“Remember how short my time is:
wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?”
~ Psalm 89:47
The brevity of man’s life is given no small attention in the Scripture. James reminds us that our life “is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14). Job characterized his own days as “swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6). The number of the days of man’s life is compared to a hand breadth (Psalm 39:5) and “like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth, and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down, and whithereth” (Psalm 90:5-6). Day follows hard after day and our time flees as if pursued.
A quick glance at our text might cause us to put it in with other verses that treat of this subject. However, there is an important distinction between this verse and most others that address the shortness of man’s life. The distinction is one of perspective. Most of the verses are written man-ward in the sense that they speak to man to provoke him to realize his situation. Consider Psalm 90:12—“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Such verses exhort men to be wise and redeem their time because they have little of it and man is prone to waste his time on insignificant things.
Our text, though, speaks God-ward. It is a man speaking to God, “Remember how short my time is.” It should be considered a prayer, pressing upon the Almighty to remember how few the petitioner’s days really are. The Psalmist is crying out for deliverance asking, “How long, LORD?” (Psalm 89:46). This prayer is neither irreverent nor unbelieving. He does not doubt the deliverance of God, but he cries for it to come speedily.
The Psalmist feels a sense of urgency when he sees the people of God in disgrace in the world. He is grieved to see God’s enemies with a high hand defying the Living God. He cannot carry on with personal business when the Kingdom of God seems receding with its crown in the dust (Psalm 89:44). Though he knows his present condition is not the end of the story, he implores God that He will not let his days run out before the power of the true King triumphs.
The Psalmist qualifies his petition by asking, “Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?” Several thoughts are suggested by this phrase. The vanity of how men spend their lives is magnified when set against the brevity of that life. So few days we have and they are mostly consumed in procuring the material things of the world.
It seems the Psalmist thought that his own days would be vain if God delayed in showing mercy. If the Lord were not working, his days would be consumed. He had the spirit of the old prophets who longed to see the power of God in their day. They had hope in the future, yet desired to see God working in their own day. They wanted to see terror struck in God’s enemies and for Him to be the rejoicing of His people.
We need this spirit in our day. A comparative minority of people continue to advance the agenda of evil and tread Christians under foot. Who will redeem their time in these evil days? Who will forsake all for the Kingdom’s sake? Who will beseech God that He act in power to confound His enemies and vindicate His own name in our day? May the people of God today have the conviction of urgency that makes them cry, “Remember how short my time is.” “Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen” (Psalm 89:52).