From our perspective, life is short and uncertain. We control neither the length nor the circumstances of life. These are imbedded in the eternal decrees of God, only to be revealed as He wills. There is nothing in time to indicate the transition from one moment to another. As the hymn says, “Time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away.”
If we are on the ocean, we can notice motion if a ship is going faster than the current, but not if it is just carried along with the current. If we stand on our front lawn, we notice very little movement of the earth. Yet, the fact is we are rotating at just over 1,000 miles per hour. And we are revolving around the sun at a speed of 67,000 miles per hour! We need something stationary in order to see the speed at which we are traveling. The same is true of time for us creatures. We need to look to the One who does not change (James 1:17) — our eternal God.
For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.Psalm 90:4
Because we are creatures and cannot really see time pass, the psalmist petitions God, “So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (90:12) It is God alone who must impress upon us the rapidity, the brevity, and the uncertainty of our days. We can see the effects of time pretty clearly as we grow older and things around us begin to decay. But we cannot estimate the speed of time unless we look at God who does not move. Only the creator of time can teach us to number our days. Only God knows the number of our days.
Numbering our days does not mean just counting them in terms of days, months, and years. While looking at the brevity of life God has given us here, what ought to occupy our thoughts is how those days are used. Sometimes time seems to move fast, and at other times very slowly. It depends on the situation we are in. In fact, time is a steady movement which waits for no man. It is ceaseless. It is irretrievable — the past is gone forever.
The eternal God must teach us the brevity of this life so we will not squander it. Every moment in our life belongs to God. Every moment must be dedicated to God’s glory. This is our “day” to work, and after this comes the “night when no man can work” (cf. John 9:4).
The best measure of our time is not only in moments, but in the value we place on our momentary existence. Have we made wise use of this limited commodity? The reason we ask God to teach us to count our days is that we might gain a heart of wisdom. We need the wisdom of God to instruct us how to use time wisely.
The gospel is called the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 2:7). Unbelievers call it foolishness, but it is the wisdom of men that God calls foolishness (1 Corinthians 1:20-21). Wisdom is the right use of the knowledge of God’s Word in faith and life.
How will we improve the use of our days? Several things are paramount here: do not waste time in idleness, do not use God’s time to engage in evil or useless pursuits, and do all to the glory of God and the benefit of our neighbor. A wise use of time means you will have time for everything, and do everything in its proper time. It also means you will humbly see the relationship that we as creatures have with our Creator.
The time will come when time will be no more (Revelation 10:6). Not only will we pass out of this world, but when Christ returns He will usher in a glorious eternity. Each moment of time now is labor and sorrow (Psalm 90:10). Perfect rest and peace still await us. Time without end awaits us. Without this reward of God’s grace as a basis for our lives, all our days on this earth would be in vain.
Time, like the earth itself, is flying fast. Change and decay in all around we see. To gauge the movement of time, we need to see something stationary. There is One who does not change. Therefore keep your life focused on Jesus Christ, whom the Bible says, “is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Pray that God will teach you to number your days, so your heart will be wise in the things of God as you live your life in this new year.