The Brevity of Life

Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.
Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Psalm 39:4, 5

We now stand at the end of 2012 and at the beginning of 2013. The time went by so very fast. It seems such a short time ago that 2012 began. One wonders how the days could so quickly pass. But they did. One realizes too that the years of his life quickly pass by. The young may indeed envision many years before them, but the older ones realize that those years are soon past. Each day is not only “the first day of the rest of our lives,” but it is also one day closer to the day of our death. It is likewise true that we are one year nearer to the time that the Lord Jesus Christ shall return on the clouds of glory. The signs about us seem to indicate clearly that before long Jesus will come again. Our thoughts should turn to this as we begin the new year of 2013.

David expresses in Psalm 39 the very thoughts that must fill the hearts and minds of children of God. Da­vid is not being a pessimist, nor does he reflect some sort of poor spiritual attitude. The Psalm indicates that he has gone through some terribly traumatic experi­ence. Perhaps it was after his own son Absalom sought David’s life in order to assume for himself the throne of Israel. To David’s grief, and against his wishes, his son Absalom had been slain. In this period of great trial, David is brought to a consciousness of his own end. He is brought before the question of the importance and value of his own life. Not on the basis of psychology or philosophy will he learn this, but God Himself must teach him the significance of life. At the close of 2012, children of God do well to heed this Word of God for their own profit and encouragement.

David prays for knowledge, for he is painfully aware of the shortness of life and of the fact that his own days could soon be cut off. We too, on the occasion of the end of the year, are brought face-to-face with the fact that time passes, that our days and years surely pass. David comes to God, for there is nowhere else to go. He asks God, “Make me to know mine end.” The fruit of such work of God in us is that we will “know how frail” we are. David surely follows a proper path in this instance. He seeks knowledge from the Source of all knowledge: Jehovah God. God can, and does, reveal to us that which we need to know in this regard. He comes in the Holy Scriptures, and through Jesus Christ, in order to unfold to us truths concerning our own days. Thus also we can know, for our knowledge is based upon God’s revelation to us, a knowledge that is the fruit of faith. This is the knowledge we now seek.

Like David, we do not seek to know the day of our death. That was not David’s concern. Each one has a moment of death. God alone knows the final moment. And God does not normally reveal that to man—not to His people either. Nor ought we to know this. David’s prayer is rather that we might know the fact that our life is brief, and the significance of this for us. We must know, spiritually, that death assuredly comes. We will not continue on this earth forever. We must know this, not simply as a medical fact, but in a godly sort of way. David is not complaining about the brevity of life, nor is he blurting out his own rebellion against the hard ways that God sends. Affliction had surely stalked his path. David was stirred up within himself, deeply troubled. Therefore he prays for spiritual comprehen­sion concerning the significance of life that quickly passes.

So David asks of God to show him the fact of life’s brevity. In a sense he knew this, for who does not know that the end of every birth is assuredly death? Each knows this intellectually as a fact, but for David, and for us, that fact seems to make no difference—until God brings it to our attention. David would often live his life as though it would continue forever. Though David was called a man after God’s own heart, yet he committed sins of adultery and murder, as though there would never be a day of reckoning, as though the sovereign God does not see.

Children of God also today can easily walk in this same sin. They can live in this world as though they were independent of God Himself. It might seem that although others die, death shall never approach me or my home. I know better, yet I live often in a way that ignores the reality of God’s Word. Therefore David and we must be brought to the awareness of what our lives truly are. He who knows the brevity of his days spiritually will also walk in the wisdom of the Lord.

What is it, then, that God reveals to us? He reveals that man himself is frail and weak. Often, especially in youthful vigor, one would consider himself very strong. The young man rejoices in his strength. It is not pleasant to consider the inevitable dissipating of this strength. Yet the child of God recognizes especially two things: that his strength is of God, and that this strength, even at its greatest, is very little. I cannot add one day to my life, nor prevent the day of my death. I am weak and frail; and I must know this well. Life is very brief, a handbreadth, the width of four fingers lying side-by-side. Each night we retire with the assurance that we shall rise again on the morrow. We assure ourselves that certainly we will have at least the scriptural three-score years and ten for our lives. We put from our minds the knowledge of death. Yet how brief are man’s days. Even seventy or eighty years pass quickly. Just ask any older person. It is also very well possible that the span of life will not even reach that number of years. God has not guaranteed every person a certain span of life. Our days are quickly gone. We must recognize how short these really are.

Our life is altogether “vanity.” It is like a vapor that passes from our mouths on a cold day. Quickly it dissipates. Even while it is to be seen, it is so insub­stantial. Such is our life. We may consider ourselves so important and necessary. Indeed, every child has a very important place in the body of Christ. Yet man, apart from this fact, would highly esteem himself in the earth. Each one can hardly imagine how the world will continue without his own personal presence. This is the pride of natural man. Scripture teaches us that our lives are “vanity” or a “vapor.” In our very best state, this is what we are. Man is but dust of the earth; his life quickly fades away.

This revelation is necessary for God’s children. The child of God must not continue in blind ignorance on the earth as though his life will go on forever. He must know his end; and he must know that end in connec­tion with his relation to Jesus Christ. The Spirit causes God’s people to be born again. These are led in confes­sion before God and directed in paths of righteousness. These search out Scripture to discern their calling and position in this earth. These, then, see the brevity of their days.

How often our days are troublous. Another year has drawn to a close. For some, this past year was filled with many trials, sorrows, and afflictions. For others, it was perhaps a year of events of a pleasant nature. But the fact is that the year is gone again. Those who stand as before God’s face must also understand that all of this life passes rapidly. Have you been giving this seri­ous thought today? What of your end? How do you evaluate your days? One who properly evaluates in the light of God’s Word will also set his heart on wisdom’s way.

The lesson that we learn is that we must look be­yond this life to that which is to come. For the child of God, an awareness of the brevity of his days is an awareness that he is a pilgrim here below, as we see in verse twelve. Learning properly of one’s end is to learn what it means to be a pilgrim. Such a one will not hold to the things of this earth. He realizes that he has his home in another place, in heaven itself. There he shall enjoy eternal blessings with his Father and His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. My days are brief and a van­ity because I am only passing through on my way to glory.

This truth reminds the child of God of the value of the earthly compared with that which is heavenly. It is so easy to evaluate too highly the things of this earth. We want to stay here on the earth; its mate­rial possessions attract; its entertainment appears so desirable. Our earthly ties are so very strong. When God sends trials and afflictions, He Himself teaches His people that all these things are nothing. Thus one who recognizes the brevity of life and who understands the instruction of God’s Word looks more eagerly for the glory that awaits him for Jesus’ sake in heaven. He walks through this vale of tears with the understand­ing that he has here no abiding place. His desire is the heavenly glory that belongs to the saints through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now we have come to the end of another year and face the beginning of a new one. Many things have taken place. Many signs of the end of this age we have seen. Again there were wars and rumors of wars. There has been continuing development in the realm of sci­ence. More and more there is indication of the devel­oping kingdom of the Antichrist. Increasing emphasis is placed upon the need for a one-world government. Mankind is ready to follow one who promises to lead to an earthly peace and prosperity.

As a result, the child of God, along with David, cries out, “Lord, make me to know mine end.” Hear the Word of the Lord. Your life is but a breath that quickly passes away. But those united to Christ in His suffering, death, and resurrection shall complete their pilgrimage here on the earth to enter into heavenly glory and life. These have learned the truth that they have an end on this earth, but they rejoice in the assurance of a place prepared for them in heaven. May that be your comfort as you begin this new year.

 

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