Mankind’s Misery and Mortality (Psalm 90:3-12)
Picture (verses 3-6)
Contrasting the eternality of God, Moses now reminds himself and us that humans are creatures of dust (Genesis 3:19). Death came as the judgment on sin when Eve “took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.” As a result, we are born in sin and shaped in iniquity, and the longer we live outside of God’s saving grace, the worse our predicament becomes.
To express the idea of man’s mortality and the brevity of his life, Moses offers three pictures or analogies. First, just as a flood grows greater and greater before finally and completely overtaking everything, so also mankind is swept away into death in large numbers. Second, just as time passes quickly while a person sleeps, so also this life slips away swiftly. Third, just as the grass is new in the morning and yet is withered by evening, so also life is brief and is soon gone. In addition to these pictures, the Bible offers a number of other illustrations for the brevity of this life (c.f. 2 Samuel 14:14; Ecclesiastes 6:12; James 4:14).
- We are well aware of how short life is, but we often stubbornly ignore it and act as if we will live forever. Moses is making the contrast between God’s eternality and our mortality to awaken our hearts to the immediate need we have for God to show us mercy and kindness. Are you responding to Moses’ declaration of life’s brevity by running to God in prayer that He be merciful to His people now?
Problem (verses 7-9)
The brevity of life is significant, but mere frailty is not our main concern. We are not only faced with brevity, but we are also faced with the reality of our sin. Sin is crime against the person of God. It is failure to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we are all guilty of it. In fact, the Apostle Paul referred to us all as “haters of God” (Romans 1:30).
When Moses sees the goodness of God and then considers man’s sin-stained mortality, he exclaims the wrath and fury that is due to sinners. Wrath is God’s righteous response to sin. The fact is, we deserve our sufferings. We deserve worse than what we have received. Though we may not deserve ill-treatment from men, we do deserve it from God, and He sometimes uses man as His instrument to bring about our deserved discipline. God can even use viruses to accomplish His purpose among His people.
Potential (verses 10-12)
When the holiness, justice, and love of God meet the depravity, injustice, and lovelessness of man, the inevitable result is divine anger, the wrath of God (c.f. Psalm 7:11; 9:7-8). In speaking of the wrath of God, it is important to understand that wrath is not an uncontrollable, irrational, or selfish emotion. God is altogether righteous in all of His dealings. No creature will ever have to fear being judged by an arbitrary decree of an unjust divine tyrant. His wrath is firmly based in His commitment to truth, which demands that all judgments be right and just.
Many people don’t like to even think about God’s wrath and can’t mention it without an inward resentment against it—against Him. We, too, can be guilty of tolerating thoughts about God that are immensely inconsistent with the revelation that He has made regarding Himself in the Scriptures. We can be guilty of assuming that He is soft on sin and equally loving towards everyone, even (or especially!) unrepentant sinners. God Himself, on the other hand, is not ashamed to make known that vengeance and fury belong to Him (Exodus 34:5ff). God’s wrath is His eternal detestation for unrighteousness, and it is entirely right for Him to feel this way. It is who He is in His moral perfection. God’s character makes hell as necessary as heaven.
- All sin will be properly and eternally dealt with by a righteous God. However, Jesus came to save His people from their sin! He came not only to save us from the wrath of God but from sin itself. What do you think of God’s justice? Do you know Him as the righteous God of the Scriptures, wrathful toward sinners? Do you recognize the righteous wrath that is due you? Have you understood that His wrath has been extinguished in Christ for those who trust Him? Does your life now match the claim that you trust Him?