Psalm 90 is a perfect psalm for the end of the year. For one thing, this psalm includes the word “year” more than any other psalm. In the Hebrew text of Psalm 90, the word translated as “year” (shena) appears seven times. No other psalm includes shena more than twice.
But, apart from the frequency of the word “year” in Psalm 90, its themes speak to us as we wrap up another calendar year. It begins by noting that God has been our home “through all the generations,” from year to year to year (90:1). Even “before the mountains were born,” God is God (90:2). God is always there for us.
Though we can make a big deal out of the change of years, from God’s perspective, “a thousand years are as a passing day” (90:4). This fact reminds us of God’s unmatched majesty. It also suggests that all the hype surrounding New Year’s doesn’t really matter in the long run.
Psalm 90 acknowledges the difficulties of life: “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away” (90:10). Now that could sound pretty depressing. But, the fact that the Bible doesn’t “make nice” commends to us its truthfulness. Yes, indeed, even when life is fine for us, others are suffering. We may have plenty to eat, but millions throughout the world are without food today. And we might feel as if we’re going to live forever, but, in fact, our days are numbered.
Does this mean we should get all down in the mouth? Hardly. Verse 12 offers this prayer to the Lord: “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” The Hebrew of this verse could be translated literally, “Teach us to count our days, so we might gain a heart of wisdom.” How does acknowledging the brevity of life help us to be wise? Well, for one thing, when we realize that we have only so many hours on earth, we’ll be eager to use them well, rather than frittering them away with empty activities. Accepting the limits of our lives will help us to use well every minute God gives us.
Psalm 90 underscores the fact that fulfillment in life isn’t a matter of how much we have or how much we accomplish. Rather, what gives life purpose and meaning is a living relationship with the living God: “Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love, so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives” (90:14). I can’t think of a better thought with which to end the year and begin a new one. If we live each day in the satisfaction of God’s love, we will be empowered to live for him, to love him through serving our neighbors. We won’t fret about the passing of the years, but will accept the gift of each day as a new opportunity for love and service.
As you come to the end of the year, what thoughts do you have about 2017? Have you lived this year to the fullest? In what areas of life do you need more of God’s wisdom? Are you open to being satisfied each day with God’s unfailing love for you? (MARK D. ROBERTS)