“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’ For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers…So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:2-6, 12)
One of the benefits of writing a devotional blog is the opportunity to consider current events. I was planning to write about the inheritance of the wise today, and my meditations led me to this Psalm 90:12, which naturally led me to think about and grieve over the recent deaths of the students and teachers at the school in Parkland, Florida. James Boice wrote in his commentary: “Psalm 90 is a reflection on human mortality and the brevity of life, plus quiet confidence in God who is the steadfast hope of the righteous. This psalm is probably the greatest passage in the Bible contrasting the grandeur of God with man’s frailty.” Isaac Watts’ hymn, “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past,” is frequently sung at funerals and is based on Psalm 90. It was probably written by Moses who had experienced the deaths of his siblings, Miriam and Aaron, with whom he ministered for much of his adult life.
The psalm begins with a statement of God’s grandeur on verses 1-2. Moses then turns our attention to man’s frailty and brief life in contrast to God’s eternality. God is infinite in every way, including his physical existence. Man is physically mortal without Christ, and even with him, we humans have a limited life-span on earth before Jesus returns, and with him, we are raised. Sudden death is especially horrifying, for believers and unbelievers. It rips away those we love from our presence, without warning and often violently. Our knowledge that death is the result of sin in the world makes us even more righteously indignant at the destruction of victims who died too young, too fast, and too cruelly.
So, what are we to do? As we grieve, which is right, we also ask God to “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). Lord, help us to accept the brevity of life here and the importance of living in Christ, for Christ, and through Christ, sharing his gospel with those who are in our paths. Take us to those who are unprepared for death to know that you are “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).