Time waits for no one. The cadence of its march never increases or decreases; it is relentlessly, ruthlessly steady. It was created prior to the formation of Adam and Eve; its genesis is declared in the very first three words of Scripture.
On the long timeline of history, every person’s life (even Methuselah’s 969 years) is but a small parenthesis. David’s thoughtful and thought-provoking observations in Psalm 39 were: “certainly every man at his best is but a vapor…surely every man is vapor” (vv. 5, 11). Both declarations are intended to be absorbed into the depths of one’s soul in a Selah-imposed meditation.
The brevity of life is a theme which echoes throughout God’s Word. The patriarch Job exclaimed, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle and are spent without hope. Oh, remember that my life is a breath…Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; he flees like a shadow and does not continue” (Job 7:6-7, 14:1-2). The psalmist David wrote, “As for man, his days are like grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more” (Psalm 103:15-16). The New Testament penman James asked and answered the penetrating question: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
After considering the brevity of life (Psalm 90:10), Moses’ wise request was “so teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). David’s request was “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).