Why should we want God to teach us to number our days (Psalm 90:12)?
Psalm 90 focuses on the lifespan of mankind—that we will return to dust. It's a call to bring iniquities before the wrath of God and seek His favor. This chapter is a prayer of Moses, and in verse 12 he says to the Lord, "So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom." What does he mean by this?
The concept of knowing that your days are numbered implies a knowledge that they are finite; they will one day come to an end. Moses is asking God "teach us to number our days" for the purpose of recognizing that they are not endless, so we should use them wisely and not take them for granted. When God teaches us to number our days, we will be more prone to listen and seek Him for wisdom on how to best live our lives. We need God's wisdom to lead us now and onward into life that is to come.
Of course, the first step is to know Jesus Christ as Savior. Recognizing that life on earth is finite helps us realize the truth about God, His existence, our separation from Him, and the reality of the afterlife. We also see our inability to reconcile with God on our own. But when we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are granted eternal life and brought into personal relationship with God (John 1:12; 3:16–18). This is not something we earn by our own works or through our own wisdom, but is based solely on God's grace and the work of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8–10). When we are saved, God also gives us the Holy Spirit to live inside us and help us to live as God would have us live (Ephesians 1:13–14).
Exodus 33:11 says that Moses was a man with whom the Lord spoke "face to face, as a man speaks with his friend" (see also, Numbers 12:6–8). Even so, Moses did not take this relationship with God and use it as an excuse to live in sin. In Psalm 90, he discusses the extent of God's anger when it comes to sin (verse 11). Moses had personally experienced the extent of God's punishment for sin (Numbers 20:12), and "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil" (2 Corinthians 5:10). Salvation in Jesus Christ is eternally secure, but the way we live still matters. Salvation is about more than the afterlife.
Jesus tells a parable of a rich man who had an excess of money and resources. Instead of seeking the Lord for wisdom, recognizing that his days were numbered, this man lived only for himself and continued to accumulate more worldly wealth he thought would protect him in the future. Luke 12:16—21 tells the story:
"And he told them a parable, saying, 'The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, "What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?" And he said, "I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'" But God said to him, "Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?" So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.'"
We ask God to teach us to number our days so that we may live wisely, so that we may be "rich toward God." The apostle Paul reminds us: "Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:15—17). God has His kingdom and eternity in mind, and so should we—but in order to do that, we need Him to teach us to number our days.
When we understand that our time on earth is limited—that our days are numbered—we begin to see the importance of living those days for God. We become more eager to share the good news of salvation with others (Matthew 28:18–20). We become more eager to love others with the love God has for them (John 13:34–35). We learn to "walk by the Spirit" (see Galatians 5:16–26) and "sow to the Spirit" and "do good to everyone" (see Galatians 6:7–10).
Wisdom is important to God, so it should be important to us. We need to seek the Lord and His wisdom (Proverbs 2). When we partner with Him, He teaches us to number our days and walk in wisdom, seeking first His kingdom, storing up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:33–34).
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