As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.
I was taught an important lesson in seminary regarding the proper study of God’s Word:
- What are the three essential things to understand to properly interpret the Bible?
- Context, context, and…context!
It’s important to consider the context (the background, basically, in a wide variety of aspects) of everything we study. So, as we read of Moses’ seeming dour assessment of human life, particularly in consideration of its length and experience, we must remember that we are in a portion of a Psalm written by a man who would soon face the end of his own life, and this particular portion is a part of a meditation on the fleeting nature of human life, as it stands in its natural state—guilty of sin and deserving of the wrath of God upon it. Don’t run away from this verse; encouraging verses are coming, but they are only encouraging when considered in the context of the one’s the preceded it—verses like this one.
According to Moses, the quantity of our lives has very little, nothing as a matter of fact, to do with the quality of our lives. Even the culture around us sees the content of human life to be of infinitely greater value than its mere length. “Just do it!” “Go for the gusto” “You only live once” Madison Avenue has stepped right up to the plate here, actually making the claim to be able to provide content to human life in the form of perishable goods and fleeting experiences of pleasure. The actual word pride is formed from a root word that describes a battle, as in the storming of the wall of a city. “Even so,” Moses would say, “at the end of your life the great battles a person wins are more costly and less profitable than he or she ever imagined, for we all die and disappear from the earth.” Like a bird, we fly away at the moment of our death. This is the ultimate meaninglessness and futility of the life that is lived in the context of unforgiven sin and endless alienation from God, the source of all life.
Father, the years of my life are in Your hand. They will not end earlier than You desire, nor will they continue longer than You’ve planned for them. Thank that our lives need not end on a note of difficult labor and inevitable sorrow, but that by Your grace we can know true rest and purpose here and now—we can have eternal life by turning to You. Today, turn my heart and my mind to You, and increase my faith and confidence that I will not simply fly away at the moment of my death, but that I will fly to You, my home. Amen.