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Psalm 90

Eternal home

Amidst life’s chaos, we naturally want clear answers—a simple way to label everything in B&W. God has never offered us such clarity. He invites us, instead, to live within the mystery and the majesty of who he is.

A prayer of Moses, the man of God.

Lord, you’ve been our true home
from time immemorial.
2 Before the mountains were born—
before you formed the earth
and gave birth to the world—
from endless age to endless age
you are God.[1]

3 You turn human beings back to dust
saying: “Turn back, mortals!”
4 A thousand years
are to you like a day—
like yesterday, already gone—
or a few hours in the night.
5 You sweep people away like a dream.
We’re like grass that sprouts in the morning:
6 it sprouts and blossoms in the morning
but is withered and dead by evening.
7 We’re consumed by your wrath
overwhelmed by your fury.
8 You set our sins out before you
our secret sins in the glare of your gaze.
9 Thus, our days slip away under your wrath
till we end our years with a sigh.
10 Our lifespan is just seventy years
or eighty if our strength holds out.
Yet at best it’s a lot of toil and trouble
which pass all too quickly
before our time is up and we’re gone.

11 Who among us knows
the ferocity of your anger
and has reverence corresponding to it?
12 Teach us to live one day at a time—
fully alive to you—
our hearts intent on your wisdom.

13 Turn back, Yahveh!
How long will your anger last?
Have pity on your servants.
14 Flood our lives
with your unfailing love every morning
so we may sing for joy for the rest of our lives.
15 Give us good times
for as many years as you’ve given us bad—
joy equal to our pain.
16 Show your servants what you can do for them
letting their children glimpse your glory.
17 And may the Lord our God grant us his favor
and give lasting value to all we do—
so that everything we do endures.

Moses found leading the rebellious Israelites through the wilderness for forty years extremely hard, but through it he came to know God like none of his contemporaries. And Moses lived before the Israelites had a homeland, holy city, temple or monarchy. When all they had was God.[2]

Moses anchors all he says here in the eternal God, his people’s true home. Then he addresses our biggest challenges—namely, life’s combined hardships, uncertainty, and brevity, our sins and God’s anger over them. That may seem depressing, but Moses is just facing the fact that all our walls are paper-thin.

Verses 11-12 give us Moses’ key to flourishing in life, despite its many challenges: we must learn to live wisely, reverently, mindful of God’s intolerance of evil, fully alive each day to the God who is our home.

Moses concludes asking God for an end to God’s anger and for his unfailing love to replace his people’s misery with joyful song, He wants gladness equal to the prolonged discipline they’ve endured, blessing so obvious their kids will see God’s splendor in it and God’s favor to crown all his people do with lasting success. If sin and death are constants, Moses reserves the last word for God’s forgiveness and fullness of life.

I love that you’re my true home, Lord. Help me live one day at a time, reverently, alive to your constant presence. Help me believe you want joy to fill my life more than I do. Help me let go of the past and entrust my future to you. And in all I do today, grant me lasting success. Amen.

During your free moments today, pray this prayer:

Teach us to live one day at a time—
fully alive to you—
our hearts intent on your wisdom.


[1] Verses 1-2’s chiastic structure—God, time, space (mountains), space (earth and world), time, God—emphasizes that time and space are fully encompassed by our eternal God.

[2] What makes that significant is that this psalm opens Book IV, Book III having so often focused on all the Israelites lost in the exile.

Why Yahveh?

Every translator of the Psalms must decide how to handle God’s personal name, YHWH, which occurs repeatedly in its Hebrew text. Translators of the King James Version usually translated it “LORD” (all caps) and occasionally transliterated it (badly) as “Jehovah.” Modern translations, likewise, either translate or transliterate it. While translating it aims to make it more accessible to readers, transliterating it is more faithful to the text since it’s not a word at all, but rather God’s uniquely personal name. I’ve chosen to transliterate it to root it more firmly in the biblical story as the name—meaning the “self-existent One”—that God revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. This name set Israel’s God apart from all the gods of Israel’s neighbors.

Personal names are, well, very personal. Even the sound of a name can evoke strong emotion. One problem with YHWH is that we aren’t sure how it was pronounced since Jews long ago stopped saying it in order better to hallow it. In transliterating it, I follow the advice of my esteemed Hebrew professor, Raymond Dillard. He advocated transliterating it as Yahveh—pronounced yah·vay—arguing that following the modern Hebrew pronunciation of its third consonant makes the name sound more robustly Jewish than Yahweh.
May these psalms be a light to you in dark times. You can read more of Mark Robert Anderson's writings on Christianity, culture, and inter-faith dialogue at Understanding Christianity Today.