Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflections on the Change of Years and Time

For all our days pass away under your wrath;
we bring our years to an end like a sigh.
The years of our life are seventy,
or even by reason of strength eighty;
yet their span is but toil and trouble;
they are soon gone, and we fly away.
Who considers the power of your anger,
and your wrath according to the fear of you?

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O LORD! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
(Psalm 90:9-17)

What a thing time is. We are fully in time. We cannot escape time. It will continue to go, and we cannot stop it. As much as novels fantasize about time travel, we can never go back and redo our actions. This moment passes and does not return. 2012 comes and 2011 will never be again. It will be on the history books, and what was done was done. Things may be forgotten, but the effect of those things will live on into the future, and we certainly cannot add things, as much as historians try. 

Psalm 90, as well as Ecclesiastes and other places in the Bible, brings out the finiteness of our earthly existence. We have perhaps seventy, maybe even eighty years; perhaps twenty. It is easy to forget that in the active life of today, where our culture wants to distract us from our helplessness, and our "science" want to make it seem like we are invincible and one step away from being immortal. But we must all die! I like to remind people that everyone who fought in the Civil War died. In fact, everyone who lived in 798 A.D. also died. Death is a powerful means to make us realize our finiteness and the seriousness of time. Time is ticking away at this moment, and you have decided to use this precious time to look at my blog, and you will always have spent this time looking at this blog. You cannot change that. 

For the last five weeks I have kept a careful schedule of my time, and it is amazing how much I have, how much I can do, and how much I don't do. Did I really spend that much time watching that movie? Did I really check the news that much? Was that worth it? It is humbling to realize where the time has gone, and where we have spent it. And the longer I live, the saying of "to whom much is given, much is required" comes to mind all the more. Did I invest my time in worthwhile things? Did I spend enough time with other people? Did I enjoy God with that time? Did I use what God had given me, or did I bury it hoping to save it for another time? (Did I just use that word again?) 

The issue comes down to whether the time was vain, or if it was fulfilling and meaningful. Moses, the writer of Psalm 90, is keenly aware of this fact, and calls for God to come in fellowship, to return, to not stay away, because without God, not only are our years short, but they are "but toil and trouble". Moses cries out that God would "Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days." Oh! That our days may be full and satisfied! Then we may rejoice. We may write great musical compositions, epic poems, and beautiful books. We may make good and beautiful food, and we may feast, love, and work with a glad heart. We can do these things because they are worthwhile and purposeful when they are done to the glory of God and as ways to enjoy Him. Without God, the work of our hands is not established, and is vain and meaningless. "For to the one who pleases him God has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, but to the sinner he has given the business of gathering and collecting, only to give to one who pleases God. This also is vanity and a striving after wind." (Eccl. 2:26)

So as we enter the new year may we remember several things. First, time passes and soon 2012 will also be finished, never to be again. Second, only God is God. We are finite, must die, and have a limited amount of time to spend. Third, we will be accountable for every moment of our life, "For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Eccl. 12:14) Fourth, while life is vain without God, and while we should soberly number our days to "get a heart of wisdom", when God returns and gives us His steadfast love we are satisfied and fulfilled. The work of the Lord will be shown, and the work of our hands will established. We can celebrate and find meaning in our actions. We can cultivate beauty, love, joy, and excellence. We can "rejoice and be glad all our days." Let us fill our short time on earth with that which is meaningful, that which is found in our relationship with God.

"Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart;
for God now accepteth thy works."
(Eccl. 9:7)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very convicting, Peter. Thank you.

Happy new year, my friend, and sorry I have been out of contact for a little while. My email adress isn't up at the moment, but it should be soon.

I've opened a blog at

Buaidh no Bas,

Andrew R.