December 26, 2011 Devotion Sharing (Psalm 39, 90)

Submitted by Ahmi K. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Please read the two Psalms below and meditate on the truths expressed here about life and time. Highlight key verses and jot down some thoughts about what these passages teach, particularly in light of our society’s obsession with perpetual youth, and the denial of our limits.

Psalm 39

For the director of music. For Jeduthun. A psalm of David.

1 I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence.”

2 But when I was silent and still, not even saying anything good, my anguish increased.

3 My heart grew hot within me, and as I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: 4 “Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.

7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.

8 Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.

9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this.

10 Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand.

11 You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth— each man is but a breath. Selah

12 “Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.

13 Look away from me, that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.”

Psalm 90

A prayer of Moses the man of God.

1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.

2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

3 You turn men back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, O sons of men.”

4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep men away in the sleep of death; they are like the new grass of the morning—

6 though in the morning it springs up new, by evening it is dry and withered.

7 We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation.

8 You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence.

9 All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan.

10 The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

11 Who knows the power of your anger? For your wrath is as great as the fear that is due you.

12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

13 Relent, O LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants.

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen trouble.

16 May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children.

17 May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands.

I heard that, at the recent Middle School retreat, Jin recounted the story of a former fellow youth student who passed away from bone cancer at age 16. I remember that young boy, and how we as a church prayed for him, and hung onto the daily account of how his cancer progressed. As he faced his end, he was at peace with his eternal destiny, for he had become a Christian, and he was able to meet his end with gladness, even though he suffered much throughout the ordeal. That was a young man who had numbered his days aright, as his doctors informed him of the spread of his cancer, and actually gave him limited number of days to live.

Why, then, would that be a way of gaining “a heart of wisdom”? Through such numbered days, he was able to realize what was important. The dreams of a painless, happy life would have been burst, and he would know that life is hard, that its “span is but trouble and sorrow.” In that trouble and sorrow, he would learn to turn to God who was unlimited and infinite. He would be humble and holding onto God who was compassionate and unfailing in His love for him.

Those of us who do not have such specific illness and do not receive specific limited days from our doctors do not tend to number our days aright. We tend to get our priorities mixed up and therefore end up gaining a heart of foolishness.

Just as it would be foolish for someone with cancer to ignore the doctor’s edict and pretend that he had 70 years to live, it is foolish for us to ignore the clear and definitive indictment on our mortal lives and pretend that we do not have to contend with the eternal God.

The good news is that God did not leave us in our foolishness but had compassion on us. He can “satisfy us with His unfailing love” which is everlasting and is not numbered. We can learn the deep, true, everlasting satisfaction of His love for us.


Dear Lord,

As sad and sobering it is to number our days, I thank you for the clarity it brings. I foolishly ignore the warning signs at times, and think that I can count on another day to do Your work. Please help me to number my days aright. Thank you for reminding me that I am in the same predicament as a young man dying of cancer, in that I have limited days that need to be accounted for rightly.

Submitted by Karen L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Psalm 39

4 “Show me, O Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.

5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah

How often I forget how fleeting my life is especially when I am healthy and everyone around me seems strong. I feel like we will always be around, which makes me have the illusion that life will never end. On top of that, this world constantly distracts me with endless big and small trivialities, from regular mundane work to special holiday shopping. Indeed, how I need God to show me how my life and all of our lives are very short and that we will not be around forever, so that I will know to live aright. God has been really teaching me the fact that our lives are really short through the recent prayer requests for the family members of brothers and sisters in our church. These prayers range from praying for a little girl’s battle with life-threatening chronic illness to the sudden passing of the mother of a brother in Christ in one of our church plant. Also recently, my uncle experienced a sudden heart arrest and almost lost his life. My grandfather also suffered from a minor stroke that could have ended his life. As I prayed for the ill, the dying and the deceased family members and as I saw my family members aging when I went home for Christmas, I am reminded by God’s word that life is short and I need to live knowing what my purpose is—Loving God and each person whom God has put in front of me.

6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.

7 “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.

When I have the correct perspective about the brevity of human lives, I begin to see the vanity of human pursuit for wealth, success and fame. Man runs around with his strength and strives to gain and amass for himself. This world makes us feel like as long as we play our cards right, we will be in full control of our lives and we can feel secure forever inside the walls we build with the wealth and our competence. People work hard in school, so that they can go to a good college; they work hard in college, so that they can get a good job that can make them a lot of money and can by them a nice house and all the things that they want. Everyone thinks that if only he could have more money, if only he could have a better job, if only he could have better skills, a higher degree, he’d be happier and he’d feel more secure about his life. We mistakenly place our hope and security in our wealth and in what we can do. We don’t consider that our lives could be gone at any moment and if how we’ve been living, building up for ourselves, was actually the wrong way to live. We fail to see that God is the source of our lives and ultimately He is the one who has full control and who can give us true security. Sometimes, I fail to see God as the true hope and anchor for me when I am too caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. I often feel chased and overwhelmed by the many duties and responsibilities in modern day life. Sometimes, I think that I would feel happier if I could have these things or these people under control. But this is a futile attempt. This passage reminds me that I should really look to God for hope rather than putting my hope in having control over the different aspects of my life.

8 Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools.

9 I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for you are the one who has done this.

10 Remove your scourge from me; I am overcome by the blow of your hand.

11 You rebuke and discipline men for their sin; you consume their wealth like a moth— each man is but a breath. Selah

And the reason why I need to put my full hope and trust in God is that the issue is not whether I can have control over my life or not. The issue is that I have this sin problem, which ruins everything good in my life for me. Even if man becomes rich and famous, they still cannot solve their sin, which is the most fundamental problem of every man and woman. Everyone has to eventually face the judgment of God. Instead of just being consumed by my everyday responsibilities and tasks and how I need to get things done, I need to constantly remember God, who’s my ultimate judge, and think about how God views my life and if I’m living a life that is pleasing to Him.

Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so much for reminding me about the reality that my life is very short and that I must prioritize pleasing you and doing your will in my life. So often, I want to control my own life, thinking that I would feel more secure and peaceful this way. But I am deluded to think this way because it is sin that destroys my life. And without your help, I have no control over sins. So, Lord, I put my hope and trust in you again. I look to you once again for salvation, guidance, and sustenance. Thank you Father for never letting me go but always loving me with your mercy and grace. Thank you. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

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