“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” Psalm 90:1-2
One certainty as we enter into each new year of life is God Himself. He has been man’s dwelling place in all generations. He has created us, given us life, and holds our life in His hand. “In him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth … And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1, 2). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:1-4).
The Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has always been and always will be! You and I have been created by God, and we still depend upon Him for our every breath! Cf. Psalm 139:13-16; Daniel 5:23.
Our lives are short, averaging only 70 to 80 years. We are like grass which grows up and flourishes in the morning but is cut down and withers by evening. Our lives pass like a watch in the night. Because of our sins, which are ever before the LORD, we feel the heat of His wrath and wither and die.
Knowing this, we ought to “number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (v. 12). We ought to read and study His Word that we might learn the truth about ourselves and the lives we live here in this world. And, we ought to repent of our rebellious and sinful ways and turn unto the LORD in faith and receive the compassion and mercy which He offers and gives for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death of His own Son, Jesus Christ, in our stead!
Then, when we trust in God to mercifully forgive us for Jesus’ sake, we can “rejoice and be glad all our days” (v. 14). We can live our short lives here in faith because we have been redeemed by God’s own dear Son and have everlasting joy awaiting us in heaven when this life is done!
O everlasting God, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Let us see the brevity of this life and its cause, our own sinfulness; and let us return unto You for mercy and forgiveness for the sake of Christ Jesus, the Son, and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Amen.
“Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.” Psalm 90:3-6
Why is that we grow old and die? Why do our bodies not continue to rejuvenate and live forever? The answer is here, in the Scriptures: “Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men.”
God turns us to destruction. He causes our bodies to grow old and ultimately die. Why would God do this? Is it some sort of cruel joke He plays upon us by giving us life and then taking it from us?
It’s not a cruel joke, but it is true. God, through Moses, the human author of this psalm, tells us it is so. Moses witnessed it as an entire generation died in the wilderness. We witness it yet today as generations die. And, of course, whether we wish to admit it or not, we too must finally face the truth stated in this psalm as each one of us gets older, weaker, and ultimately dies and returns to the dust of the ground.
“Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as a sleep: in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and withereth.”
God is eternal. A thousand years to God is like a single day when it is past – like a few-hour watch in the night. Our entire lives, on the other hand, are like a dream which suddenly vanishes away. They are swept away, as in a flood. We are like grass which is growing and flourishing in the morning but cut down and withered by evening (cf. Isaiah 40:6-8).
Should we be surprised by this? When Adam sinned in the Garden, God told him what would happen: “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:17-19).
Again, we may like to think this passage of God’s Word doesn’t apply to us, but we are descendants of Adam. We have inherited his sinful nature and are under the same curse. Adam’s life – though long by our standards – was cut short because of his sin. Our lives, too, are cut short because of our sin. Unto dust, we return!
Though we may think it terrible that we must grow old and die, it is a blessing that it is so. God created Adam and Eve holy and without sin. They lived in perfect harmony with God their Maker. But all that was lost in the fall, and we too are born into this world at enmity with God. Instead of loving God, trusting Him and seeking to honor and glorify Him, we love ourselves, doubt God and His Word, and selfishly seek our own ambitions and glory.
God has something far better in mind for us than a continued existence in sin and disobedience in a world cursed because of sin and disobedience. That’s why He sent His only begotten Son into this world a true man to live a perfect and sinless life for us and then suffer and die upon the cross for your sins, my sins and the sins of the whole world.
Christ Jesus paid in full, and through faith in our crucified and risen Savior, we sinners have forgiveness for all our sins and the promise of life everlasting in a perfect world where we will live without sin and in perfect fellowship with God our Maker. That is far better than living on here in rebellion against the Lord God and His commandments!
Yes, it’s true; even believers in Jesus have to die. Though they have forgiveness for all their sins and the certainty of life everlasting in heaven, their bodies grow old, become weak and diseased, and finally return to dust. But their souls are carried by God’s angels into heaven. And on the Last Day, their bodies will be raised up and changed into perfect and glorified bodies – no longer subject to sin and death. Then, believers in Christ Jesus will live on forever in perfect harmony and fellowship with the LORD God, their Maker and Redeemer.
Indeed, “Our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Yes, we must die here in this world. But, in Christ Jesus, we shall never die but live forever with Him in the mansions of His Father’s house!
O dearest Lord Jesus, grant me faith to trust in You for the forgiveness of all my sins and for a place in Your everlasting kingdom. Grant that I might face my own death trusting in You for life. Amen.
“For we are consumed by thine anger, and by thy wrath are we troubled. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance. For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Psalm 90:7-12
The truth expressed by this ancient psalm of Moses may be hard for us to swallow. Our lives here in this world – our youth, our health, our strength, our beauty – are consumed by God’s anger. Why? All our sins, including our secret sins, are laid out before Him. God sees into our hearts and knows our every thought and desire. No evil thought or desire, no unkind word or evil act is hidden from His sight.
From the time of our conception and birth on, we are subject to the divine judgments of a holy and pure God against sin. Each and every day of our lives pass away in His wrath and judgment. When we are young, we may not realize this; but as we grow older, we see and feel His anger and judgment upon us for our sinfulness.
As the psalm says, we “spend our years as a tale that is told.” They pass quickly and then are over and past. Our lifespan, even with modern medicine, is still only about 70 years. And if we reach 80 or more, our years are filled with labor and sorrow. Our lives – even if long – are “soon cut off, and we fly away” to meet our Maker and be judged by Him.
God’s anger and wrath against sin and His judgments upon us are hard for us to fathom. We don’t fully know or understand how to fear and honor the LORD God, nor do we understand and rightly consider His wrath against our own sin. We fail to consider how quickly life is cut off. We don’t recognize, even as we see death and suffering around us, that we too will soon die and meet our Maker and Judge.
Moses prays and we too ought to pray: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
Rather than spending our days in this world as though we will never die and face God’s judgment, we ought to number our days and realize that time is short here in this world. Why? “That we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” – that we might hear and study God’s Word and learn of Him and His ways.
If we read and study the Bible – which is God’s Word – we will not only learn of God’s will and our utter sinfulness. We will learn of His mercy in sending His Son Christ Jesus into the world to suffer and die for our sins and rise again that we might have forgiveness for our sins and not be condemned when we stand before His throne of judgment. We will learn that God offers and gives life eternal through faith in Messiah Jesus.
The Bible tells us, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). It also says, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:14-17).
O LORD God, give us the wisdom to realize that life is short and we will soon fly away to stand before Your throne of judgment. Teach us to number our days and apply our hearts unto wisdom that we may not put off what is important but, starting now and continuing throughout our lives, devote ourselves to the study of Your Word that we may learn of You and of the salvation You have provided for us and all people in Your Son, Jesus Christ. In His name, we pray. Amen.
“Return, O LORD, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” Psalm 90:13-17
Sometimes we wonder how long it will be before the LORD turns to us in mercy. When will He cease dealing with us in wrath and show us His compassion and forgiveness?
For 40 years, Moses saw the people of Israel dying in the wilderness because of the Lord’s wrath and judgment against their unbelief and sin (cf. Numbers 13-14; Deuteronomy 1:22ff.) Moses too, because of His own disobedience, was prohibited from entering the land of promise (cf. Numbers 20:1-13; 27:12-14).
As sinners, deserving nothing but God’s wrath and punishment, we too pray that the LORD God would turn to us in mercy. We pray that His wrath, which we all see and feel on account of our sins, will quickly accomplish its work in us and that God would show to us His mercy and forgiveness.
“O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” We pray that we might learn and take hold of God’s grace and mercy by faith early in life that we might rejoice and be glad all our days. Though we see and feel God’s judgments against sin in our lives and in the world, we pray that God would graciously reveal to us His mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the sacrifice of the Son – that He would make us know that in Christ Jesus our sins have been paid for in full and are, through faith in Christ’s sacrifice, forgiven us for Jesus’ sake. Then, even though we must suffer – His chastening – in this world as a result of our sinfulness and the wrath of God against sin, we know that God has pardoned us, forgiven us and will give us life everlasting with Him in heaven for Jesus’ sake. We take comfort in His mercy. We rejoice in it and are glad that He has accomplished our eternal salvation and that the everlasting joys of heaven await us.
Moses prayed, “Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children.”
With Moses and all the people of God, we pray that the LORD would turn our sorrows into joy and gladness. We pray that, as we have suffered and felt the wrath of God against sin during much of our earthly lives, so He would also, in His grace and mercy, fill us with true gladness and joy – that we would see and know the mighty working of our God in sending His Son to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of all the world. We pray that both we and our children would see and know the glorious salvation won for us through the innocent sufferings and death of God’s Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Indeed, many times when I pray, all I can say is: “Lord, have mercy upon me” and “Lord, have mercy upon the souls of my children and grandchildren and grant that they too would know You and the great and glorious salvation You have provided for them in Christ Jesus.”
Moses concludes this inspired psalm: “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”
O let the beauty – the wondrous righteousness and holiness of Christ Jesus – be upon us! Let us be cleansed with Jesus’ blood and be reckoned righteous and holy in Your sight, O Lord!
May God grant us life in fellowship with Him for Jesus’ sake, and may He bless and establish the work of our hands. May He move us and enable us to live our lives for Him and to do the work He has given us to do that others, too, might see and take hold of God’s mercy and forgiveness through faith in Christ Jesus.
Turn to us in mercy, O LORD God, and show us the glorious salvation You have provided for us and all mankind in Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior. In His name we pray. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]