It’s a prayer of Moses. Kind of amazing that it would have been preserved for so many years and found its way into a collection of songs by David and his worship leaders. The same sort of amazing I should feel when I think about the Scriptures as a whole–breathed of God, preserved of God, presented by God.
And the overall context for this song of Moses seems to clearly be the dirge of desert wandering. Moses acutely aware of what a difficult life looks like and what its ultimate destiny will be–that God returns man to dust (v.3). Moses aware of life’s transience as he sees those who walked out of Egypt being swept away “as with a flood” (v.4). Here one day and gone the next, their lives are like grass which in the evening “fades and withers” (v. 6).
Every evening! Literally! Moses saw some of his people fade and wither every day for forty years.
I don’t think it’s bad math to estimate that about a million souls were told that they wouldn’t enter the promised land and would die in the desert because of their rebellion and refusal to trust God to provide what He had promised (Numbers 13 and 14). Because of their lack of faith and fear of the “giants” who inhabited the land, they would instead learn to trust in God, and to fear Him all the days of their lives, as they sojourned in the desert. And if those million souls died over a period of 40 years, then there were, on average, 70 new graves a day. Every time they broke camp in the morning to move on, they left a small cemetery behind. Seventy people who woke “like grass that is renewed in the morning” would fade and wither by evening.
Talk about a depressing day-in-day-out reality. The years of life being 70, or perhaps 80, determined by up close and personal observation. Their span but “toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away” (v.10). (Is that where “I’ll Fly Away” came from?)
That was their reality. No wonder Moses asks of the Time-Maker:
So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
(Psalm 90:12 ESV)
But Moses also petitioned the God who had been their dwelling place in all generations (v.1) for something else. Something which I think I’ve tended to overlook in past meditations of his song. He asked that they would be satisfied in the desert.
Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
(Psalm 90:14 ESV)
Knowing their lives were short, that they would “end like a sigh” (v.9), Moses asked that each day until then would have a reminder of God’s faithful presence. Aware that the desert they sojourned today would be the same desert they would walk tomorrow, that they would awake each morning to an awareness of God’s steadfast love. That even amidst toil and snare, they would know the mercies of God and rejoice and be glad in the days He had allotted. The manna a daily reminder of His provision. The morning visitation of bread from heaven a reason to be satisfied, even in the desert.
Let Your work be shown to Your servants,
and Your glorious power to their children.
(Psalm 90:16 ESV)
I’m reminded this morning that we can be satisfied in the desert. That the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, that His mercies never come to an end; that they are new every morning and that great is His faithfulness (Lam. 3:22-23).
And ours is not some aimless wandering that comes up short of the promised land, but ours is a pilgrimage with the assurance of victory that one day we will inhabit His glory.
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1Corinthians 15:55-57 ESV)
Satisfied in the desert.
By His amazing grace. For His eternal glory.