Moses once wrote in the Bible, “The days of our lives are 70 years; and if by reason of strength they are 80 years …” (Psalm 90:10). That doesn’t mean that some of us won’t live beyond 80 years, or that all are guaranteed to reach at least 70 years. But it was written to emphasize the brevity of life.
Moses once wrote in the Bible, “The days of our lives are 70 years; and if by reason of strength they are 80 years…” (Psalm 90:10). That doesn’t mean that some of us won’t live beyond 80 years, or that all are guaranteed to reach at least 70 years. But it was written to emphasize the brevity of life.
This week, George Steinbrenner, the longtime New York Yankees owner, died just at the age of 80. I recalled that when I was little, the idea of reaching the age of 80 seemed incomprehensibly remote. It seemed like an eternity before I would reach one of those seemingly all important ages like 16 when I could finally drive a car. Time appeared to move like molasses. Perhaps your experience was similar.
Yet now, in my late 50s, I realize I’m well past the halfway mark of life, if God indeed allows me those 70 years, or 80 if by reason of strength. Now, instead of seeing time move slowly, it seems to race by, and I wonder where it all went. Time marches on with grandparents and parents having passed on, and the kids grown, raising their kids and living lives of their own.
As such, birthdays, anniversaries and the beginning of each New Year are milestones that help us to be reminded of not only the shortness, but the fleeting nature of our lives. King David wrote, “As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Psalm 103:15-16).
The 19th century London preacher Charles Spurgeon observed that, “We are not cedars, or oaks, but only poor grass, which is vigorous in the spring, but lasts not a summer through. What is there on earth which is more fragile than we!”
Similarly, we read in the letter of James in the Bible, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14).
The world around us reacts to this reality in several ways. Some simply choose to ignore it. They live out their lives, doing the best they can and hoping for the best. Others are embittered by it and become cynical as their bodies and faculties slowly fail, and they are no longer able to enjoy the pleasures of life. Still others try to prolong the inevitable with rigorous health enhancing regimens of vitamins, exercise and positive thinking. What do you do? Maybe you have your own unique way of coping with the reality of your personal mortality?
But what does God’s word say? The writer of Psalm 90, Moses, knew that the brevity of our lives was not a quirk of evolution, or even the predictable end of man’s original nature. God warned Adam that if he disobeyed, he would die. As such, after Adam’s rebellion, God said, “For dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19), and sure enough, Adam eventually died.
Further, sin is not only the cause of death, but it has resulted in God’s righteous condemnation on all of us since God considered Adam to be the one who acted on behalf of all mankind. Moses, having stated the stark reality that “our lives are 70 years; and if by reason of strength they are 80 years,” didn’t avoid the truth, but concluded by requesting of God, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).
To number our days is to put them to profitable use. It doesn’t mean indulging ourselves in the fleeting pleasures of the world, or the flesh. It is not the “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die” philosophy of the foolish. It’s to use the brief time of our earthly stay to become reconciled to God, before our physical death becomes the portal through which we enter into the beginning of everlasting death, damnation and destruction, which is the final reward of sin.
The failings and corruptions of body and faculties are mere foretastes of the dread horrors of God’s wrath in eternity “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (said Jesus in Mark 9:44).
But to truly number our days is to take to heart God’s warning: “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7-8). And “today,” God commands all men to repent of their sins (Acts 17:30) and to place their trust in his son Jesus Christ as their savior, and to serve him as their lord.
To trust in Jesus is to look to him alone as the one who has died on the cross to pay the price of one’s sins. To trust in Jesus is to love him and obey his commands during one’s short time on earth, not as a means of gaining merit for salvation, but as a manifestation of a new heart that God has created within the believer.
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2).
Those who learn to number their days and who truly have a heart of wisdom use their short time on earth, whether it be 70, 80, or even 100 years, to obtain this salvation offered through Jesus Christ and him alone.
The Rev. Paul N. Wanamaker is pastor of the Evangelical Congregational Church of Easton, Mass. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the church go to www.teccoe.org.