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So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
A new year, a new day planner. If the Lord permits me to live through them all, I see three hundred and sixty-five days simmering with possibilities. There are possibilities for work, ministry, play, and of course, all those unexpected things I can’t control. I can schedule some of these things. Some will get canceled or rescheduled. Some will get done. Some may get forgotten or neglected. Some things I might want to avoid will have to be faced. I have no idea how all my planning will turn out, but one thing is for sure: I need the wisdom of God to count and spend my remaining time well because my days are numbered.
Moses knew well that man’s days are numbered. He had been miraculously spared from infant death, providentially preserved and reared in the courts of Pharaoh, called and used of God to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and through the wilderness wanderings. During those forty years, Moses saw his rebellious brethren fall like flies, and outlived the great majority of them. In Psalm 90, this man of God gives reflections of his experience as he instructs us to look to the Lord so we can number our days and spend them well.
We need to ask the Lord to teach us to number our days because He is the eternal Creator. (verses 1-2)
Moses points us first to the Lord, who is the refuge and dwelling place of His people in all generations, including those who had to keep relocating camp in the desert. This is the eternal God. Moses had the same God that the patriarchs had, and that Noah and Adam had before them. This God witnessed and caused the birth of the mountains and the earth. He is God from everlasting to everlasting, without beginning and without ending, and is therefore not bound by time in the way His creation is.
By contrast, we are not eternal but have a beginning. We depend on Him, but He was doing just fine before we or any of His creation was made. Who better to teach us how to number our days and use our time well than the One who made us, the One Who predates and outlasts everything?
We need to ask the Lord to teach us to number our days because we are troubled transients. (verses 3-11)
Moses quickly turns from the God who is eternal, to created man, who is bound by time. Our days not only have a beginning, but they are numbered, seemingly insignificant, and full of trouble.
God sends man back to the dust from which he was made. Even if we lived a thousand years, as some of the patriarchs nearly did, it’s like yesterday to God, like a brief portion of the night. Carried away like a flood, mowed down like grass, burned up by God’s curse on sin, our lives seem like a disposable short story, quickly told and quickly forgotten. We may typically live seventy years, or eighty if our health is good, but the longer we live, the more sorrow we must endure.
We must acknowledge the role of sin in man’s troubled existence. God created man, and man could have lived forever had he kept God’s commands. But Adam and Eve sinned and plunged the whole human race into sin. We inherit a sin nature that includes us toward a rebellious independence, which we personally carry out as soon as we are able. Some of the difficulties we face are because of others’ sins, but some are self-inflicted. God is a holy and righteous God and sin bears consequences proportionate to the devotion God deserves.
Life is hard and even if we become octogenarians or go beyond, our days are numbered. But that shouldn’t drive us away from God. Rather, it should make us run to our eternal Creator, begging for His wisdom, and that’s what Moses models.
We need to ask the Lord to teach us to number our days because He is a compassionate Redeemer. (verses 12-17)
Moses’ reflections on the everlasting Creator and the troubles of transient man lead him immediately to cry to the Lord for help. At the heart of this plea is the confidence that He will have compassion and will help.
We too need to ask the Lord for help. We can grow discontent, bruised, and beaten, and need to be satisfied with His compassion and mercy so we can find our joy and gladness in Him. We can lose sight of what He has done, so we must ask Him to show His work to us, and His glory to our children. We can start to think that what we do has no meaning or legacy, so we must ask Him to favor us and direct and bless the work of our hands.
God ultimately shows us favor through His Son. In Jesus, we see the eternal God who became flesh and dwelt among us. He walked through this fallen world, suffering alongside His fellow humans and having compassion on them. The incarnate God-man spent His days in perfect wisdom. We see God’s glorious work of redemption in the appointed hour of Christ’s death on the cross and in His resurrection. We see the fruit of His labors in lives forever changed by His glorious gospel. In Him, we see death defeated, the curse reversed, and work made meaningful. He who loved us and gave Himself for us is He who redeems our days.
Our days are numbered, but if we are children of God through faith in Christ, their end will be a glorious transition into the fullness of the salvation Jesus has purchased for us. Until that day, let us look to Him so we do not waste our days, but make them count. As I reach for my day planner, and as I live each day, I want this to be my prayer: Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.
Check out this musical rendition of Psalm 90 from Judy Rogers and Becky Morecraft: “Everlasting.”