Remember what my span of life is; for what vanity You have created all the sons of men!
The older I get, the more I understand what Rabbi Harold Kushner called the instant coffee theory of life. In his book “When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough,” Rabbi Kushner said that when you buy a brand-new jar of instant coffee, you tear off the seal and everything smells great. When that jar is fresh and new, you tend to be very generous in the portions you dole out. After all, you have a whole jar of coffee. Why not be generous? But when you get about halfway through the jar, you tend to be a bit more conservative in the amount of coffee you are using. And by the time you get to the bottom of the jar, you are searching around for every coffee ground you can find in that jar. Rabbi Kushner says life is a lot like that instant coffee jar. When we are teenagers and young adults, we do not mind wasting time because we have years ahead of us. But then about halfway through our lives, we realize that we have more years behind us than we do in front of us. We begin to reevaluate how we are spending our time. Often it leads to what people call a midlife crisis, when we wonder, “Have I wasted my years? Do I need to make some major changes in my life?” Finally, when we get to the end of our lives, we look back and say, “How did it all go by so quickly?”
Psalm 90 was written by Moses in the latter years of his life. As you read Psalm 90, you can tell that Moses was an early adopter of the instant coffee theory of life. He was coming to the end of his life, and he realized how valuable the gift of time is. In this psalm, Moses gave us important insights about this valuable commodity called time.
In Psalm 90:1-6, Moses talked about the brevity of life. This is a constant theme that appears throughout the Scriptures like a flashing beacon: how short our time on earth really is. In Psalm 89:47, the psalmist said, “Remember what my span of life is; for what vanity You have created all the sons of men!” Then in Psalm 90, Moses picked up on that theme. He described how transitory our lives are by comparing them to the eternality of God. He said, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God” (90:1). God has no beginning. He has no end. He is eternal. “For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it passes by, or as a watch in the night” (90:4). But unlike God, man is not eternal. Man has a beginning. We didn’t always exist. There was a moment in time when we came into existence. There was a beginning of your life. There is a middle of your life. And as far as life on this earth goes, there will be an end to your life. Unlike God, you and I are prisoners of time.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “It’s About Time” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.
Harold Kushner, “When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough” (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1986), 158-59.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.