I encountered the following while reading my Bible this morning. I have read through the Bible in a year using many various programs, but this year I am reading through the ESV from Genesis to Revelation in about 3-4 chapters per day. Having read this before, it must not have struck me in the same way before . . . But when I read it, a conversation ensued with God.
Psalm 90:10-12 says, “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 get a heart of wisdom.”
My first observation was to be mildly impressed with how close the Psalmist came to our current life expectancy. 70-80ish is a pretty good guess right now for a person like me, born in America with a fairly healthy lifestyle.
But the verses don’t stay on the surface for long . . . Moses wasn’t playing around. He goes from the duration to the quality in two words . . . And the words are toil and trouble. I do not believe for a moment that Moses never enjoyed a sunset or good food or laughter. But I do believe that he experienced the same thing you and I have. We live in the valley of the shadow of death. Every life experience is cast within the shadow of the specter of the great limiter of time. I experienced death as a young child, and he has followed me throughout life. And he has in part taught me to number my days and to live with a healthy fear of God.
It is funny that Moses would feel the need to remind us all that we are finite, except for the fact that we all need regular reminders that we are finite. We can get so caught up in day in and day out work, toil and trouble (or the attempted avoidance of these) that we lose sight of the reality of limited time.
But Moses is not just interested in discouraging us . . . As if he wants us to rest in the fact that all is toil and trouble it flies and is gone. (And by the way, when he says the years are soon gone I can testify that the years between 25 and 43 are a blur!) I am convinced that Moses wants to point our attention elsewhere by what comes next. Moses asks us, “Who lives in the fear of the Lord? Who takes the time to pause and consider the power of God’s anger and wrath?”
And when I look around me it feels like Moses is on to something that my society needs. I believe few live according the fear of God. As a matter of fact, I live in a society that seems to encourage the opposite. It seems much more trendy to speak of God’s acceptance of all. The God we have made in our image is nothing to fear. He is huggable. He is no longer a consuming fire, but more like a warm campfire to roast some dogs and provide us with s’mores.
But as I am currently preaching through the book of Revelation, God is offering me a wake up call to his strong will to judge by the intensity of His holiness and justice. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and so we would be wise to number our days or at least follow Moses’ example by petitioning the Lord to teach us to number our days!
Life is short. The righteous wrath of God is real. And a heart of wisdom will help us to turn to God in these 70-80ish years of brief life.
Thank you Moses for the great reminder! I am grateful for the grace I have through my lord and savior, Jesus Christ. I am glad that the wrath I deserved was paid out to Christ on my behalf at the cross. And I still am called to a fearful awe and respect toward God. The thin line that separates me from eternal condemnation is drawn by the blood of Jesus.