My days are numbered. Eventually my days will come to an end, and I will die.
I don’t know when this day will come. But It will. No amount of careful diet and exercise will hold it back. No great wish unfulfilled or promising work started will prevent it. The truth is this life is marked by brevity and one day I will cease to walk this earth.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about this. That might seem morbid, but as a Christian I believe it’s necessary-that we are even called to consider it.
Psalm 90 compels us. The only psalm attributed to Moses, it is filled with wisdom-as one would expect from such a patriarch of faith. In verse 12 he writes, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
This season at home affords us an opportunity, as do other times of great change such as births, marriages, and death. According to Tim Keller, these momentous occasions “temporarily free [us] from absorption in the whirl of daily life and [force us to] ask the big questions of the ages.” Questions about our fleeting life and it’s meaning.
This is exactly what Moses was getting at in Psalm 90. He starts out in the first four verses comparing God’s eternality to our mortality.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God”(v 2). And in verses 3-4 he contrasts, “You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’ For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”
Many other passages echo this somber truth. Earlier in Psalm 39:5 David wrote, “Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!”
And in the New Testament James put it this way; “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
We know this to be true, don’t we? And in that realization, we struggle. It can be summed up with one question.
Why does it have to be this way?
If we take a look back at verse 3 we read, “You return man to dust and say ’Return, O children of man!” This is an echoing back to Genesis 3. Here Moses points to the original man, Adam, and the sin he and Eve committed in the Garden of Eden. This resulted in God’s just judgment, and the penalty of death for all their offspring.
In verses 7-11 this difficult answer is further affirmed. “For we are brought to an end by your anger” (v 7). “For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh” (v 9). Our fleeting lives and sure mortality are due to God’s judgment of man’s sin.
The psalm picks up in verse 13 with a plea, “Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!” It’s as if Moses is saying, “God, do something about this!”
But Moses doesn’t land in a state of despair. In verse 14 he prays, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.”
You see, Moses knows Who God is. More than once he heard directly from Him. And he even saw the glory of God on Mt. Sinai as He passed by. So, we see Moses’ tone turn hopeful as he remembers the Lord is the eternal refuge of His people. And God Himself is the dwelling place of His people (v 1-2).
In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we see the answer to the cry of Moses.
And it is the answer to the cry of our own hearts.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
For the believer, this is good news! This life is not the end. Because of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, we have been given a clean slate. We have been restored in our relationship with God, and one day we will live eternally with Him!
This reality should make our hearts swell with gratitude! And in the joy of this truth we should earnestly desire to live our lives to honor God. We do this by dying to our old sinful ways, and living lives that display the likeness of God’s character. And as a result, our lives will be marked by good works (Ephesians 2:1-10).
In the joy of this knowledge we can embrace Moses’s words, “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands” (Psalm 90:17). We can hold the tension of the brevity of our lives and the hopeful joy of our eternal future. And we can embrace the God-ordained purpose of our here and now; knowing nothing is wasted (1 Corinthians 15:58) and God is working it all together for His good (Romans 8:28).
And that is the wisdom that Moses is asking for. He knows his days are numbered. And our days are numbered too. His prayer should be ours.
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v 12).