This Psalm is entitled "A Prayer of Moses, the man of God." As such it justly claims devout attention as the earliest of inspired songs. In adopting it may we move forward on the heavenward road!
1. "Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations."
Happy has been the experience of the saints of God at every period. They could always find a home on high, in which they might repose and sweetly dwell. To all who approach in the name of Jesus the portals of heaven open, and smiles welcome. By faith may we thus enter, and in God continually abide. No monarch occupies so grand a palace.
2. "Before the mountains were brought forth, or before You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting You are God."
A glorious description of the self-existent and everlasting God here meets us. Before time was, while time rolls on, when time shall be no more, He lives—the great "I am that I am."
3-6. "You turn man to destruction; and say, Return, you children of men. For a thousand years in Your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. You carry them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep; in the morning they are like grass which grows up. In the morning it flourishes, and grows up; in the evening it is cut down, and withers."
In contrast mark the short-lived instability of man. Formed of the dust of the earth, God speaks the word, and to that dust he instantly returns. In God's sight time has no place. A thousand years are but as a fleeting day. Many images combine to show the brevity of man's existence. A rushing torrent bears him out of sight. Sleep soon ceases, and in the morning leaves no trace. The night-watch tarries not. When day dawns the grass is green, before evening it is withered up. Human life is but a momentary bloom.
7-9. "For we are consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath are we troubled. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; we spend our years as a tale that is told."
Sin is the root of this nothingness. Our iniquities are many. They may be hidden from our view; but they are all unmistakable to the omniscience of God. When His anger is aroused, we vanish as the remembrance of a brief recital.
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 labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away."
Those who are permitted to count threescore years and ten, should regard their allotted course as fully run. The fleeting generations in the wilderness taught this lesson to Moses. Few who entered Canaan had seen that period. If unusual strength should lengthen out man's days, the failing powers bring labor and sorrow. The continuance is fleeting. Departure is at the door.
11-12. "Who knows the power of Your anger? even according to Your fear so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom."
God is not limited in any attribute. His anger then may work dreadfully. Let us tremble to provoke His wrath; and rather in knowledge of life's brevity give our little space to search for true wisdom. He is well taught who studies God in Christ.
13-17. "Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent You concerning Your servants. O satisfy us early with Your mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein You have afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let Your work appear unto Your servants, and Your glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands."
Solemn prayers are the fitting conclusion. The Lord is implored to return, to relax displeasure, to cause mercy to overflow. Then joy and gladness will super-abound. He will not be slow to reveal His wondrous power to beautify His people with salvation, and to make all their work to prosper. May these prayers ever ascend from our hearts! Descending blessings will crown us with delights.