Psalm 90: Peace When There is None: Part I
Moses and Christ: The Impossible Is a Reality
In sharp contrast to the turmoil, oppression, and darkness described in books I to III of the Psalter (book I: Psalm 1-41; book II: Psalm 42-72), book III: Psalm 73-89), book IV of the Psalter (Psalm 90-106) anticipates a life of shalom – peace and prosperity. How can that be when Israel is in captivity! A predominant theme of book IV is life in exile, a time of darkness but for maturation. Psalm 90, the opening psalm of book IV, underscores the theme of “how it can be” and answers peace when there is none.
Moses authored this psalm, his one and only. Although some deny his authorship, there are many reasons for concluding he is the author. Moses is termed the man of God in the heading/subscript of Psalm 90 and also in Deuteronomy 33:1: This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced to the Israelites before his death. There are connections between Psalm 90 and the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32. Moreover, in Exodus 32 (the incident involving the golden calf), Moses interceded for the people and offered himself in place of the rebellious Israelites (Exodus 32:30-31). He asked God to relent from His anger and judgment and forgive them. Moses pleaded with God for His name sake on behalf of the people and for His Presence to be with Israel (Exodus 32:11-14; 33:15-16) “reminding” God that these were His people and other nations would miss God’s concern for His people. Moses’ leadership had been critical and God-designed as he led Israel out of bondage in the historical exodus. He was a type of Christ.
Psalm 90 is placed at the beginning of book IV as again Moses leads the way out of the darkness, now through his writing. The people were to remember Moses but more importantly to whom Moses prefigured. Moses pointed to the greater Moses and the greater David (Hebrews 3:1-6). He pointed to a single figure – the Messianic king. Jesus Christ was that person, the Son of God and the Son of David. Psalm 90 explains how there is peace when there is none or seems to be none.
In the opening verses Moses reminds the people that their covenant Lord has always been Yahweh. Circumstances and their rebellion don’t change that fact: Lord you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth from everlasting to everlasting you are God (90:1-2). Although death might sweep away generations and the whole nation carried off into captivity (which was true of Israel then), Yahweh’s presence, power, goodness, and wisdom don’t change. They are always on display for His glory and the good of His people. Those truths were “hidden in the circumstances.” So often, circumstances are the standard used for evaluating life rather than the God of the circumstances.
Yahweh is King and because He is, He protects His people. That comes in various forms. Including scattering and gathering His people. He judges His people and He loves His people. The people were in exile – captivity and bondage. As a nation the people may continue their rebellion and refuse to bow the knee to Yahweh. He was keeping His promise. The people were returning to the Promise Land. The organizer used Moses as a source of truth-telling and encouragement in order for the people to focus on God. Moses had been instrumental in serving as God’s agent of deliverance. God will accomplish His purpose: to save a people to and for Himself. Those two factors were instrumental in the choice of placing this psalm at the beginning of book IV.
On the basis of Yahweh’s character – His covenant love, faithfulness, and mercy – Moses prayed to Him: Relent O Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants: 90:13. Moses depends on Yahweh’s relationship with him and the people in spite of the fact that Israel had proven unfaithful. Moses requests Yahweh’s compassion for His people. The word indicates warmth, tenderness, and comfort (Isaiah 40:1; Ps. 23:4). That was a wonderful request given Israel hard times!
Moses and Israel experienced hard times in the exodus from Egypt and in the wilderness. Moses highlighted Yahweh’s nature and reminded the people of His past acts of care and deliverance. Moses knew and the nation had experienced Yahweh’s faithfulness. Yahweh had not and would not abandon His people. How much of the gospel Moses knew we don’t know. But in this Psalm, he was setting the stage for the cross and the greater David who was forsaken for His people and was the instrument of God’s covenantal faithfulness.
1. What is your view of God?
2. Does it depend solely on your circumstances? Why and why not?
3. What was Moses’ source of encouragement for the Israelites?
4. What is yours?
Psalm 90: Peace When There is None: Part II
Moses and Christ: The Impossible Is a Reality
Moses continues to pray: Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love that we might sing for joy and be glad all our days. Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us for as many years as we have seen trouble (90:14-15). Moses intercedes for Israel, a rebellious, defeated people. They considered themselves losers and blamed Yahweh. In Psalm 90, Moses imitated Christ’s intercession for His people (John 17). Moses trusted Yahweh and boldly went to Him in prayer on behalf of an undeserving and unlovely people.
This psalm’s position in the Psalter is designed, in part, if not totally, to motivate the people to reconsider their circumstances through the character of Yahweh. This pivotal truth is portrayed in so many books of the Bible. It is simple and yet profound: God is good, powerful, and purposeful. Therefore, interpret circumstances from Yahweh’s perspective and promises and not vice versa. Israel was faced with the awesome devastation at the hands of their enemies and Yahweh’s enemies. They were in exile!
However, the international enemies were Yahweh’s agents. Moses knew Yahweh and knew that Yahweh knew His people. In spite of their sin and rebellion and Yahweh’s righteous judgment, Yahweh, as conveyed through Moses, had plans for His people. In midst of seemingly hopeless bondage, the people are called to intimacy and fellowship with God and maturity as Yahweh’s people (90:14-15 – see Jeremiah 29 for a similar plea). The people had been and still were recipients of Yahweh’s covenantal faithfulness but denied that fact. Circumstances said otherwise! They blamed Yahweh for their rebellion! What amazing love that Yahweh has for His people! The people were to come to grips with the God-ness of Yahweh. They were to re-evaluate their circumstances in light of who Yahweh is and what He has done, has promised, and will do.
Moses knew the people needed to get busy. They needed to change their thinking and wanting about self and Yahweh. In verses 13-16, Moses prayed for Yahweh’s blessing via compassion. Moses desired a more prominent sweet taste of Yahweh’s covenantal faithfulness and gladness. Imagine this request. The Israelites as a whole were a rebellious people with a history of grumbling and complaining. In spite of that fact, Moses wrote in verse 17: May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; yes establish the work of our hands.
Moses delved deeply into the very essence of Yahweh. Moses was either very wise or very foolish. The organizer of the Psalter knew that the exiled people needed to get busy trusting Yahweh. They had no temple, ark, or sacrifices. It was Egypt all over again. There was no better figure than Moses to speak to the people. He had been Yahweh’s agent. The people were to pray, to focus on God’s word (note: the Torah would become very important during the exile – see Psalm 119), and to trust God. They were to grow in the likeness of Yahweh as a nation and individually. Circumstances did not change that fact. Throughout the wilderness wanderings, Moses witnessed a group of grumblers and complainers. The organizer of the Psalter did not want a repeat of the Egyptian experience .The exiles needed to look up and not out. They needed to use Yahweh’s faithfulness as their grid to evaluate themselves I their situation.
We know very little of Israel’s life in exile. We don’t know how worshipping and pleasing Yahweh looked in daily life. We know from this Psalm that Moses made it clear who was King, Protector, and Deliverer. Yahweh was alive and well and caring for His people. Hope, strength, courage, and understanding were theirs for the taking. However, as Israel was in the wilderness, the exiles were too busy discouraging themselves as they grumbled and complained. Worship and praise was due Yahweh even though they did not feel like it. Worshiped was not simply as duty but as blessing and privilege. The people needed a radical change in thoughts and desires. The organizer of the Psalter was hoping Moses could provide that motivation. For us this side of the cross, Moses pointed to the greater Moss, the Christ. Both were trained and prepared for the mission of Deliverer and Mediator. Moses failed to enter the Promised Land because he sinned and God judged him. Jesus was judged guilty as a sinner in order to set His people free. He is the greater Moses.
1. Who was Moses? See Exodus 14:31; Deuteronomy 34:5.
2. How was he a type of Christ? See Hebrews 3:1-6.
3. In the exile, did the people move to or away from Yahweh? Give reasons.
4. Not many returned to the Promised Land after 70 years, Give reasons.