So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands! ( Psalm 90:12-17)
I was surprised at a milestone birthday of late. It was not the unexpected gathering of happy family and friends who greeted me with the joyful cry “Surprise”, that did it, no, it was my unexpected reaction to turning fifty that was so surprising to me. I was surprised that it affected me so deeply, that I mourned my passing days so painfully. Perhaps a confluence of events–Phil Busbee’s sudden death, fractured friendships, disillusionments, the graduations of some I have watched grow up–these were tributaries to the flooding of a river of memories. I was surprised by all the grief I felt, and that this river overflowed its banks.
But blessed are those who mourn. For it is a good thing to number our days and grieve before the LORD our losses . It is a good thing to clearly see the time fleeing, and the futility of our efforts apart from Him. It is a good thing to return to Him in reverential fear. It is very good to hear His voice above the flood of regret, saying “I am your portion, and your exceeding great reward.” Faith answers, ” You maintain my lot, the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.”
I have been studying the life of Abraham lately. I am captured again by the One who sees the things that don’t exist as if they did, and identifying deeply with the one who believed the Promise unwaveringly, yet faltered in following consistently. (Did he just say, “Tell them you are my sister”–again? And did I just fall myself into the fell snare of the fear of man–yet again? Why was I so intimidated by mere man who has only breath, and did not tremble before You, oh Lord? )
I have been so encouraged to observe how the ominipotent God of the universe condescended to shape the faith of this humble man, patiently bore with his inconsistencies, and led him inexorably to the Test of all Tests. And though Abraham stumbled Abimelech’s household by his half-truths which were wholly lies, yet he edified the Father’s household of faith forever with his fearsome obedience of death to self. In this prophetic act, God’s work of redemption was shown to His servant Abraham, and His glorious power to that man’s child. Isaac’s faith, though shaken in that terrible moment of trusting immolation, was established by that ram caught in the thicket. So it was written in God’s book forever, an example for us all to follow. “We must make our own way to the region of obedience, and scale our own Golgotha. And the children walk with us”.* What will they see us do on the mountain that rises in the distance?
Though my Lord has made the way as difficult as possible, and I am excellent at evading the challenges, I have numbered my days, and I cry out to Him yet again, “How long?” But I will set my face like flint, as my brother and Savior have done. I will make myself again a living sacrifice, giving Him everyday everything that gets in the way of obedience.
Then You, only You, will establish the work of my hands, oh Lord. For the glory of your Name!
*I have done this study of Abraham with the book of Romans and the help of Alistair Begg’s wonderful series “Venturing in Faith, A Study in the Life of Abraham.” I have a haunting feeling rereading this that this might be Beggs’ own wonderful phrase here. You can download his beautiful sermon for free, and let me know if I stole it from him, at http://www.truthforlife.org/site/News2?abbr=lst&page=NewsArticle&id=9212&news_iv_ctrl=1102 .
I highly recommend this ministry. Mr. Begg has a wonderful storytelling gift, a passionate desire for Jesus and clarity into His truth; and a lilting Scottish brogue that helps it all go down easily. He is the only radio preacher my prodigal #1 can stand to listen to. She’ll even remind me when he’s on, and helpfully tune him in. For all that, I am a loyal listener, and supporter of the ministry.