“Our years come to an end like a sigh.” (9b) Will your life end like a sigh? A single breath let loose as a final “Amen” to a life well-lived? Or will you burn out quickly, like a candle burning at both ends? Paul speaks of this life as a race to the finish, “I have competed well, I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7) and “. . . persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” (Heb. 12:1b) However you finish this life, we know it will come to an end for each one of us.
Psalm 90 reminds us of this reality and invites us to reflect on our life and the passing of time. Life is short; it is but a dream or like blade of grass, “You sweep men away, they are like a dream, like grass which is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.” (5-6) Such is our life on this earth. Even if we live a long life, it is but a moment in the wider expanse of time. “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.” (4)
The verses are reminiscent of Job, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower, and is cut down.” (Job 14:1-2) “The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)
While our lives are short, God is eternal, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (2) Yet how we spend our short lives matters. The psalmist writes: “So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.” (12) We need wisdom that recognizes what is most important in this life lest we waste our time on things that do not last.
The writer ends with the request that God prosper the work of our hands, repeated twice. Life is hard and short. The most we can ask for is that God bless our work, that it be more than an exercise in futility. “Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands! (17)
When I look at the mountain of words published each day, the books and articles, I wonder, how many will be around ten years from now or longer? How much of what I write and others write is out of date soon after published? Whereas this simple psalm is still inspiring readers thousands of years since its inception. I am reminded that all that matters is to be doing God’s work, whatever that may be for us.
Fame is fleeting and fickle, settling on one person today, another tomorrow. Only God’s love is everlasting. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” (1) We may not see the results of our labors, but if we are following God’s will, their impact will go beyond what we can see and we will have a dwelling place with our God.
How are you spending your life? Will your end be like a sigh?