Psalm 90:12 – “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto Wisdom.” (kjv)
A standard greeting in China is “What is your glorious age?” The equivalent in our western culture would be “How are you doing?” The difference is that in the west, such greetings are more cursory than sincere. Acquaintances don’t usually want to know a lot of details about your life. They aren’t even expecting a response. Rather, they are just being polite.
In the east, genuine interest usually prompts the greeting. The greeter is actually looking for a considered response. They are interested to know how things are going, whether life has treated you well and is allowing you to grow old gracefully. Generally, easterners allow more time for the little things. They seem to be more cognizant of the brevity of life and celebrate it even in informal greetings. Aging therefore, is considered to be a glorious thing.
This same eastern ideal is reflected in our scripture passage. The Psalmist reflects God’s concern that the days of his people be fruitful and productive. In a previous verse, we are told that normal longevity is threescore years and ten, or 70 years. That time is to be spent wisely, applying our hearts unto wisdom. While some room for discussion exists in determining exactly what this entails on an individual basis, all can agree that it is the wise believer who serves their Lord.
The important point being made is that our time to perform that service is limited and we should take our “callings” seriously. The emphasis on life expectancy is made to remind us that our time is fleeting and we need to be about the Master’s business.
I think it is important to note the Lord’s use of the word “days” rather than “years”. When we think in terms of 70 years, it seems like such a long time. Indeed, it is a lifetime and a milestone that does not resonate with most people, particularly the young. It is such a large number and so far off that it does not promote a sense of urgency.
If we translate 70 years, breaking it down to more manageable chunks of time, the urgency becomes more apparent. When we consider that 70 years is actually only 840 months, reality begins to set in. Months are not that long. They pass by rather quickly. Some of them don’t even have 31 days.
Now then, when we express 70 years in terms of weeks, we arrive at an even more startling figure. There are 3640 weeks that comprise the average life. A week is a very short chunk of time. Weeks pass very quickly. We usually anticipate events in our lives in terms of weeks. Those events seem far off, but they arrive and pass very quickly.
When it comes to the number of days in our lives, people generally exhibit the same peculiar misconception. Asked how many days the average person lived, most people in a small group of friends responded with “millions”. They were not trying to be funny. They actually did not consciously know how many days the average person lived. They were unprepared for the question and somehow sub-consciously imagined that 70 years was such a long period of time that “millions” seemed like a good answer.
They were extremely skeptical when I informed them that 70 years equates to just under 26,000 days, as I am sure you are. That is a very sobering number. We all know how quickly days pass. It doesn’t take long to whittle away at this small number.
Let’s add even more impact to these figures. If you are 30 years old, you have already used up 11,000 of those days. If you are 50, you only have a little over 7,000 days remaining. As a member of the latter group, I can assure you that the last half of the days allotted to our lives seem to pass a whole lot quicker than the first half.
God does not use words flippantly. He knew that if we numbered our days, that is, if we realized how short our days are, it would serve to motivate us to apply our hearts unto wisdom. What is your glorious age? How many days do you have remaining? Are you using them wisely? Are you about the Master’s business?