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December 06, 2017

Need Wisdom? Number Your Days

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Friends, in order to gain the wisdom that we long for, we must pray.

See, prayer is the fountain of wisdom.

Wisdom is tightly tied to prayer in the Scriptures. Wisdom is asked for in prayer, often received during prayer, and wisdom is the result of prayer.

We see this very famously in King Solomon who, as he begins his kingship, asks God for wisdom, and God answers his request abundantly. We see this in James chapter one, where we are told to pray to God for wisdom and with great faith that he will answer our prayers.

In Psalm 90 we see this in Moses, who prays, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (v. 12). Moses is one of the great people of God in all of history, and there is only one psalm attributed to him. At the heart, at the climax of this psalm, we see him praying for wisdom. What’s interesting is that he asks God to teach him to number his days.

Friends, if we would have the wisdom that we long for, we must pray. And specifically, if we want to be wise, we need to learn to number our days.

How do we do this ourselves? What does it mean to number our days? And how will numbering our days bring us wisdom?

Learning to number our days means recognizing the unnumbered days of God (vv. 1-2).

God is the Creator; we are created. God is eternal; our lives are passing. God’s days are without end; but our days are numbered!

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world,  from everlasting to everlasting you are God. (vv. 1-2)

This immediately puts us in position to be wise. How? Because it teaches us where wisdom will come from. There is a being far greater than ourselves, far greater than any other human, and certainly greater than any other idea or philosophy in all of creation. Therefore, this being must be the source of all wisdom.

He has wisdom to offer to us that we cannot offer to ourselves. He has wisdom to offer us what nothing in all of creation can offer us. God is the source of wisdom. When we prayerfully consider God’s unnumbered days, we gain wisdom because we will know where to look for it. Surely, that is the beginning of wisdom: to quit looking at ourselves, to quit trusting the world, and instead to look to God. Learn to pray, “Lord, from everlasting to everlasting You are God!”

Learning to number our days means remembering that our lives are fleeting (vv. 3-6).

Here is what we read in Psalm 90 about the transience of our lives:

You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning; in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. (vv. 3-6)

Our lives are like dust, like a watch in the night, like a sweeping flood, and like a passing dream. Our lives are like the grass, renewed in the morning, and withered by night.

Friend, grasping this truth is the great secret to wisdom. I consider some of the wisest people I’ve ever met, and what they have in common. All of them have understood the brevity of human life:

The child in the children’s hospital who already has a stirring faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s because this is a child who has quickly learned to number their days.

The teenager who is “wise beyond their years.” It’s because, unlike other teenagers, they don’t think they have years to waste because they know their life is fleeting.

The older believer who doesn’t waste away in retirement, but invests those last years for the Lord. Almost everything he utters is wise because he doesn’t see these years as years to waste. He numbers his days!

What about you? Have you considered the brevity of your life?

Learning to number our days means prayerfully considering the wrath of God (vv. 7-11).

How many of us pray about the wrath of God? Most of us try to avoid this theme altogether. But look at how Moses prays to God plainly about it:

You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? (vv. 7-11)

In Moses’ prayerfulness about God’s wrath we see what it means to fear the Lord. Holy reverence comes when we understand our sin and God’s holiness and anger towards that sin. Understanding this reality makes us reverent before him. This is not being afraid of God. This is a deep awe and reverence that makes us want to honor him.

Consider how much more wisely we would live if we remembered that God sees everything – even what we think is done in secret! We too often think that we can live anonymously, and we are sinful and foolish because of it. But as we fear the Lord and honor him with holy reverence, we will be wise.  It’s why the Bible says again and again, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7).

Please don’t miss the joy attached to this truth. Because we know the power of God’s anger, we know that his wrath against sin was poured out upon Christ on the cross. We know that his wrath and anger live in harmony with the greatest act of love and grace in all of history!

Yes, God hates sin and must punish it in order to be righteous, just, and good. But for all who receive Jesus Christ as their Savior, God will not pour out his wrath upon them. Instead he has already poured it out upon his Son. It is at the cross where wrath and mercy meet!

Friend, as you seek to walk in wisdom, ask yourself this: Am I numbering my days? What in my life would change if I did? Today, prayerfully consider the eternal nature of your Creator, the fleeting reality of your life, and the just wrath of God. Pray Psalm 90 when you need wisdom. Learn to number your days!

[Photo Credit: Lightstock]

Tom Olson

Tom Olson is the campus pastor at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Barrington, Ill. He and his wife Kari have three children—Kettie, Tovie, and Tommy.
Tom Olson is the campus pastor at The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in Barrington, Ill. He and his wife Kari have three children—Kettie, Tovie, and Tommy.