This is the oldest psalm in the Bible. It was written by Moses as a prayer, and it is a poetic masterpiece with a compelling message. Moses probably wrote it during the time of the Israelite exodus from Egypt, and would have applied it to his situation. Through the miracle of the Word of God, it is still fresh and applicable today.
Moses begins by calling the Lord “our dwelling place,” the One who has given our souls a home — a place of security, a place of love, a place of belonging. It is a warm and personal way the people of God should think of Him, but He is so much more! Moses wrote that God is “everlasting to everlasting” — before the world was created, He was God. From eternity past to eternity future He was, is, and forever will be the Everlasting God!
Verses 3-6 present the timeless, eternal nature of God who exists above and beyond the time we experience. To God, the passing of a millennium is like the passing of an evening to us. What a great God — not limited by time, not defined by age, not measurable by any unit.
Verses 7-12 present what John Phillips calls “the severity of God.” It is that part of His holy character we do not often consider — much less praise — but a part with which Moses was quite familiar: His anger and wrath. God knows every sin we commit, even the ones done in secret (v.8). This psalm makes it clear that our sins incur the wrath of God (“wrath” = God’s judgment in action). His anger over our sins is very powerful (v.11). When He unleashes His wrath it can end your life (v.7) and cause you to pass away (v.9).
Since our lives are so sinful (v.7-8) and so short (v.9-10), and since the wrath of God is so powerful, Moses prays for mercy in verses 13-17. On this side of the cross, we know that the mercy for which Moses prayed was provided in Jesus:
“Have pity on us” (v.13) — Jesus was moved with compassion to save our souls!
“Satisfy us with Your steadfast love” (v.14) — the greatest love of all was expressed in Christ’s death on the cross!
“Show Your glorious power” (v.16) — Jesus rose from the grave in great glory and power!
“Let Your beautiful grace fall on us” (v.17) — by His grace we are saved!