“O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am.” – Psalm 39:4
How do you take a yardstick to your life? By what means do you measure it? David asks this of the Lord, to both know his end and the measure of his days. He reflects on the brevity of life, particularly in relation to the infinity of God’s existence. It is humbling to consider the brief length of average human life, even considering the many years of such lives as my father’s, whose extended to 98! Methuselah’s life lasted almost a thousand, yet even his is brief in terms of eternity. What does the Scripture say? A thousand years is but a day on God’s clock, and one day is as a thousand years. The relative brevity of your life, even if you live what is considered a “full” life, is humbling; it is but a mere breath according to Psalm 39.
So how do we measure our life. Psalm 39 goes on to say: “Behold you have made my life a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath. Surely a man goes about as a shadow. Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather.” We cannot measure our life by its length, its turmoil, or by the wealth we obtain. The Lord says our life is but a shadow. Of what does its real substance consist? Something by which it can be measured? The Psalmist gives the answer in verse 7: “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” The Psalmist says we best measure our lives by the time spent waiting on the Lord in whom is our genuine hope.
In Psalm 130 it says, “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” During the Vietnam War I palpably learned what it was to hunger for the dawn, yearning for the first rays of sunshine as if my life depended on the light. I had taken out a night patrol of about 18 of my men and set up an ambush. We set our claymore mines in the direction of a foot path to our front, with our unprotected rear up against thick jungle, so thick we thought we would never have any enemy advance on us from that direction. It was the dry season and the cracking of dry branches and foliage would announce any enemy from a long way away. About midnight we suddenly heard Vietnamese voices, multiple voices, and the crackling of radio transmissions. It was not from the trail before us to which our weapons were aimed, but it was from our immediate rear, our unprotected rear. Any movement by us to reverse our positions would immediately give away our presence and close location, inviting immediate, deadly fire from the enemy. We were not prepared to defend ourselves in that direction.
Our salvation lay in keeping dead silence, staying awake, of course, and praying we remained undetected. We knew at the light of dawn the enemy would retreat back into the tunnel system from which they had come out into the night air for “a breather.” Unfortunately, it was very close to our location, only the wrong direction to engage them at the time. The light of dawn would send them back into the tunnel from which they came. The remaining hours of the night were spent with fast beating hearts, hoping passionately no one in our ambush would make a sound divulging our presence, and waiting earnestly and fearfully as “watchmen wait for the morning.” No one so learned the power of those words like I did that night.
Such is the passion and earnestness with which we are to wait on the Lord. Not lackadaisically, in drowsiness and slumber, or dullness, but with the full intent and focus of relishing and treasuring the presence of God, waiting on His word, with bated breath. As a beloved dog who depends on his master looks steadily on his face for the slightest movement or sign that it is time to go or to do something, so our gaze should be on the face of the Lord. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him…..” Waiting on the Lord is the time spent in connection to Him in private, in the alone time with Him, conversing, worshiping, listening, adoring, learning. Just as Moses came from the “tent of meeting” back into the presence of the Israelites with a radiant face where they knew he had been in God’s presence, so should your time alone with God radiate into the lives of others from the time you have spent with Him, waiting on your “Abba” Father.
This is the measurement of a life well served, measured in the time spent with God, and radiated into the lives of others. It is the measurement of your prayer life, your fellowship with the Savior, eating with Him around His Word, feeding your soul on His presence. There really is no other means of measuring your life and contemplating your end. Your end is to be forever in His presence. Your life now ought to be measured by the action of your faith to protect time with Him in the midst of all that clamors for your attention, but will never supersede disciplined time with Him.
Nothing should be allowed to steal that time with Him by which your life is measured.
“How sweet and aweful is the place with Christ within the doors, while everlasting love displays the choicest of her stores.”
“Why was I made to hear your voice, and enter while there’s room, when thousands make a wretched choice, and rather starve than come?”
(1st and 3rd verse of Isaac Watts’ hymn, “How Sweet and Aweful is the Place,” 1707)
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