For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 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. Who considers the power of Your anger, and Your wrath according to the fear of You? So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Return O Lord! How long? Have pity on Your servants! Satisfy us in the morning with Your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days" Psalm 90:9-14
When I was a kid, thinking about death and the brevity of life completely freaked me out. I would often stare in the mirror for several minutes at a time, getting myself worked up over the looming reality of my imminent death. These episodes were quite dramatic, to say the least. Somehow staring at my reflection for longer than just a moment stirred up all kinds of existential questions that sent me into a total meltdown on multiple occasions. In attempting to take my adolescent imagination to the end of my days, I had to face the reality that, one day, it would all be over. Even if I could somehow chase down some significance and live the life of my dreams, there would still be no escaping an inevitable end. Somehow I understood, even before I came to know the God of the Bible, that in light of eternity, my days on earth were but a passing moment, a mere drop in a bucket. I knew that there had to be more to the story. There had to be something out there that was worth pursuing. I wouldn't find out until years later that that something was a Someone, and He was already at work pursuing me.
In Psalm 90, Moses weighs the frailty of man's life against the eternality of a holy God. Many biblical commentators say that he wrote this Psalm towards the end of the Israelites' journey through the wilderness headed to the promised land.
Picture this: as Moses led a stubborn and unbelieving people from shelter to shelter, through foreign and hostile territories, desperately and daily dependent upon God's miraculous provision, these were his musings along the way.
I can imagine Moses reflecting on all of the long, grueling years that the people of Israel lived in constant need of God's miraculous provision. In the end, he concludes that it is only in Yahweh, the sovereign and eternal God, that a frail and temporary humanity can find ultimate refuge and satisfaction. Moses understood that more than their tents and their armies, more than the treasures and trinkets they clung to on their journey, more than the precious gifts from God's hand, more than even the Promised Land with all its anticipated glory; they were in desperate need of God Himself. They could depend upon Yahweh alone to satisfy their restless souls for all of eternity. They could trust in Yahweh alone to give significance to their numbered days.
Many of the Israelites' wilderness generation died and passed over into eternity without ever really believing that. Despite having God Himself dwelling in their midst, they clung to the things of the earth as if they weren't going to fade away. But they did. Because they always do, and they always will. But the same God who beckoned them over and over again to spend their short lives loving Him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength is beckoning us, thousands of years later, to do the same. The God who gave His Son over to die a sinner's death so that by faith in Him, our eternal trajectory could be changed forever is inviting us to be fully satisfied in Him now.
Oh, that God would give us the wisdom for which Moses prayed. The wisdom to number our days here on earth and to spend them pursuing satisfaction in God alone. For it is only until we are satisfied in Him that we will ever truly know the joy of living, whether our lives extend for 80 more years or 80 more seconds.
"In this Eternal One there is a safe abode for the successive generations of men. If God Himself were of yesterday, he would not be a suitable refuge for mortal men; if He could change and cease to be God He would be but an uncertain dwelling-place for His people" (Spurgeon)