Counting the Days of our Lives (Psalm 90)
I believe my favorite of all Psalms on God’s Playlist is the 90th. It is very unusual, as it is the only one written by Moses. The subject and content seem to indicate it was from a period of his life when the children of Israel were wandering in the wilderness… spending 40 years with no purpose other than to see everyone over age 20 die off due to their unbelief. Certainly this would mark a time when Moses had a special perspective on life and death.
PS 90:1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
PS 90:2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
PS 90:3 You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”
PS 90:4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.
PS 90:5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning–
PS 90:6 though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.
PS 90:7 We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation.
PS 90:8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.
PS 90:9 All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.
PS 90:10 The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
PS 90:11 Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
PS 90:12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
What I find compelling about this Psalm is the way it speaks of the brevity of life and also puts numbers to the span of life. He says that the average lifespan is 70 years, or 80 if you have extra strength… but even that is a mixed blessing. We are as permanent as the grass that springs up with life, but withers quickly under the exposure of the sun’s heat.
Another interesting component of this Psalm is the way it makes its own application in verse 12 (I wish all Scriptures did that!). Moses says we should number our days. Since the average number of years in life is 70-80, we are able to figure out where we are in the big picture – presuming the gift of good health, etc. If we are age 35-40, we are about half done already!
The goal is a heart of wisdom. The Hebrew word here is one that speaks of a skill in living. Skill in living, translated to our dispensation of the church, could rightly be said to define a fully devoted follower of Christ. Wisdom in living for us involves being aware that life is short, and life is fleeting. The days are forever passing that we may redeem in wisdom to live for the Lord.
It is easy in life to think (beginning as a Christian teenager) that there is time in college to get serious about living for God. And then, in college, to think, “I’ll live for God when I get into my career.” Before long, it gets postponed to “when I have a family.” Next, it is “when the kids are growing up”… and then, “after I retire I’ll have the time.” Then finally, in what has seemed like a mere passing of a couple of years, we are looking at soon passing into eternity.
My parents had an oft-quoted Christian saying posted on the wall of our dining room during my childhood years… “One life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”
It is good and healthy for us to daily consider how we are using the days of our lives. It is wise to consider the priorities we establish. We all have the same amount of time each day and each week. We need to live in a conscious awareness of these parameters and make time to work for eternal benefit in service to God.
Col. 4:5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.