckoned, Yahweh's love satiates, and hearts rejoice as the curse of death and exile is swallowed up in endless bliss. New Kingdom handiwork will not fall but stand - renewal to come about, in the long-awaited Kingdom of Christ, will never perish, spoil or fade.
So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom ..Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children - Psalm 90:14-16
Verses 13-17 hint at hopes of a more-than High-Priestly, Aaronic, Benediction - God will pity servants who are saved, bound, and washed in renewed covenant blood.
Have pity on your servants ..Let the favor of the LORD our God be upon us vv14a & 17a
It is not hard to see how we can personalize Psalm 90 as a confession of our own sinful, covenant-breaking, rebellion and backsliding. It should stir us into frank admission of the death that post-redemption sin deserves - we Christians have sinned against much more grace and light than the mercy and peace by which Pharaoh's slaves were freed. Moses, Aaron, Phinehas, Caleb and Joshua never saw crowds fed with bread, heard the Sermon on the Mount, or witnessed the crucifixion of Christ. Brother and sister, for every word, thought and deed by which you dishonor the Lord, may this song result in a contrite heart as you run back home to God: all desertification and death and deserved wrath was nailed to His account on the Cross. Do you need a positive incentive to cut your loss and quicken your pace to hasten to your Father's House? Know that bowels of compassion, a heart of wisdom, an eye of pity, breakfast satisfaction, lasting gladness, abundant recompense and lasting fruit will greet each step of God-given repentance and faith. And for your children, both natural and Gospel, generational blessing awaits the establishment of grace-works.
Nor is it difficult for a declining, struggling, traumatized, scandalized or wayward congregation to admit former guilt and get the Gospel back on track. Pride will have to be swallowed. Each high horse must be dismounted first. Yet with such a gracious offer, and crucified Gospel-first example, this Spirit-empowered song can recreate a humbled heart and God-hungry mind. If all the church is blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (redemption accomplished) but blood-bought benedictions must be prayerfully sought by Christians (redemption applied).
The wrath of death make life necessarily brief! Fear of wrath and hope of bliss means, for sinner and saints, there is no more time to waste! Break with guilty past! Seize the blessed hope! Bear fruit while life lasts before you leave to be with Christ!