To Number Our Days.
Of course, numbering our days isn't really about mathematical calculations or numerical progressions through the stages of life. Still, talking about the years of life, birthdays, and age provides a moment of comic relief on occasion. So, let's have some fun with a little age arithmetic today. Several years ago someone sent me a web site that will calculate the actual number of days you have lived. As of this morning, January 22, 2020, I have lived 25,654 days; which translates to 3,664 weeks and six days; 70 years and 87 days, + 17 leap days; 842.84 months; or 70.238 years. Surely King David wasn't asking God for space age algorithms to number the days of his life. It is fascinating, however, and if you'd like to do the math work on your age click here. As you do it, remember Psalm 112:7 (ESV)---"He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord". Yea, verily! Amen and Amen!
Even so, there's plenty of math when considering the age thing. The people down in the insurance underwriting department tell us that American citizens live an average of 78.7 years. Our life expectancy has declined for several years and lags behind the 80.3 years in the other developed nations (Canada, Germany, France, Mexico, Japan, and the United Kingdom). They all exceed the three-score and ten (70) years referenced in the Bible (see Psalm 90: 10). In another direction, celebrating the number of our days is a huge retail market in the United States. Manufacturers and retailers report selling 7.5 billion greeting cards every year, half of which are birthday cards. It is a $7+ billion boost to our national economy. The point being that numbering our days is a big deal in our age sensitive culture.
Age numbers are significant in the Bible as well, especially in the Old Testament historical accounts. In ancient times gray hair signaled a blessed life, perhaps even an evidence of wisdom. Spiritual leaders like Moses lived multiples of 40 years, another presumed proof of maturity and experience. Most of us question the longevity of life in those ancient years, how mere humans could live 969 years, the number attributed to Methuselah, or Cainan 910 years, Mahalaleel 895 years, and many more. There are before/after flood theories, literal/figurative number proposals, or that the giant old ages were indicative of clan lives, and other explanations. The truth is we just don't know. Taking a more literal view I usually accept the extended number of days without knowing God's purpose in providing it. Age was important, however.
Even with biblical numbering systems King David's prayer, at least in my very limited opinion, isn't about actually counting days. King David prayed "Teach us to number our days..." so that Israel would be aware of the brevity of life and therefore place a great value on their limited days. The Kings most obvious concern was Israels tendency to overlook the moment. Being a people of history they allowed their past to dictate their actions in the here and now. The long and short of it was that they were often very unwise in making decisions and choosing their direction. God had made them so many promises. I mean, read the Old Testament for some enlightenment about what God had promised his chosen people!!!! They lingered and floundered because they believed, as God's chosen people, they had plenty of time to fulfill what God had asked of them. King David wanted them to remember their mortality---their brief number of days---so they could wisely deploy them. Numbering our days isn't about how many candles are on the birthday cake! No, numbering our days is about the simple recognition that time is limited and there's still work to do.
What is that work? Building a more impressive net worth? Titles that earn us prestige and a corner office? Degree abbreviations after our name? A more elaborate place at the beach? Go ahead, make a list of what matters most in your brief number of days. Is that list a compilation of genuine wisdom, or a wish list of human wanna bes? Realizing that life is a gift, that life has value, that life is truly brief, should move us from the mundane urgent matters to the realities of profound importance. And, there's plenty of Scriptural guidance about choosing the more important paths for life. One of my favorites, a genuine source of inspiration over the years has been in the Apostle Paul's Epistle to the Philippians---
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it
my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I
have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining
forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call
of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything
you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.
Philippians 3: 12-15, ESV
Paul understood the realities about time. He wrote often about making the best use of the time (see Ephesians 5:15), about reaping in due season (Galatians 6:9), the proper time of the Lord (Titus 1: 3), the appointed time (1 Corinthians 7:29), the fullness of time (Ephesians 1: 10), now being the favorable time (2 Corinthians 6:2), the hour having come (Romans 13:11), and so many more. With King David this first century missionary and Apostle knew that numbering our days wasn't about clicking digits on a counting device or the calendar. It is about living the life God expects while there is time.
Yes, this life is a gift. Every life is precious. And, it is brief. We are all created for a purpose. Numbering our days is about fulfilling that purpose, and it should begin right now. Even if you're in the "Between 65 and ...?" category.
Friday? A Heart of Wisdom.