“TEACH US TO NUMBER OUR DAYS, THAT WE MAY GAIN A HEART OF WISDOM.” PSALM 90:12
By Asst Ps Timothy Lee
As we near the end of the year, how has the year been for you? For me, it seems 2022 passed by in a blink of an eye, much quicker compared to past years. It was not too long ago, around this time last year, that entry into shopping malls and attending worship services onsite were prohibited for those who had not been vaccinated. For those who had been vaccinated, there was a limit to group sizes for eating out and gatherings. (Do you remember that you could have been fined for mingling with someone seated at another table?)
Thankfully, with the easing of measures this year, many, if not most, of the restrictions have been lifted and life seems “back to normal”. I remember the joy and excitement I had going overseas for the first time after almost 3 years - although it was only across the Causeway for our Staff Planning Retreat in September. What are you thankful for as you look back on 2022?
When it comes to thanksgiving, I am reminded of a verse that is usually read at Year-end Thanksgiving Services. Psalm 90:12 states, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” The Psalmist opens Psalm 90 by addressing God as eternal and Israel’s dwelling place (vv. 1-2) but shifts quickly to the fact that people’s days on earth are brief (vv. 3-4). In contrast to God’s eternity, the brevity of human life is like grass, new in the morning but Gone by the evening (vv. 5-6). Recalling God’s sentence on Adam and Eve (v.3, c.f. Gen. 3:19), the short life span of humans is due to sin’s entry into the world. Our iniquity is the reason God directs His wrath at us (vv. 7-9). All in all, a person can expect to live around 70 or 80 years, much of which is full of toil and trouble (vv. 10-11). Against this backdrop, the psalmist requests of God, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (v. 12).
What does it mean to number our days? It is to realize the brevity of life, which is often futile and fleeting. Our earthly lives will not last long, and we need wisdom from above to make the most out of it. For different people, this might mean different things. But at the most fundamental level, a well-lived life is one in which we know God and are found in the centre of His will.
A well-lived life is also a joyful life. Some may wonder how, amidst the toil and trouble of life, we may find joy. The answer is found in vv.13-16. Here, the Psalmist directs us to God’s unfailing love and mercy. He cries out, “Relent, Lord! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants!” (vv. 13). When we experience God’s great love through his forgiveness of our iniquities found only in Jesus Christ, we will be satisfied with his unfailing love, sing for joy and be glad all the days of our lives (vv. 14-16).
The outlook for 2023 may look gloomy - risk of global recession, ongoing inflation, the Covid situation unabating etc. Psalm 90 is an encouragement to us that despite all these uncertainties, we can come before God to seek His steadfast love, compassion, and joy.
As we prepare to end this year and enter into a New Year, may we do so in the grace, favour and blessing of our Lord. “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.” (v.17)