How the Psalms Work More like Orange Juice Concentrate than Simply Orange


February 18, 2021

Psalm 90 (NIV)

To the tune of “O God Our Help in Ages Past” (C.M.) Sing it at

1 Lord, You have been our dwelling place,
through generations all;
From age to age, our hiding place;
our refuge whom we call.

2 Before the mountains came to be,
or earth sprang from Your word;
From everlasting to all time,
You are the only God.

3 You turn men back to dust and say,
“Return, O sons of men”;
For dust we are, to dust return;
we go to dust again.

4 A thousand years are merely like
a day within Your sight;
A day soon gone, or like a watch
that passes in the night.

5 We’re swept away as in death’s sleep;
like new grass in the morn;

6 Though it sprouts up with morning light,
by dusk it’s dry and worn.

7 For by Your anger we’re consumed;
in terror at Your wrath;
8 You’ve set our sins before You, and
Your light reveals their path.

9 Our days pass quickly in Your wrath;
years like a sigh are past;
10 Our length of days are seventy,
or eighty if strength last.

And yet their span’s without trouble filled,
and sorrow marks our way;
Days quickly pass and soon are gone;
and we just fly away.

11 Who knows the power of Your wrath?
It’s great as fear You’re due!
12 Teach us to number right our days
and gain Your wisdom true.

13 Relent, O Lord! How long till You
have mercy on Your saints?
14 Come satisfy us in the morn
with love that never faints.

Then we will sing for joy, and will
be glad for all our days;
15 O make us glad as many days
as we’ve known troubled ways.

16 May Your deeds and Your works be shown
unto Your servants all;
Your splendor to their children and
to those who on You call.

17 May God’s good favor rest on us;
our work before Him stand.
Yes, Lord our God, establish firm
the work of our own hands.


Growing up, we didn’t have the present-day luxury of bottled juices such as Simply Orange. We actually got those little cans out of the freezer, often thawing them overnight, and mixed the contents with water to make our orange juice. The cans contained an ingredient known as concentrate, a thick, syrupy, profoundly orange substance. I used to love prying the lid off early before breakfast and sneaking a small spoonful of the stuff into my mouth. It produced a bit of a mouth-explosion effect of goodness. But who could take more than a spoonful? The taste vividly remains with me.

That’s what the Psalms are like and how they work. They gather up all of the glorious details from Scripture of the character of God and all of the dastardly depths of the human condition and combine them into a powerful concentrate. We can only take about a spoonful at a time. And that’s okay, because over time they mingle with the water that is our lives and result in something unexpectedly good. At times the concentrate is so strong that it’s bitter; at other times it tastes pleasantly sweet.

Song 90 gives us a massively concentrated contrast between the incomprehensible infiniteness of God and the frail finiteness of human beings:

Before the mountains came to be,
or earth sprang from Your word;
From everlasting to the same,
You, only You, are God.

You turn men back to dust and say,
“Return, O sons of men”;
For dust we are, to dust return;
we go to dust again.

We need this concentrated reminder. As for me, “dust, dust, dust, dust. You, only You, are God.”

Something about actually singing these songs brings out the fullness of their taste. And, yes, it is a bit of an acquired taste. It will take time. Just sing this one today.

Ask Yourself. Share with Another.

Can you think of a story or situation in your past when you realized your own frailty and finiteness? What might it mean to think of yourself as made of dirt yet filled with the breath of God? How do those two realities work together? Or not?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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