The Book of Psalms

Tuesday: A Sober “Song of Moses”


Theme: Our Only Sure Foundation
This week’s psalm shows us how to look at our earthly life from the Bible’s point of view, with God as the center and focus of it.
Scripture: Psalm 90:1-17
Yesterday we looked at the first circumstance arising from Numbers 20, that of the death of Miriam. Today we continue with two others.
2. Moses’ sin in striking the rock. The next section of Numbers 20 (vv. 2-13) tells of Moses’ sin in striking the rock. We can sympathize with Moses, even to the point of thinking that God’s judgment was unfair. Moses was almost one hundred twenty years old at this time. For thirty-eight years he had looked forward to the conquest of Canaan, which could have taken place four decades earlier. He had been patient all this time, but at last his patience broke. No wonder! We are not surprised that he denounced the complainers among the people as being no different than their forefathers. We would have done the same. True, but this was still a sad failure on Moses’ part, and God took it seriously. God always takes sin seriously. With God no sin is unimportant.
3. The death of Aaron. The third incident is the death of Aaron (Num. 20:22-29). This was a transitional moment marked by a month of formal mourning on the people’s part. Aaron’s death must also have been a terrible loss for Moses, for he had worked with Aaron for forty years and Aaron was the last of his father’s family.
We come now to Psalm 90 itself, a psalm that, like Numbers 20, is a reflection on human mortality and the brevity of life, plus quiet confidence in God who is the steadfast hope of the righteous. This psalm is probably the greatest passage in the Bible contrasting the grandeur of God with man’s frailty.
Few people on earth, perhaps none, have had as strong a sense of the greatness and eternal grandeur of God as did Moses, for Moses knew God intimately and conversed with him “face to face” (Num. 12:8). It is not surprising then that he should begin with a reflection on God’s being a sure eternal refuge for his people: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (vv. 1, 2).
Moses was aware, probably more than most of us, that life is uncertain at best. There is no permanence to be found in it. Nevertheless, he was also profoundly aware of God’s existence, and he knew that God is the one foundation for everything. Therefore, the person who is anchored in him is eternally secure. Moreover, the one who trusts God has a secure “dwelling place” in him. The Hebrew word for “dwelling place” may also be translated “refuge,” which is how it appears in Deuteronomy 33:27, one of the other “songs of Moses.” It is one of several allusions to Moses’ other writings, which may be evidence of his authorship of the psalm.1
Here we have no fixed home, but like Moses, Abraham and the other Old Testament patriarchs, we look “forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10). Do you look forward to such a dwelling? Or are you putting your hope and all your earthly efforts into perishable things which will soon pass away? Paul said, “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18).
1For example, verse 3 contains an obvious allusion to Genesis 3:19, and “the work of our hands” occurs seven times in Deuteronomy.
Study Questions:

Explain the significance of Moses’ striking the rock.
Give a brief description of Moses’ view of life.

Reflection: Do you ever trivialize some sin as being unimportant? How should you view it?
Application: Do you put earthly efforts into perishable things? What do you need to do to reorient your priorities properly?
Key Point: God always takes sin seriously. With God no sin is unimportant.

Study Questions
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