Teach Me To Number My Nanoseconds

by Lambert Dolphin

Psalm 90

The Eternity of God, and Man’s Frailty
A Prayer of Moses the man of God.

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,
Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

You turn man to destruction,
And say, “Return, O children of men.”

For a thousand years in Your sight
Are like yesterday when it is past,
And like a watch in the night.

You carry them away like a flood;
They are like a sleep.

In the morning they are like grass which grows up:
In the morning it flourishes and grows up;

For we have been consumed by Your anger,
And by Your wrath we are terrified.
You have set our iniquities before You,
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.

For all our days have passed away in Your wrath;
We finish our years like a sigh.

The days of our lives are seventy years;
And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,
Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow;
For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

Who knows the power of Your anger?
For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.

So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Return, O Lord!
How long?
And have compassion on Your servants.
Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy,

That we may rejoice and be glad all our days!
Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us,
The years in which we have seen evil.

Let Your work appear to Your servants,
And Your glory to their children.

And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.

One of the puzzling problems in physics is known as "time's arrow." Since Einstein, time has been treated as a fourth dimension associated with length, width, and height as measures of "space-time." Time appears in many mathematical equations of physics; in most it does not matter whether time is minus or plus (i.e., whether it flows forward into the future or backwards into the past).

Time's arrow arises from the Second Law of Thermodynamics which states that energy is inexorably less available to do useful work as history moves forward. The overall tendency of all things in the material world is to run down, decay, rot, and fall apart. The "information content" of systems also decreases with the passage of time. In order to bring order out of chaos one must supply both outside energy and programming information. The Second Law implies a sad end to the universe known as a "heat death." [Thus the theory of the evolution of life from simple forms to complex is at most a hopeful myth].

The entrance of evil in the early history of our universe is the reason we now live in a flawed and ruined creation. Even the laws of physics have been altered by the fall. This subjection of the natural world to "a bondage of decay" is described in Romans 8:18-25. The Apostle reminds us further that, due to Adam's sin, "our bodies are dead because of sin." Mankind, like nature, has been ruined so that all must die. Although God sustains the old creation He apparently does not ordinarily interfere with the Second Law. He is instead building a new creation for His redeemed people to dwell in.

God builds a new creation by starting with people not things: "If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away, behold all things are become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17) Though we followers of Christ have new spirits and renewed souls, our bodies (which connect us to the old creation) are not yet redeemed. We weaken and sicken and die. The world we live in is full of evil, sorrow, accidents and unexpected tragedies. In our mortal bodies time is still mostly one-dimensional. We are prisoners in time and our lives are sometimes over just about the time we begin to get our act together.

Moses (surely aware of these realities), wrote the Ninetieth Psalm, probably near the time of his death (he lived to age 120---way down from Adam's 930 years). Moses had seen a whole generation die in the Sinai wilderness. In Psalm 90 he meditates on the eternity of God and the brevity of man's life which is ephemeral like the morning mist. Our God is, however, "El Olam"---the Father of Eternity, the Eternally Living One (Ps. 90:2, Gen. 21:33, Is. 40:28, Rev. 1:18). The Creator of everything that is lives outside of time. He encompasses in His own Being all possible dimensions of time. Past, present and future are an eternal now before Him. He has all the time in the world to hear a split-second cry for help, and all eternity to consider and to act (instantaneously) on our behalf.

The free gift of eternal life joins us inseparably to this Eternal Spirit. Therefore Christian life has more to do with the quality of our living than the quantity of events we pack into a day's brief hours. We are not to live casual, flaky, irresponsible lives without eternity always in our hearts. In heaven, then, time must be multi-dimensional---we can already imagine time- and space- travel as ordinary capabilities of resurrection bodies!

It is during this short life we live out on earth that we develop our capacity to hold this awesome Eternal Spirit. Apparently not all believers will enjoy the same degree of rich reward in heaven, though all will enjoy bliss and happiness there. Not all of us are now choosing God's best---to the end that we might become more useful to God in the heavenlies---better suited for adventure and challenge in the uncharted dimensions of the Spirit.

Quality life in the Spirit means dying daily to our own selfish desires, yielding to the indwelling Lord who longs to use us on behalf of others. He knows how to reorder our priorities so that we can say no to mediocrity and the diversions of modern culture, and say yes to the opportunities He opens for us daily. The key is to seek after intimacy with God so that we move in tune with His heart of compassion and mercy towards mankind. If we choose otherwise we perish---to arrive in eternity with next to nothing, having "received the grace of God in vain." (2 Cor. 6:1)

Spiritually mature Christians are not necessarily busier or better organized than others. What they seem to have is spiritual weightiness. For example, the words of the godly carry lasting impact as did Samuel's "...the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground." (1 Sam. 3:19) It is by experience and the risk-taking of faith that we all should learn to discern the will of God, to learn "what is good, and acceptable, and perfect." (Rom. 12:2) Then our deeds will last and impact succeeding generations. The "eternal weight of glory" we are all learning to carry will surely be the final measure of how we've walked with God, how we have made use of the time available to us.

The free gift of everlasting life is not only life that goes on forever. Hell as well as heaven lasts forever!

"So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on thy servants! Satisfy us in the morning with thy steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. Make us glad as many days as thou hast afflicted us, and as many years as we have seen evil. Let thy work be manifest to thy servants, and thy glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish thou the work of our hands upon us, yea, the work of our hands establish thou it." (Psalm 90:12-17)

See Psalms of Faith by Ray C. Stedman, for a commentary on Psalm 90.

Lambert Dolphin
January 1991
March 12, 2019
lambert@ldolphin.org

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