“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.”
Psalm 39:4 NKJV
This month I am having a milestone birthday. I am turning 60. This is a milestone for me in a special way. In 1988, I became a Christian one month before my thirtieth birthday. So that means that I lived 30 years as a lost person and 30 years as a saved person.
One half my life, I was an unbeliever and the other half I am a believer. One half of my life was lived without God and the other half is lived with God. One half of my live was lived with sin and self as the center and the other is Christ centered with occasional lapses into sin and self centeredness.
Perhaps David penned these words after a milestone birthday in his life. We know David was a man who was both a follower and a fallen man. He was described by God Himself as “a man after My own heart.” Yet he also is a man who has major faults. Matthew Henry describes Psalm 39 in his commentary as follows: “This is a funeral psalm, and very proper for the occasion; in singing it we should get our hearts duly affected with the brevity, uncertainty, and calamitous state of human life…” Whatever the occasion, it is clearly a psalm of contemplation on the brevity of life.
The NLT version of the above verse states: “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is.” As a small boy, I thought 60 years was very long time. As a 60 year old, I realize that the reminder of my lifetime is relatively short. In fact, the average lifespan of American men is 78 years old. That would mean I could possibly have 18 more years, more or less, until I die.
David is using a metaphor to help us grasp how short our lives are in compared to eternity. The phrase “what is the measure of my days” is a picture of someone who is measuring a piece of fabric. According to Strong’s Concordance, the word measure can be translated “extension, i.e. height or breadth or length.” Once the fabric is measured, it is cut.
In the Message translation, it gives a very blunt version of this verse: “Tell me, what’s going on God? How long do I have to live? Give me the bad news!” This reminds me of my dad. When he decided against having his voice box removed due to the throat cancer, the doctor told him he would have six months to live. He was right.
Now that I’m turning 60, I am being inundated with mail from insurance companies trying to sell me a “burial” insurance policy. These companies are reminding me, I am older now and need to think about being prepared for death. They know that the longer a person waits to prepare for death, the likelihood that they will buy a policy from them diminishes. In a way, I think this verse and others like it are reminders to prepare ourselves for death.
This past year, I had two fraternity brothers who were my little brothers in the fraternity to die. One was my age and the other was about two years younger. These deaths are another reminder to be prepared.
This October, we will celebrate the 139th anniversary of the founding of Rose of Sharon Baptist Church. Churches too can have a lifespan. Some churches in our area that had the same longevity are no longer around. Like people, we need to measure our days here as a church as well. It is my prayer that even after we are long gone, the church will continue to reach people for Christ.
I love you and it’s a privilege to be your pastor.