Psalm 90:10 says, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away.”
Psalm 90 is the only one written by Moses. This would make it the oldest of the psalms in point of time. Moses also sang (and later wrote) “The Song of Victory” over Pharaoh and his army when the Israelites had passed safely through the Red Sea and their oppressors had all drowned (Exodus 15:1-19). Moses also was commanded to write and teach “The Song of Moses” recorded in Deuteronomy (31:19-22, 30; 32:1-45).
Moses lived to be one hundred and twenty years of age (Deuteronomy 32:2). Deuteronomy 34:5-7 records, “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth his sepulchre unto this day. And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.”
In the last forty years of his life, Moses had witnessed the deaths of approximately two million Israelites, those who left Egypt twenty years of age and above, and who then perished in the thirty-eight years of wilderness wanderings before the nation came to the plains of Moab, on the east side of the Jordan opposite to Jericho. Here the survivors of the wanderings in the wilderness, plus the two new generations born since Sinai, waited for Jehovah’s directions regarding the crossing of the Jordan into the land of Canaan, “the Promised Land”! Averaging the ages of those who perished in the wilderness wanderings, they would be seventy to eighty years of age.
If one were to die at age “threescore years and ten”, seventy years, on the seventieth birthday, he would have lived exactly 25,568 days, counting the leap years. If one were to die at age “fourscore years”, eighty years, on his eightieth birthday, he would have lived exactly 29,220 days, counting the leap years.
No wonder Moses spoke of “the days of our years” of our life. In Psalm 90, he speaks of “days” five times, of “years” six times, of “yesterday” one time, of “morning” two times, and of “evening” one time. Mornings and evenings rapidly come and go, or “the evening and the morning” (Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31), as God first said it. Past days become “yesterdays”. Days and yesterdays become weeks, months, years — and a lifetime! “For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told” (Psalm 90:9).
Having recently passed my eightieth birthday, I realize more and more the beauty, truthfulness, and meaning of Psalm 90. These many short days, weeks, months and years are truly “like a vapor that appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth away”, and are “swifter than a weaver’s shuttle”, and “all the glory of man is as the flower of grass; the grass withereth and the flower thereof falleth”. A poet wrote, “Art is long, and Time is fleeting, And our hearts, though stout and brave; Still, like muffled drums are beating, Funeral marches to the grave” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life”). So what can one do and what should one do, being powerless to slow or check “the clock of time”?
Moses answered, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom … O satisfy us early with thy mercy … Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil … Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children … Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us” (Psalm 90:12, 14-17).
Moses learned how to live, how to exit this life and world, and how to prepare to enter into eternity and life with our Creator and our God. He used the last forty years of his one hundred and twenty years to seriously make the spiritual preparations necessary to meeting God face to face (Deuteronomy 34:10-12; Hebrews 11:23-29). We are all aware of God’s will and Moses’ example. “Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37), our Lord Jesus Christ would also say to us!