We are all of us just passing through this life. But there are folks who live as if this life will last forever. For that matter, Science seems to think it would be a great idea if we could unlock the ability to live forever. I have a problem with that notion.
See, David looks at the situation like this: He had some stuff to say — both good and bad — and he clamped his mouth shut to avoid saying the bad, but found out that he stopped talking altogether. Sometimes, our actions are like that. We try to stop doing something that is bad and end up ceasing from good, too. Where this experience leads David is to the point where he wants God to show him how brief a time he really has in this life. How short a time will there be a King David sitting on the throne of Israel. It was not a long period of time.
The average human life span in the United States is between 70 and 80 somewhere, though I hear that the number is dropping. If the sum total of recorded human history is rounded to about 7000 years (I think it’s more, but this number makes for easy math), then a human life is, at the moment, about 1% of the total recorded history of humanity. And the ratio keeps on dropping.
So what? So everything. See, David wants to get that perspective. I think he wants that perspective for two reasons.
One, I think that he wants the perspective to understand how comparatively little time he will be alive and thus to have his mind blown anew by God’s intimate involvement in such a miniscule sliver of human history. God takes the time and trouble to be intimately involved with the lives of His children. He not only arranges every event in my life, but arranged every event in my genetic history to eventually result in me. He did the same for every person alive. All of us are deliberate acts of creation on the part of the Master. Despite our comparative insignificance in the timeline — our lifespan is often compared with vapor in The Bible — God is intimately involved and intensely interested in each and every one of our lives. That insignificance against human history coupled with that level of interest from my God is a tension that resolves in comfort.
Two, I think he wants to know how important every word and action really is. We each receive 24 hours in a day. If we do what medical folks tell us, then we’re sleeping for a third of that. I am left with 67% of my life in which to do or say something. I have work to do, and that consumes another third of my day which explains a lot about Paul telling the believer to do everything for the glory of God. If I work as unto the LORD, then that third of my day says something, even if I never utter a word. If all I do is show up and do the bare minimum to get by, my work says something else. Something that does not impact the world the way that God wants it to. Once sleeping and working is removed from my day, I have one third left. Eight hours. Two of those are consumed by commuting, another one and a half in eating (give or take) which leaves me four and a half hours a day to do or say something good. How am I using that time? That, I think, is one of the places David was going with the desire to know how short his time was. I only have a limited amount of time in a day and I only have a certain number of days. I want to make them count. God, please remind me of how short this whole thing called “life” really is.
Which leads nicely on to application. I and my time on this Earth are not significant when held up against the sum total of recorded human history. But God is intimately involved with my life and intensely interested in how my tiny portion of human history is lived. He has used the insignificance of a human lifetime to turn the world on its head multiple times. He can still do so if He so chooses. MY time needs to be at His disposal and my efforts need to always be focused on doing everything I do as if it were done for Him. Yes, everything. From the meeting with executives and VIPs all the way down to making sure I take the trash my wife left for me on the porch down to the trash cans. It may not seem significant, but God used a child’s meager lunch to feed thousands. It’s not the actual significance of the action in and of itself; it’s what God can make of it. My time, used for me, is wasted. My time, placed in the hands of God, can change lives and save souls and comfort the hurting and it can do so without me ever realizing that it happened.
Lord, please teach me to know the extent of my days and to know how transient I am. Please give me surety with regard to my end that I may live confidently in You.