Psalm 90:11–12 (NKJV)
11 Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
12 So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Numbering days is just that, counting them but, in this context, with both eternity and the brevity of human existence defining the sum. It is a gaining of that particular perspective necessary for resisting the temptation of thinking time is anything other than a creation by God and a gift from God.
This numbering of days has at least four consequences-it reminds us that time is passing by and with each passing day fewer remain. It also focuses us on the day we now have, how valuable it is as an opportunity to please God in some way or other and not waste it on vain and empty projects. Thirdly, it places our lives within the framework of God’s time, measured by the days, months, years seasons and holy days He established from the beginning in Genesis and reiterated again and again throughout the Bible. Finally, numbering our days leads to wisdom that is something we gain and something we give to God, like a gift of a life well spent.
The basis for this fourth consequence is the language of Psa. 90:12 suggesting two interpretations about this wisdom of numbering days. The NKJV reads “that we may gain a heart of wisdom” whereas the NASB reads “that we may present to You a heart of wisdom”. These are both entirely acceptable translations and, therefore, can be considered together like both sides of a single coin. In other words, numbering our days does something to us and something for God. The former seems easy to understand but the latter provokes a pronounced wonderment, at least for me. It make me think that if I can present to God wisdom, I could present something else as well, say stupidity for example, like engaging in the wanton consumption of all things worldly. Consequently, according to the first translation, instead of gaining a heart of true wisdom I might instead gain that kind of wisdom James describes as “earthly, natural, demonic”. (James 2:13-15)
Given the sweeping panorama of this Psalm it is noteworthy that numbering our days follows a reference to understanding the full depth of God’s wrath and judgment, i.e. the proper ‘fear of God’ which we know is the “beginning of wisdom”. It is true that familiarity breeds contempt and with the grossly warped views of God being promulgated these days, portraying God as an indulgent parent, such familiarity excludes the respect due His Name; it is in my judgment an idolatrous frivolity. This is not to say that being a Christian is morbid but that the joy, gladness and happiness promised us can only be such when balanced with a proper fear of God; this is ‘wisdom’ we bring to God. The upshot is we need God to teach us this unique and wise numbering of days. Left to our own devices, the gravity of the matter will surely escape us. And Who better to ask for help than the creator of time Himself? And, so with David we can pray
4 “Lord, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.
5 Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my age is as nothing before You;
Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.
Selah (Psalm 39:4–5 (NKJV)
W.G. Ryzek 2014