'Lord, thou hast been our dwelling
place in all generations.”
The primary locus in which the Christian community regularly hears this psalm is the funeral or memorial service. Along with Psalm 23 it is probably read more often than any other passage from the Old Testament, though vv. 7-9 and 11-12 are not infrequently omitted, as indeed they are in the psalm as it is printed in the Book of Common Worship that has been used in Presbyterian churches in this country for decades. One understands this omission immediately. These Old Testament words about human life being overwhelmed by the wrath of God hardly seem to be the most obvious words of comfort.
Still the psalm—in whole or in part—has a large capacity to bring the strong comfort of God to persons on sickbeds and in times of dying and death. The reasons for that are probably many. As one reads and studies the psalm, however, the heart of the matter seems to be that Psalm 90 is helpful in moments of preparation for death, or of grief at the time of death, because of the way it speaks about all the time before death and helps us think about that, with respect to one who has died and with respect to our own time. The content of vv. 1-2, the six references each to “days” and “years,” as well as the several references to “morning” and “evening,” are the chief clues to the character of the psalm as a reflection and prayer about time and more particularly our days (vv. 9, 12, 14) and our years (vv. 9, 10: “the days of our years”). The psalm addresses in various ways the question, In the sure knowledge of our death, what gives meaning to our time now and how should we understand our time from the perspective of that moment when our life is at an end? (The