I came across a verse not long ago that jumped off the page at me. I wrote it down on a sticky note and popped it in my pocket to read again later in the day. That verse was Psalm 90:12,
“So, teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
This verse is an example of practical Biblical wisdom that, when applied, can change our lives. One transformative truth applied to what we know, what we learn, and how we think can make a world of difference. Verses like this are the simplest way to understand what the Bible means when it says, “be transformed in the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:2). Let’s look at this verse more closely.
The verse starts out with a plea to God to “teach us…”. This verse takes on the character of a humble prayer requesting instruction. When we learn something new it comes from one of two sources. One, it could be learned the hard way. I learned not to pass someone on the right while turning a corner in the winter in Sault Ste. Marie because you’ll end up in the snowbank without a front bumper. I learned that the hard way, by making the wrong decision and suffering the consequences. Or, two, we can learn from someone with more knowledge and experience. I learned to tie my shoes from my parents who had been tying shoes successfully for years. And, if we are going to learn about what it means to have “numbered days” it would be best to learn from someone with a knowledge of what that means rather than learn it the hard way. God is the only person who can teach us this lesson because He is the only one whose days are not numbered. Psalm 90:4 says, “for 1000 years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past”. God is infinite and eternal and only from that perspective can we learn the true wisdom of not living forever.
To Number our Days…
From Genesis chapter two we are told that the consequence of human sin is death (Genesis 2:17). Moses, the author of Psalm 90 laments this in verse 10 of this psalm,
Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
Words like these are common in the Bible. Both Ecclesiastes and Lamentations use this language and tone to express the sobering reality that all our efforts, trials, joys, and goals in this life, will come to an end. At the end of the day (or perhaps better to say, at the end of our lives), everything we do here is temporary. It will either pass to someone else, be forgotten, or be thrown in the trash. That is the destiny of all flesh. This season of isolation, disease, and disruption is a reminder of how fragile this world and its pleasures are. When we take this knowledge in isolation, it can be destructive. But when we bring this reality to the God who designed and is redeeming our lives, it leads us to greater gain.
That We May Get a Heart of Wisdom.
The sobering glance at our own mortality propels us to greater heights. It is not a meaningless exercise in humility and self-deprecation, rather it is a glorious release and aspiration to live life as God designed it to be lived. We stare death in the face and allow that moment of clarity to refine our actions, motivations, and choices toward wisdom, towards God himself. The heart that knows this world and its pleasures are passing away is a heart that can choose the greater reward with confidence and faith in the promises of Christ.
How many of our sins and sadness come from the fact that we think we will live forever? We get angry because we think our preferences and expectation are the objective reality of the universe. We lust because we think we deserve the glance and there aren’t any consequences. We slack off in our work because tomorrow is no different than today. We put God and His Word on the back-burner because right now, our agenda is more important. Since Adam and Eve took the fruit, we have longed to be like God and live forever (Genesis 3:6). The reality is, there is only one true God over all, and he knows our hearts, and will judge us by every action, word, and thought according to His perfect law. He will do that at the end of time and every man and woman, living and dead will stand before Him to give an account.
When you are going on a vacation at the end of the week, doesn’t that work week go by a little faster? And don’t the stresses of the job pale in comparison to that great rest that is coming? That is what our lives must be like. If we live our lives with the end in mind, everything changes. We need to see each day as a treasure given to us by God for our good and His glory. We have to remember that this life is not all there is, there is another reality coming and that means that people are more important than the task. Holiness is more important than fleeting pleasure. The reality that we are temporary gives us room to live for the Glory of the Eternal One, God Almighty.
But of course, when I say our lives are temporary, I mean this temporal life. The world of sweat, blood, and tears will fade away. But there is another life to come. We were made to live forever and we will live forever. The wisdom we need to learn is that the choices we make on this side of our earthly death will determine our destiny for the eternity ahead of us. Not only does numbering our days help us live wisely now, but it puts the life God has for us in perspective as we try and wrap our minds around what eternity means. Every single man and woman who has ever lived will spend thousands upon thousands of years under the rule of the Triune God of the Bible. Some will live in celebration of His rule having put their faith in His free gift of salvation in Jesus Christ; others will live under eternal judgement having rejected God’s forgiveness and peace offered in Jesus.
Count your days, how many do you really have left? Now compare that to eternity. It is no contest. Choose to commit and follow Christ each and every day. Live in true wisdom and reap the harvest of glory for eternity.