“Teach us to number our days”
“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Each man’s life is but a breath.
Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:
He bustles about, but only in vain;
he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.
“But now, Lord, what do I look for?
My hope is in you.
— Psalm 39:4-7
The length of our days is seventy years –
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span [a] is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
Who knows the power of your anger?
For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.
Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
— Psalm 39:4-7
These two verses have been more and more important to me as I realize just how short life is. At 59 years of age, I’m seeing more and more trouble, more and more disease and death. I realized I don’t have an infinite amount of time, and the thought of wasting a day is unacceptable to me, now. I want to make the rest of my days count.
The Hebrew word for “number” is much bigger than just “to count”. It means to give an accounting, to account for – you have to show that you made a profit, or used what you were given well.
Twice now I’ve heard the illustration of the stones in the jar and it has stuck with me. I even saved a big jar from mom, Dorothy’s’ stuff to use for the purpose. The story goes like this: the Rabbi collected enough small stones in a jar to represent one for each day of the rest of what he thought his lifespan might be, 70 years or so. Every morning he would reach in the jar and take a stone and put it in his pocket, where he could feel it. At the end of each day, he would pull the stone out of his pocket and talk to God and discuss how he used the day. Then he would throw away the stone. Day after day, he could see the amount of stones in the jar being reduced. It was a great reminder to the rabbi that he had a limited amount of time and that he must use them the best way possible.
I know I have a limited number of stones. The jar is going down very quickly. I must use each day wisely. Father, forgive me when I waste a day and I don’t use it in a productive way for your kingdom. When you are young, you think there is an endless supply. Now I am being reminded each day that there is a finite number of time that we have. Teach me to number my days.
About the author:
Bob is the creator of this site and a disciple of Ray Vander Laan. Along with his wife of 50 years, he teaches a Bible study at Christ’s Church in Roswell, NM. He is also an avid hunter and fisher.