So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
Verse 12 introduces the only solution to the desperate plight of human beings that Moses has described so vividly in the preceding verses. Under the glaring wrath of a holy and offended God, and suffering the physical effect of death as a consequence of the presence of sin in our lives—what are we to do? How are we to find any hope of life and deliverance given our utter inability to achieve a righteousness of our own that will assuage the anger of an offended God? The remaining verses of this Psalm point us to the ultimate, personal answer to the plight of humanity—and that answer is the mercy of God shown to people.
Given what has been said of the sinfulness of man, and the shortness of his days, we need outside help. We require an act of mercy from God if we are to be rescued from ourselves. We must be taught, by God, to properly assess and manage our days. To number something means to consider it in association with other things, and assign it a value or significance. For example, if I number the books in my library, I am assigning each one of the individual books a number, a place, recognition of its existence and significance in relation to the others. This is not the way most people naturally live their lives, or think of the passing of one day after another. We tend to dismiss the days of the past because they are fixed, and cannot be profited from. We neglect the present because we have not planned for it, and it is gone so fast, and we daydream of the future, because we think we can prepare for its every possibility in such a manner that we will not be caught off-guard or “miss out” on any opportunities that it may bring. Our usual ways of viewing time itself can be quite frustrating–and unfruitful: No one knows the future, for it has not happened yet—so there is nothing that can be learned from it. Few of us value and treasure the present, because we are too worried about the future, and almost none of us learn from the one source of information that is unchanging, and provides endless test-cases to evaluate the effects of habits, goals, and choices—the past. This is why we desperately need the Lord to teach us to know, evaluate, assign specific meaning to, our days. We truly do not even know how to think rightly without Him choosing to teach us!
Father, please teach us how to think about our lives, so that we may decide how to best live them before You. Deliver us today from the superficiality that marks our lives, the preferred simplicity that rejects learning from the past and presumes to know the future. Instead, teach us to judge our days correctly, according to how You would have us evaluate and learn from them.