Psalm 90 is a prayer of Moses the man of God, author of the first five books of the Bible, and remains a popular psalm today often quoted in memorial services and funerals. In it he looks back on life and laments how short our lives are, and how insignificant our time is in the heavenly realm. Moses is a very good person to learn about life from, and had been given great experiences. Indeed, he was a man of God.
Analysis: a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by
God ticks on a vastly different clock from us – A thousand years in your sight are like a day – It is a metaphor, of course; we do not know if God really has a clock that runs at that speed, but I would think not. It is a metaphor to contrast the eternality of God against the vulnerability of our short lives. Despite it probably being just an analogy, let us try doing some math. Moses said the length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; [Psalm 90:10]
If 1000 years = 1 day
80 years = 1 hr 55 min and 12s
That’s less than the amount of time I spend on public transport everyday! And even the longest mortal life ever, Methuselah, son of Enoch, who lived till the super ripe old age of 969 – it wasn’t even one full day to God! Poor Methuselah was less than 45 minutes away to having lived a full double-round around God‘s clock! Like a day that has just gone by – However long it may have appeared to us when it was passing, yet when it is gone, and we look back to it, it seems short. So the longest period of human existence appears to God. – If you think God‘s eternality is sufficiently contrasted through this number, Moses didn’t agree with you. He had to go further.
Analysis: Or like a watch in the night
In those days they divided the night into portions, and there would be watchmen in the camps, who were relieved at intervals – the night was hence divided according to this arrangement. In the Old Testament times there were only 3 watches [Lam 2:19, Judges 7:19, Exodus 14:24], but in the New Testament times there were 4 [Mark 13:35]. In approximation, by splitting the night into half a day (hence 12 hours), and furthering dividing by 3 watches (hence 4 hours) – 1000 years is to God is hence compared by Moses to being as short as a day, or even merely just 4 hours.
A thousand years are nothing to God‘s eternity. I won’t even bother calculating what 1000 years = 4 hours mean for us.
But what does it mean to us, that God‘s time scale is so much larger than us?
1. Let us learn to number our days [Psalm 90:12]
I think a lot of people know that we have a limited amount of time in life. That’s why there are so many self-help books that emphasize on time-management, so many courses that teach you how to manage your time, and so much emphasis on the discipline of keeping time. But time is really shorter than we think, especially in contrast with the timelessness of God – the duration of our lives are insignificantly short! Moses speculated that the average life would be 70 or 80 years. If we (optimistically) live till 80, that’s just 1 hour, 55 minutes and 12 seconds (assuming 1000 years = 1 day). 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 [Psalm 39:5].
2. God’s patience is tremendous
Our Lord can afford to wait. Often we fret and worry, thinking, why has God not done anything yet? Why has God not delivered me from my suffering yet? Why do I still not see my silver lining? That must be how Job felt when time passed and he was still in that plight. That must be how the Israelites feel while being oppressed by the Egyptians. That must be how they felt, too, when 500 years had passed since the last prophet before the birth of Christ. It was probably what Peter meant when he quoted this verse from Moses in 2 Peter 3:8, warning against impatience regarding Christ‘s second coming.
In today’s terms many of us may have such examples. Searching for a job, yet not finding the ideal one. Searching for a life partner. Searching for inspiration. Time may pass and you may begin to be disillusioned. Will God really open a way out for you? I don’t know, but I think he probably will. He’s just on a vastly different time scale, doing things in ways we didn’t expect.
Moses spent his first 40 years thinking he was somebody. Moses spent his next 40 years learning he was nobody. Moses spent his last 40 years learning how God can use a nobody. And in all his lifetime of 120 years, it was only 2 hours 52 min and 48 seconds to God.
In that 2 hours 52 min and 48 seconds, Moses was once rich and royal, but he was also poor and common. His identity of birth was a slave, but he obtained the status of an Egyptian Prince. He learnt all the knowledge of Egypt, yet in the name of righteousness killed somebody and was forced to flee to the desert. There he rescued a damsel in distress, and settled down thinking he was done for life [Exodus 2]. But God had greater plans for him, allowed him to see the burning bush [Exodus 3], sent him back to Egypt for an epic argument with the Pharaoh, resulting in the 10 Plagues. And oh, the events that curtailed the wilderness were aplenty! And for all of Moses‘ greatness and sacrifices, for all the times he pleaded for his people and suffered with them, he was not allowed to enter the land of promise. There was not a person who went for Moses‘ funeral, and yet he alone was buried by God Almighty personally [Deu 34:6].
What a man. What a God. We probably will never be able to fully grasp the concept of time in eternity until we are no longer bounded to the concept of time itself. Our time is limited. We have limited time to do God‘s work. Make use of it. Don’t waste every single second, because life is short. And yet, be prepared for God‘s work in your life. It may happen at times that you cannot comprehend. But the Lord has His own time scale. And surely, His plans for you will be greater than what you can ever plan for yourself. How much more time do you have? How much more time does the eternal God have?
Hah. Who am I kidding?