Two verses in Psalm 39 have become a heartcry for me in these days: “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!”
The summary of these two verses in our modern parlance would no doubt be, “Life is short.” But as people who believe that there is something beyond this life, does not this sentiment take on quite a different meaning than the way it is most often meant? What do people generally mean or imply when they declare, “Life is short”? It seems to me that what they generally mean is, ‘Live for yourself!’ ‘Get what you can while you can!’ ‘Indulge!’ ‘Have fun!’ ‘Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!’ To be sure, for one who frames the span of their existence in terms of a handful of decades, this is the only sane way to live. The brevity of life, then, is a cruel limitation against which one must rage, extending life at all costs lest one lose further opportunities for pleasure and indulgence.
But to those who are in Christ, who look beyond death to an eternity of delight in the company of our Friend and King, the brevity of life means something quite different. It is an antidote for worldly living. It is a tonic for our addiction to the temporal. It is a remedy for the disease of our obsession with the next 24 hours, the next two weeks, the next five or fifty-five years. David, in verse 5, describes the time of all mankind as a hevel: a breath or a vapor, which brings to my mind the image of a single breath of my mouth on a frozen day, drifting off into the wind. This is the relative expanse of the time of man in light of eternity. To one who thinks this way, living for oneself for these years on earth is insanity. Living in ways that will matter 50 billion years into eternity is the only sane way to live. Our lives are as fleeting as a vapor, friends. May the Lord teach us the measure of our days. Amen.