The passing of time, as we move from year to year, carries with it the stark reminder of the brevity of life. The older I get, the faster time goes by (or so it seems!). Time is one thing you can never get back, once it is gone. Psalm 90 is a great text to focus on as we start a New Year, for in it we find five tremendous truths about time:
- First, with God there is no such thing, He is eternal. (vs. 1,2)
- Second, with man, it goes by so fast, and is so fleeting. (vs. 4-6)
- Third, what little there is seems to be filled with sorrow. (vs. 7-9)
- Fourth, the best thing we can do with it is use it wisely. (vs. 12)
- Fifth, when Christ returns, this thing called time will “be no more”. (vs. 13)
Verse 1 says: “Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.” The idea here is that we live in, find our home in, our security in, the eternal God! The only safe place to be, as we transition from one year to the next, is to be found in Him! See also Deut. 33:27 “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms”. As a Biblical counselor, I have seen firsthand just how traumatic it is for many people to deal with the passing of the years. But, according to this Psalm, we can face the future with confidence. He not only knows the future, He controls the future. He gives us help and hope.
Verse 6 says: “A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past”. This same formula is repeated in II Peter 3:8. I did the math on this and calculated that a lifetime of 70 years comes out to about one hour and 40 minutes (in God’s reckoning of time). That’s less time than it takes to watch one movie on TV! Surely we all agree with the Biblical truth of the extreme brevity of life. There are seven different analogies used in Scripture to teach how short life is. In verse 4 it is compared to a sentry’s shift—called a “watch in the night”. In Job 7:6 it is compared to a weaver’s shuttle (for those old enough to remember what that is). In Psa. 102:11 it is compared to a fading shadow—probably a reference to the sun dial. In James 4:14 it is compared to vapor, or steam that dissipates like the morning fog that lifts. In Psa. 90:5 it is compared to a night’s sleep. In I Pet. 2:4 it is compared to the grass, or flower of the field, that withers and blows away. And in Psa. 90:9 it is called a “story that is told”.
In verse 7 we read: “yet is their strength labor and sorrow”. These verses are most depressing. It is a description of human life filled with sin, tragedy, pain, suffering, and sorrow. This is comparable to Solomon’s analysis of human life, under the curse of sin, found in Ecclesiastes. What little time we have on earth is certainly wrought with trials and tears. How true is this text! (If this were not true, I would have had no Christian counseling to do over the course of the past 44 years)! There are a lot of people with a lot of hurts and pains.
Finally, in verse 12, we find the practical application—the perfect spiritual prescription for this depressing situation we find ourselves in: “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”. Serve God, not yourself. Man’s philosophy is this: “live it up, go put yourself first, have a good time, enjoy all the pleasures you can”. But God tells us to use our time wisely. The difference between a wise man and a fool is seen in their philosophy of life. The wise man plans ahead, thinks of eternity. The fool lives for the moment, and, like Esau of old, barters away the eternal for the sake of the immediate. Jim Elliot, the missionary to the Inca Indians who was martyred, wrote this: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose!”
Rev. Richard Seefried is a certified clinical Christian counselor at the Help and Hope for Harrisonburg ministry home.