Teach us to number our days

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Here we are almost at the end of January.  2016 is well and truly behind us.  Some of us are wondering where the time went!  A year seems like a long time until you get to the middle of September.  Then it appears to be relatively short.

We would all do ourselves a service if we considered how brief life on earth really is.  All of us have a limited number of days.  They may seem endless, but they’re not.  We would be wise to live in light of this perspective.

That’s where Psalm 90 comes in.

The Psalm is entitled, “A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.”  This is the only Psalm authored by Moses and it is believed to be written during the 40 years that Israel was in the wilderness.  Moses saw a lot of people die on that 40-year trek.  He would have attended a lot of funerals.  As Moses reflects on this, he writes this Psalm.  And it is interesting how he begins.  It’s not with man, but with God:

“Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation. Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God.” (90:1–2)

In this world everything is temporary, changeable and unstable.  But God is eternal and unchanging.  Before the mountains ever existed he was there.  Before the world came to be – he was there.  From everlasting to everlasting he always was, always is and always will be – GOD.

In contrast to God, who is eternal and unchanging, our lives are frail and fleeting.

“You return mankind to the dust, saying, “Return, descendants of Adam.” For in Your sight a thousand years are like yesterday that passes by, like a few hours of the night. You end their lives; they sleep. They are like grass that grows in the morning— in the morning it sprouts and grows; by evening it withers and dries up” (90:3–6)

A thousand years for God are like a few hours in the night.  Think of that!  Think of all the history that has occurred in the past 1000 years.  Columbus discovered America.  The printing press was invented.  Penicillin was discovered.  There were two world wars.  The Soviet Union collapsed.  God sees all those things and they are like a blip on the horizon – a few hours of the night.

Human life – even the longest of human lives – is insignificantly brief.  It’s like a shoot of grass that sprouts up in the morning but dies at night.  Our lives are fleeting and frail and short-lived.  A person can be at the height of his career, enjoying life, thriving on all kinds of success, and the next day he could be diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to live.  We’ve seen it happen haven’t we?  We are only here for a moment.  Then we are gone.

It is in light of these things that Moses makes this profound request in verse 12,

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Of all the mathematical problems, this is the most difficult.  People can number their sheep and their livestock.  They can estimate the revenue of their farms and their business with relative ease.  They can count their cash, balance their accounts and calculate what their retirement income should be. And yet they foolishly imagine they are immortal.  They think their days are infinite and innumerable.  Therefore, they do not number them.

Andy Stanley tells the story of a man who bought 1,300 marbles on his 50th birthday.  He figured that, if he lives to be 75, he would have about a 1,300 Saturdays left. So every Saturday he goes and takes a marble out of that jar and throws it out.  It’s a reminder to him that time is fleeting, and that he only has a short time left.

That’s living in the light of eternity.  That’s living with wisdom.  Measure your days carefully.  You are not immortal.  You will not live forever.  Your life is but a vapour – here one moment and gone the next.  Then you will face God.  That’s a very sobering thought, but important nonetheless.

God has given you a certain amount of days to live and He has entrusted you with certain gifts and abilities.  What are you doing with them?  Are you using them for His glory the good of others?  What will you offer back to God when he calls you to account?

There is so much that we give our time and energy and money to that doesn’t last.  There are so many wasted pursuits that do not further God’s work and have no outcome for eternity.  Now I know there are things we must do in order to live and work and help provide for our families and others.  Those things are good and are honourable to God.  But sometimes we forget that, “the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.” (1 John 2:17)

There are only two things to go into eternity.  Only two.  No more.

  1. The Word of God
  2. The souls of men and women.

Everything else perishes. Your house, your car, your toys – they will all perish.  Your career, your hobbies, your earthly pursuits – it’s all going to perish.  But time given to God and his Word, time given to help get people into heaven and grow in Christ – that lasts forever.

There’s that wonderful poem by C.T. Studd, missionary to India and Africa.  In one of the stanza’s he says this:

Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Don’t be foolish and live for the moment.  Live each day for God.  Live with eternity in mind.

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