I was privileged to share the gospel with a 92yr-old woman today. We sat together on a porch painted black and shadowed by wind-teased oaks. Geese played nearby in a man-made pond stocked with bluegill, bass and fat brown catfish, and all the bucks I’d been looking for all season lay sleeping in the lawn under low trees heavy with apples and shade. We sat together on a porch painted black and the woman said, “The days just seem to fly by faster and faster,” and it made me think of the words of Moses in Psalm 90, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” What does it mean to ‘number our days?’
Author Sandra Felton tells the story of a man who, based on his best guess at how many days he could expect to live, filled a jar with marbles, one for each week he had left. The man would remove a marble from his jar and carry it around in his pocket all week long. Then, each Sunday, he would remove the marble from his pocket and give it to a child at church. In this way, he metered out the days and weeks of his life, one marble at a time.
Maybe you find this just a little bit grim. But for this man, each marble served as a concrete, visual reminder of something the rest of us work very hard to forget—that we are not long for this world. That like milk or a green leaf in Autumn, we have an expiration date in the land of the living. There’s a principle in money management that says money, for many of us, is like water in our hands, and if we don’t keep track of where we spend it, we’ll be forever asking where it went. So, too, with life. “The days just seem to fly by faster and faster,” she said, moving to a chair more fully in shade, which had shifted since we’d first sat down.
The words of Moses here are a prayer, a prayer “that God would teach us to number our days, as if the present one was the last; for we cannot boast of tomorrow,” says John Gill in his exposition of Psalm 90. “We know not but this day, or night, our souls may be required of us.” To ‘number our days’ is to live in the awareness that our sunrises and sunsets will not go on forever; it is to live each day as our last, because the tricky thing about death is… we don’t know God’s schedule. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Why does numbering our days get us ‘a heart of wisdom?’ Do you know, when a person pauses to number his days, there’s a door opens up a bit wider in the heart towards the things of God…
The preceding verse in Psalm 90 says this—
“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.” There’re several different Hebrew words translated “fear” in our English Bible, but they don’t all convey identical meaning. In the case of the word ‘fear’ in this passage from Psalm 90, the word is yir'âh. Where other Hebrew words for ‘fear,’ and ‘the fear of God’ have to do with dread or abject terror, the word yir’ah conveys the meaning of admitting your vulnerable smallness in the presence of God’s overpowering vastness, similar to what you would feel if you stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon and looked out. The word here means a recognition of and submission to the all-encompassing authority of God.
This verse, then, is very clear: God’s wrath towards people at the end of days is ‘according to’ their recognition of and submission to His authority. And do you know that when a person pauses to number their days, facing his or her mortality, there’s a door opens up a bit wider in the heart towards submission to the things of God— and the choice to submit to Him is ‘getting a heart of wisdom.’ “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10, Psalms 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, Job 28:28, etc.).
So what does “the fear of the LORD” look like for us, today? What is a true “God-fearing” man or woman? It is a man or woman who submits their life to Jesus. Jesus, through whom all things were created (Colossians 1:16), Jesus, God in the flesh (John 1:1-5,14), Jesus, the perfect man who took our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21), Jesus, the innocent man who took our punishment (1 Peter 3:18), Jesus, who rose again to life (Acts 2:29-32), Jesus, who personified salvation (John 3:16), Jesus, who claimed all the authority of God in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18), JESUS—and this is His gospel. Have you submitted your life to Jesus? When you do, it’s a healthy fear that purges the abject terror of God’s wrath, because “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Whether or not you’ve ‘numbered your days,’ your days are numbered, and most of us won’t be blessed with as many todays to ‘get a heart of wisdom’ as the woman I spoke with on the porch painted black. Take it from someone who knows— ‘the days will just fly by faster and faster.’ So to you, I repeat the appeal of St. Paul in the New Testament book of 2 Corinthians, chapters 5,6—“We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he (God) made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
I was privileged to share the gospel with a 92yr-old woman today. We sat together on a porch painted black and shadowed by wind-teased oaks. When I’d finished explaining what Jesus did for her, and that salvation required submitting to Christ through belief, I looked at her and asked, “What do you think about what I’ve just told you?”‘I believe this!” she said with feeling, and eternity unfolded before her, even as the shadows forever fled.
Surrounded By Grace,