Verses 12–17

These are the petitions of this prayer, grounded upon the foregoing meditations and acknowledgments. Isa. any afflicted? Let him learn thus to pray. Four things they are here directed to pray for:—

I. For a sanctified use of the sad dispensation they were now under. Being condemned to have our days shortened, “Lord, teach us to number our days (Ps. 90:12); Lord, give us grace duly to consider how few they are, and how little a while we have to live in this world.” Note, 1. It is an excellent art rightly to number our days, so as not to be out in our calculation, as he was who counted upon many years to come when, that night, his soul was required of him. We must live under a constant apprehension of the shortness and uncertainty of life and the near approach of death and eternity. We must so number our days as to compare our work with them, and mind it accordingly with a double diligence, as those that have no time to trifle. 2. Those that would learn this arithmetic must pray for divine instruction, must go to God, and beg of him to teach them by his Spirit, to put them upon considering and to give them a good understanding. 3. We then number our days to good purpose when thereby our hearts are inclined and engaged to true wisdom, that is, to the practice of serious godliness. To be religious is to be wise; this is a thing to which it is necessary that we apply our hearts, and the matter requires and deserves a close application, to which frequent thoughts of the uncertainty of our continuance here, and the certainty of our removal hence, will very much contribute.

II. For the turning away of God’s anger from them, that though the decree had gone forth, and was past revocation, there was no remedy, but they must die in the wilderness: “Yet return, O Lord! be thou reconciled to us, and let it repent thee concerning thy servants (Ps. 90:13); send us tidings of peace to comfort us again after these heavy tidings. How long must we look upon ourselves as under thy wrath, and when shall we have some token given us of our restoration to thy favour? We are thy servants, thy people (Isa. 64:9); when wilt thou change thy way toward us?” In answer to this prayer, and upon their profession of repentance (Num. 14:39, 40), God, in the next chapter, proceeding with the laws concerning sacrifices (Num. 15:1-31), which was a token that it repented him concerning his servants; for, if the Lord had been pleased to kill them, he would not have shown them such things as these.

III. For comfort and joy in the returns of God’s favour to them, Ps. 90:14, 15. They pray for the mercy of God; for they pretend not to plead any merit of their own. Have mercy upon us, O God! is a prayer we are all concerned to say Amen to. Let us pray for early mercy, the seasonable communications of divine mercy, that God’s tender mercies may speedily prevent us, early in the morning of our days, when we are young and flourishing, Ps. 90:6. Let us pray for the true satisfaction and happiness which are to be had only in the favour and mercy of God, Ps. 4:6, 7. A gracious soul, if it may but be satisfied of God’s lovingkindness, will be satisfied with it, abundantly satisfied, will take up with that, and will take up with nothing short of it. Two things are pleaded to enforce this petition for God’s mercy:—1. That it would be a full fountain of future joys: “O satisfy us with thy mercy, not only that we may be easy and at rest within ourselves, which we can never be while we lie under thy wrath, but that we may rejoice and be glad, not only for a time, upon the first indications of thy favour, but all our days, though we are to spend them in the wilderness.” With respect to those that make God their chief joy, as their joy may be full (1 John 1:4), so it may be constant, even in this vale of tears; it is their own fault if they are not glad all their days, for his mercy will furnish them with joy in tribulation and nothing can separate them from it. 2. That it would be a sufficient balance to their former griefs: “Make us glad according to the days wherein thou has afflicted us; let the days of our joy in thy favour be as many as the days of our pain for thy displeasure have been and as pleasant as those have been gloomy. Lord, thou usest to set the one over-against the other (Eccl. 7:14); do so in our case. Let it suffice that we have drunk so long of the cup of trembling; now put into our hands the cup of salvation.” God’s people reckon the return fdc s of God’s lovingkindness a sufficient recompence for all their troubles.

IV. For the progress of the work of God among them notwithstanding, Ps. 90:16, 17. 1. That he would manifest himself in carrying it on: “Let thy work appear upon thy servants; let it appear that thou hast wrought upon us, to bring us home to thyself and to fit us for thyself.” God’s servants cannot work for him unless he work upon them, and work in them both to will and to do; and then we may hope the operations of God’s providence will be apparent for us when the operations of his grace are apparent upon us. “Let thy work appear, and in it thy glory will appear to us and those that shall come after us.” In praying for God’s grace God’s glory must be our end; and we must therein have an eye to our children as well as to ourselves, that they also may experience God’s glory appearing upon them, so as to change them into the same image, from glory to glory. Perhaps, in this prayer, they distinguish between themselves and their children, for so God distinguished in his late message to them (Num. 14:31; Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness, but your little ones I will bring into Canaan): “Lord,” say they, “let thy work appear upon us, to reform us, and bring us to a better temper, and then let thy glory appear to our children, in performing the promise to them which we have forfeited the benefit of.” 2. That he would countenance and strengthen them in carrying it on, in doing their part towards it. (1.) That he would smile upon them in it: Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; let it appear that God favours us. Let us have God’s ordinances kept up among us and the tokens of God’s presence with his ordinances; so some. We may apply this petition both to our sanctification and to our consolation. Holiness is the beauty of the Lord our God; let that be upon us in all we say and do; let the grace of God in us, and the light of our good works, make our faces to shine (that is the comeliness God puts upon us, and those are comely indeed who are so beautified), and then let divine consolations put gladness into our hearts, and a lustre upon our countenances, and that also will be the beauty of the Lord upon us, as our God. (2.) That he would prosper them in it: Establish thou the work of our hands upon us. God’s working upon us (Ps. 90:16) does not discharge us from using our utmost endeavours in serving him and working out our salvation. But, when we have done all, we must wait upon God for the success, and beg of him to prosper our handy works, to give us to compass what we aim at for his glory. We are so unworthy of divine assistance, and yet so utterly insufficient to bring any thing to pass without it, that we have need to be earnest for it and to repeat the request: Yea, the work of our hands, establish thou it, and, in order to that, establish us in it.