Psalm 90

You turn us back to dust…
A thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past…
The days of our life are seventy years, perhaps eighty if we are strong…
From everlasting to everlasting you are God…

Time seems to pass more quickly all the time. Life’s middle years carry lots of moments on lots of days when self reflection leads me to ask, “Where did the time go?” One of those moments came yesterday watching Hannah, my oldest daughter, preach, while remembering the day she was born and her toddler laugh and smile, her baptism, the first time she went to camp and the day she was confirmed. Where has the time gone?

The first time I thought about the fleeting nature of human existence was at my grandfather’s funeral now 36 years ago, when Psalm 90 was read and ruminated on, and I was having my first real experience with the death of a loved one. It’s a haunting and lovely reflection holding both the fleeting nature of life and the endless nature of the love of God Almighty. It is said to have been written by Moses.

And this is the teaching of scripture, first this great undeniable truth that all of us are on a journey toward death, and on the way the aging process that serves as a daily reminder. But second, more important, and most powerful is this, how our time is swallowed up into God’s time, that our life, and death, and life after death are all gifts from God, every day moving toward an unending glorious future! Both are most certainly true. We are moving toward death, and yet through death we shall most surely live. Contemplating these realities of time, Moses prays to God: “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a wise heart.”

Living with faith in the One who has conquered death, and who holds all time, we can face the frailty of our human days with hope, not in denial of our mortality, but trusting in the God who resurrected Jesus. We can sing the old Swedish hymn about time and find comfort:

Help me then in every tribulation so to trust your promises, O Lord,
that I lose not faith’s sweet consolation offered me within your holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
e’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
one by one, the days, the moments fleeting, till I reach the promised land.

(Covenant Hymnal, 435)

Peter Hawkinson

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