Word-y Gifts for Christian Faith & Life

Ps. 90: Making the most of our numbered days

During my undergraduate studies, I was a member of my university’s choir. Each year, in preparation for our Spring tour and concert, the director selected songs from all over the world for us to learn. Many of them were sung in foreign languages and designed to stretch us vocally. One year, he chose a haunting arrangement of Psalm 90. The composer had managed to make the music match the psalmist’s dark and light themes to a tee. The parts about beauty sounded beautiful, the ones that spoke of God’s wrath sounded wrathful, and those that spoke of evil sounded eerie. We chanted, the sopranos almost screeched, the basses went to the depths, we sang in low soft tones, then suddenly yelled in anger. I never forgot it or its message: our lives are fleeting—we are here today, gone tomorrow—so we better seek God’s wisdom on how to make the most of them.

The psalm is a heartfelt prayer that speaks of God as the powerful Everlasting One and humans as transient creatures who, after a brief life of “labor and sorrow,” quickly return to the dust from which they came. The psalmist prays that God would give us wisdom to make the most of our numbered days, that His beauty would rest on us, and that we would experience the joy and gladness that comes from His love and compassion. He also prays that God would bless our work and make it fruitful.

It is the beginning of 2023. As we plan our tomorrows, Psalm 90 is a sober (not cynical) reminder that our lives are brief. Many of us have made resolutions for the year, but Christians must begin by asking God what he would have us do this year then humbly allow him, in his own way, to rearrange, add to, or remove items from our list, or even give us a whole new one! We do this because, like the psalmist, we recognize that any true satisfaction, joy, happiness, or success in this fleeting life can only come from the all-knowing Everlasting One.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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