A Prayer of Moses the man of God.
1 Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.
2 Before the mountains were brought forth,
Or ever You had formed the earth and the world,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.
3 You turn man to destruction,
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
4 For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past,
And like a watch in the night.
5 You carry them away like a flood;
They are like a sleep.
In the morning they are like grass which grows up:
6 In the morning it flourishes and grows up;
In the evening it is cut down and withers.
7 For we have been consumed by Your anger,
And by Your wrath we are terrified.
8 You have set our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.
9 For all our days have passed away in Your wrath;
We finish our years like a sigh.
10 The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
11 Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
13 Return, O Lord!
And have compassion on Your servants.
14 Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,
That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
15 Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us,
The years in which we have seen evil.
16 Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.
17 And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.
This psalm may have been written by Moses at the time in the wilderness when the generation that left Egypt was dying off because they were being punished for their unbelief by not being allowed to enter the land (Deuteronomy 2:14-16).
Consistent with its placement at the beginning of the fourth of the five “books” of Psalms, this psalm focuses on—and hence introduces—the main theme of the fourth book, which, parallel to the fourth book of the Pentateuch (i.e., Numbers), concerns God’s paternal chastisement of His national son Israel. — Wechsler, page 219.
The imagery is all borrowed from the desert march: the desert streams, which soon dry; the night-watch in the camp; the short-lived growth of the grass before it is blasted by the desert wind. The melancholy strain is due to the incessant funerals and the aimlessness of the desert marchings. — Meyer, page 110.
This psalm naturally falls into four divisions, as follows:
1 The existence of God from the eternal past (vs. 1-2)
2 The brevity of man’s life on earth (vs. 3-6)
3 Israel of Moses’ day slain by God’s wrath (vs. 7-11)
4 The prayer of Moses, and example of Israel’s prayer in the great Tribulation (vs. 12-17) — Phillips, pages 190-191.
You have been our dwelling place (v.1) — It was God’s plan that people dwell in Him, no matter what physical location they lived in.
dwelling place (v.1) = impregnable source of refuge and protection
in all generations (v.1) — God proved Himself to be Israel’s refuge and protection in the past and promises to be so in the future.
After pointing out God’s eternal existence in v.2, Moses contrasts that with man’s short life (vs. 3-6).
Moses acknowledges the justness of God’s chastisement of Israel, beginning with a phraseological allusion to His very first act of chastisement—i.e., “Thou dost return man to dust” (v.3), to which compare God’s words to Adam in Genesis 3:19 (“You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”) — Wechsler, page 220
A thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday (v.4) — 2 Peter 3:8
a watch in the night (v.4) — three hours
The phraseology [of v.8] hearkens to the priestly benediction in Numbers 6:25a, implying that the attendant expression of God’s grace toward Israel entails His chastisement when they sin. — Wechsler, page 220.
The point [of verse 11] is that, though the wrath of God is the leading factor to be considered in a sinful world, people neither take note of it nor regulate their lives in respect of it. — Guthrie, page 508.