May the Lord Be Our God (90:17)
17 In conclusion the psalmist prays for God’s beneficence and asks that his “beauty” (i.e., “favor”; cf. 27:4) may rest on his people. The Lord’s acceptance of his own assures a certain permanence of their work. Life under the sun may be vain. The person under God’s judgment can accomplish no ultimate good. But the godly and wise pray that the Lord will accept their work and “establish” (kônenâ, GK 3922) it as having value (cf. Dt 2:7; 14:29: 16:15). Frail, limited, and sinful as people are, the love of God can transform what is weak to his own glory. Robert Alter, 128–29, senses the climactic conclusion as he writes, “The special force of the reiteration of this verb (kônān) at the end of Psalm 90 must be felt as a reversal of the imagery of withering grass, sighs, things burnt up by God’s wrath, and … humanity flooded or engulfed by sleep.”
90:17. In the closing request, Let the favor (lit., “beauty,” cf. 27:4) of the Lord our God be upon us, Moses was reflecting his brother Aaron’s famous blessing on Israel (cf. Nm 6:22–26). In asking the Lord to confirm … the work of our hands Moses was requesting approval of and blessing for all their efforts to serve Him (cf. Dt 14:29; 16:15; 24:19).
90:17 Finally, the intercessor asks the Lord to look in favor on His chosen earthly people and to make them fruitful in all their endeavors: “Yes, establish the work of our hands.”
Traditionally Psalm 90 has been a favorite reading at Christian funerals. And not without reason, because it reminds us of the shortness of life and the need to redeem the time or buy up the opportunities. But the Psalm does not breathe out the comfort and assurance of the NT era. Christ has brought “life and immortality to light through the gospel.” We know that to die is gain; it is to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. And so the somber and dark outlook of the Psalm should be replaced by the joy and triumph of the believer’s hope in Christ, for now death has lost its sting and the grave has been robbed of its victory. The believer can sing:
Death is vanquished! Tell it with joy, ye faithful;
Where is now the victory, boasting grave?
Jesus lives! no longer thy portals are cheerless;
Jesus lives, the mighty and strong to save.
—Fanny J. Crosby
90:17 the favor of the Lord. The Lord’s favor implies His delight and approval. confirm the work of our hands. By God’s mercy and grace, one’s life can have value, significance, and meaning (cf. 1Co 15:58).
90:17 Despite the reality of death, Christ’s resurrection guarantees victory and demonstrates that work has eternal meaning (1 Cor. 15:58).
90:17 establish for us the work of our hands This could refer generally to obedience and faithfulness to God (the wisdom described in Ps 90:12). More specifically, if Moses is the psalmist (see v. title and note), the work described here may be defined by passages like Deut 6:1–15, and describe Israel’s faithfulness to the covenant while in the promised land.
90:17 the favor of the Lord our God. In the midst of life in the wilderness, only the blessing of God’s own presence can give meaning and joy.
establish the work of our hands. Wanderers in the wilderness may leave no monuments, but God can give eternal significance to the deeds of hands that serve Him.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 689). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 90:17). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 818). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.