Teach Us To Number Our Days

As I was working my way through my daily Bible reading today, I was struck by Psalm 90. Read through it with me really quickly, and then I want to make some observations.

Psalm 90 - A Prayer of Moses, the man of God.
"1    Lord, you have been our dwelling place
in all generations.
2    Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3    You return man to dust
and say, “Return, O children of man!”
4    For a thousand years in your sight
are but as yesterday when it is past,
or as a watch in the night.

5    You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream,
like grass that is renewed in the morning:
6    in the morning it flourishes and is renewed;
in the evening it fades and withers.

7    For we are brought to an end by your anger;
by your wrath we are dismayed.
8    You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9    For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
10    The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
       yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
11    Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

12    So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13    Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
14    Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
15    Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
16    Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
17    Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!"

Meditation
One of the first observations we might make about Psalm 90, is its structure. The Psalm begins with a section that we might very well call a "meditation." Moses, in a moment of sheer awestruck adoration for God, makes some incredibly profound and insightful statements about God. The first 11 verses comprise this "mediation." And what statements does Moses make about God?

1. God is Eternal
Vv. 1 and 2 speak of the eternal grandeur of God. He existed before the even the mountains. Anyone who has been at the top of a mountain range (perhaps scaled the summit of one of the great 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado) knows the sense of awe and wonder that standing on the mountaintop can bring. You feel small. Insignificant. You’re in the presence of the ancient. The transcendent. And yet God has existed from time immemorial...before the mountains were formed by His very word, He was. He is the foundation which undergirds all foundations. Even the mountains themselves. There is no secure dwelling place for man except in Him. Here we have no true home. But in hope we look forward to that day when we will dwell with God, and He with us.

2. Man is Frail
In contrast to the stability and eternality of God, Moses now directs our attention to the brief and often strife-stricken lives on men. Vv. 3-6 speak of God returning men to dust. Despite our hubris and pride, our lives pass by in the blink of an eye for God. A thousand years for God is but “yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” Moses compares the lives of men to debris swept away by a flood, to details from a waking dream (which seem so hazy at first, and then disappear as quickly as they were dreamed), and to grass that greens in the morning and then is withered by the hot afternoon sun. We truly have very little time that is given us. Barely any at all by God’s standards. The time we have here should, indeed, be viewed as precious, precisely because we have so little that is granted to us.

3. Sin and Wrath
The third section of Psalm 90 zeroes in on the true problem of man. His central issue. The issue behind all of his issues, we might say. Moses recognizes that our greatest problem is not simply our frailty, though this is a sad truth. The greatest problem that we have is that we are also sinners, justly condemned and destroyed by the wrath of God. And what is the source of our destruction? Why are our days so short? Because of the sin which infects and affects all humanity. We die because Adam sinned (Romans 5:12-21) and because we ourselves also sin. This is the sorry state we find ourselves in as human beings. Yet, sadly, so few of us are actually aware of the state in which we find ourselves.

Prayer
The second section in Psalm 90 is a prayer. Montgomery Boice describes this section of Pdsalm 90 as “an appeal to God for an outpouring of His grace – that we may be satisfied with God himself and that our work might endure as something of lasting value even though we ourselves quickly pass away.” This prayer is comprised of three petitions.

1. Teach Us to Number our Days (v. 12)
Moses knows the way forward for those of us who are so self-absorbed and who waste so much time chasing frivolous things. We recognize life’s brevity, and in so doing, we gain true wisdom for how to live our lives each day. Moses prays as we should each pray, that God will help us to live holy and upright lives in His sight, all our days. Of all the disciplines we might pursue in this life, numbering our days may be the hardest. Time is short. So may we use it wisely and for His glory.

2. Satisfy Us With Love (v. 14)
Moses please with God to satisfy us with His steadfast love, so that we may truly rejoice and be glad all of our days. The only thing in this life that truly satisfies us is God Himself. Ask any Christian man or woman who lies on their deathbed what is important in this life. They will tell you. We generally gain some clarity about what matters when we reach the end. May God help us to forget to attempt to fill our lives with mere trinkets and material goods. Not even human relationships satisfy us. Not forever. Human love is fickle. Augustine said, “You made us for yourself, and our hearts find no peace until they find rest in you.” So may God Himself satisfy us with His love. The only love that we really need.

3. Establish the Work of our Hands (v. 17)
With the weakness and sin that infects every thing we put our hands on, what hope do we frail vessels have for our work? Moses appeals to the grace of God to make what he had been trying to do for God worthwhile. Moses knew that God needed nothing from him. God needs nothing from any of us. However, if God has put us in positions to do good works “which” He “prepared beforehand” (Ephesians 2:10), then let us find out what those good works might be, and while we do them, may we always pray that God might truly establish it, so that it might remain to bless posterity and draw those after us to the source of life and grace and truth. May our work outlast us, and point those around us to Christ!


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