By Susan Nero

In the introduction to all of our study guides in the Psalms, we find this statement: “ As you set out to follow the footsteps of the psalmist; you will find yourself relating to the circumstances, thinking their thoughts and feeling their emotions as they come to grips with their life, path, and ultimately finding their need for God; His mercy, grace and power to find victory in their journey.

I found this to be especially true in studying Psalm 90! I’m sure you pretty well knew what I knew at first: Moses had written it and it was the oldest Psalm in the Bible.

Upon further study though, I found it was called a “ Reflective Psalm” and also referred to as a “Song of Rebellion’s Cost”!

Moses was “ reflecting” on two things; his difficult “path of" of 40 years in the wilderness and also on God’s faithfulness and mercy during that time.

“Rebellion’s cost“ obviously referred to the 40 year journey that should have taken months or even days!

In the end I think we will find that the Psalm will also help us to reflect on our need in this journey through our life for God’s wisdom, discernment, strength and hope!

Before we read the Psalm, I thought in order to understand just what Moses was “ reflecting” on, a look at the background would be best. So, I dug into my Bibles NKJV and NLT as well as Warren Wiersbe’s Commentaries.

All of these sources shed a little more light on the reasons surrounding the somber dark tone of this Psalm. They all agreed about the timing of this being written (towards the end of the 40 years) and that the most likely background for this could be found in Numbers 20.

Towards the end of the 40 years journey Moses experienced the sorrow of the death of his sister Miriam (Numbers 20:1) and his brother Aaron (Numbers 20:22-29) Between these two deaths Moses disobeyed the Lord and struck the rock (Numbers 20: 2-13).

To understand Moses “ state of mind” I wanted to know a little more about why he had lost his temper and as a result could not enter the Promised Land. So let’s look at what I found in Numbers 20:2-13.

Numbers 20:2-13 NLT

In the first month Israel arrived in the wilderness and camped. While they were there Miriam died and was buried. There was no water for the people to drink at that place, so they rebelled against Moses and Aaron. The people blamed Moses and said “If only we had died in the Lord’s presence with our brothers! Why have you brought the congregation of the Lord’s people into this wilderness to die, along with all of our livestock? Why did you make us leave Egypt and bring us here to this terrible place?" They obviously had rejected God’s miracles or any of His blessings.

So Moses and Aaron went to the Tent of Meeting where they fell own on the ground. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord said to Moses, “You and Aaron must take the staff and assemble the entire community. As the people watch, SPEAK to the rock over there, and it will pour out its water.”

So Moses and Aaron summoned the people and SHOUTED: “Listen, you rebels. Must we bring you water from this rock?” Then Moses raised his hand and STRUCK THE ROCK TWICE WITH THE STAFF, AND WATER GUSHED OUT. So the people drank their fill. The people received God’s blessings but did not recognize or acknowledge His hand in it.


This pretty well explained not only to Moses frustration with the people but God’s response. It was beginning to give us a picture of Moses and just what had caused him to reflect as he did in this Psalm. Next I wanted to check out Wiersbe's Commentary to further understand the Psalms and Numbers 20 There was such a contrast between Verses1-12 verses 13-17. So I did.

Warren Wiersbe’s Commentary on these verses makes several good points about Moses’ actions and God’s response to it.

1st. Moses disobeyed a direct command from God. God had commanded Moses to speak to the Rock Instead Moses struck the rock with his staff. He showed anger; in essence he misrepresented God, you might say he was a “bad witness”.

Secondly, Moses took credit for bringing forth the water. We can notice in verse 10, Moses says, “Must We“ (referring to Aaron and himself) bring you water out of this rock?” Moses took credit for the miracle himself instead of attributing it to God.

We also notice God’s response “Because you did not trust me enough to demonstrate My holiness to the people of Israel, you will not lead them into the land I am giving them!”

Okay, so I understood why God disciplined Moses: but I had one more question before I finished looking at the “background” to Psalm 90 and began looking ran into a problem I didn’t know where to look for the answer….so of course I went to our Pastor Steve!

I told him I understood why the Israelites lack of faith, disobedience, idolatry, and disbelief had caused them to wonder in circles in the wilderness until all of the first generation had died.

And I had finally grasped why Moses was not permitted to enter the Promised Land but only to see it: and I understood that Moses did eventually get to the Promised land (heaven) in the Transformation with Jesus and Elijah; but I asked Steve what happened to the millions of people that died in the wilderness. were they doomed to hell? Steve directed me to 1Corinthians 10 and told me, this is the same picture as regard to your situation with your husband John. Only God knows mans hearts, leave the unbelieving in His hands.

Now, before I looked at the 1 Corinthians 10 it seems that God wanted me to completely understand the seriousness of disobedience. He wanted me to see how Moses’ actions were only an example of how I too often acted! That evening….

My husband and I had a heated political discussion and as often happened it led to an even more intense debate about Jesus and God, and my own “delusion “It was just one too many times of hearing about there being “no God’; Jesus and the Gospel message of the Bible being just a story written by men. Well his words were not important, I had heard them many times over the 40 years. What was important was my reaction: I was just so “angry“ that I yelled at him impatiently (I’m sure a couple of neighbors heard me), left the room and went to pray expecting some comfort. Instead, the Lord opened my eyes, brought a verse to my mind "to whom much is given, much is required“ then showed me how I was misrepresenting Him (as Moses had done to the whole nation) to one unbeliever (No difference in God’s eyes)!

I was now prepared to really look at 1 Corinthians 10: Read 1 Corinthians 10-1 thru 1st. 10-21

Finally, we can get a pretty full picture of what was going on at the time Moses wrote this psalm. He is ending a 40 year journey with millions of people most of whom had died. It was like a “40 year funeral march“ as one commentator put it ! He was approaching 120 years of age. He had lost the two people most close to him, Aaron and Miriam. We can be sure he felt discouraged having himself been disobedient to God. We can imagine that his heart was broken and his spirit grieved when the people continued in their unbelief! Certainly the first half of the Psalm reflects this mood.

However as we come to verses 13-17, we find that in the end Moses’ thoughts were of hope and reflection on the goodness and mercy of the Lord.

Even though he could not actually enter into the Promised Land but only see it from a distance, he remained confident in his relationship with the lord and looked “forward” to His promises. Wiersbe’s commentary on these last verses writes: “In spite of the “black border” around this psalm, the emphasis is on life and not death. The past and present experiences of life prepare us for the future, and all of life prepared us for eternity. When we contrast verses 13-17 with 7-12 we can see the difference. “He also reminds us that “ When Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord, the future is your friend.”

So now lets look at Psalm 90


Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, You are God. “

Moses tells us that God is faithful. From generation to generation, from everlasting to everlasting, he has been faithful, and He will continue to be faithful. He has been our dwelling place.

It’s interesting to note that in the Book of Numbers they mention about 40 places that Israel camped during their journey but no matter where Moses lived on this journey God was always his “home“. He had pitched a tent outside the camp and went there to “speak to God” and to find strength, comfort, encouragement and help for each days demands. This gives us a picture of Jesus’ words to “ABIDE IN ME ‘ John 15: 1-11. v Maybe this is why some scholars think that it was Moses who was the author of Psalm 91? The first verse sounds as if it could have been! “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord, He alone is my refuge, my place of safety: He is my God, and I trust in Him.“ PS 91;1-2

The Bible says, “He who does the will of God abides forever" 1 John When we as Moses did, compare our time on earth with eternity, we get a bit of God’s perspective. We can go to 1 Peter 1;24-25 and hold on to the promises of God.

1 Peter 1; 24-25

“All flesh is as grass and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers and its flower falls away. But the Word of the Lord endures forever. Now this is the Word by which the gospel was preached to you.”

Warren Wiersbe comments “We can incorporate eternal values into this life now by sustaining ourselves on His Word “!

For: “Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord” Deuteronomy 8


“You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals!’

Warren Wiersbe listed 3 O.T. verses in reference to this verse which I found very interesting.

Psalm 104:29-30 “But if You turn away from them they panic; When You take away their breath, they die and turn again to dust. When You give them Your breath, (or when You send Your Spirit) life is created, and You renew the face of the earth.” Jesus, Holy Spirit, resurrection, Salvation.

Psalm 146-3-6 “ Don’t put your confidence in powerful people; there is no help for you there. When they breathe their last, they return to the earth, and all their plans die with them. But joyful are those who have the God of Israel as their Helper, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” Our hope in Jesus.

Job 34:14-15 “If God were to take back His Spirit and withdraw His breath, all life would cease and humanity would turn again to dust.

“For You, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours. You sweep people away like dreams that disappear. They are like grass that springs up in the morning. In the morning it blooms and flourishes, but by evening it is dry and withered.



We wither beneath Your anger: we are overwhelmed by Your fury. Moses was thinking of God's anger at the idolatry/sin = Mercy.

You spread out our sins before You-or secret sins-and You see them all.

God saw what Israel did and knew what they were going to do.. We live our lives beneath Your wrath, ending our years with a groan. Unless we believe in, trust, obey and abide in Him! Who can comprehend the power of Your Anger? Your wrath is as awesome as the fear (reverential fear) you deserve. His judgment is to His mercy.

Man has a Choice to Obey or Disobey.

Lets look at Deut. 7:9-12 He is the faithful God who keeps His covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes His unfailing love on those who love Him and obey His commands. But He does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject Him.

Psalm 90 Verse 7-12 (b)

Seventy years are given to us ! Some even live to be eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear and fly away.”

Moses died at 120 ; Joshua at 110 and King David was only 70 when he died. We “ finish our years like a sign and groan and are amazed that it went by so fast. verse 12 says, it is time to “ TEACH US TO REALIZE THE BREVIVTY OF LIFE, SO THAT WE MAY GROW IN WISDOM.’

We number our years not our days that honor the Lords. A successful life is successful days that honor the Lord. Too many live as though this was all. They plan for this life only excluding Him So many of those “ things I work so hard for are empty ” We should be conscious of human limitations and contrast it with God’s “ From Everlasting “