You turn man back into dust and say, “Return, O children of men.”
–Psalm 90:3

In Psalm 90, Moses talked about the valuable commodity of time. He used two images to describe how brief our lives on earth really are.

In verse 3, Moses said, “You turn man back into dust and say, ‘Return, O children of men.’” Do you want to know how brief your life is? Moses says to think of it this way: your life is an accumulation of dust. You were created out of the dust of the earth, and you will return to be dust on the earth. As a pastor, I often hear people describe what they plan to do with their bodies when they die. Some people are planning an elaborate funeral. Other people plan to save some money and be cremated. A newer thing I am hearing more and more now is people saying they are going to donate their bodies to science. People ask me, “Is it right to be cremated? Is it right to donate your body to science?” It does not make any difference at all. It does not matter what you do with this body because whatever you do with it, it is going to turn back into dust. That is what Moses was saying. Our physical bodies are just an accumulation of dust.

Moses used a second metaphor in Psalm 90:5. He said that we are like grass. “You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep; in the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew. In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew; toward evening it fades and withers away.” You may read that and think, “Moses, you did not get that quite right. Grass does not grow and then die in a single day. It takes a whole season for the grass to grow and reach maturity and then finally die away.” That was Moses’ point. It seems like a season to us, but compared to eternity, the life cycle of grass is about a day. And compared to eternity, your life is like a day. You are born, you live, and you die. When I read these verses, I think about what the Apostle James said hundreds of years later: “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).

I see that point illustrated every year at Christmastime. Every Christmas, my family goes to Van Alstyne, Texas, where my uncle lives in the home where he and my mom grew up with their parents. I have been walking into the same living room every Christmas Day for more than five decades. Every year, as I sit there and visit with my family members, I cannot help but think of all the people who have been in that room over the last five decades but are no longer there. They are gone. And in their places are new people who have come into our family: children and grandchildren and cousins. People come and people go, yet the house remains.

That is how life is. You come onto earth’s stage at a point in time, you play the part God has assigned you, and then you exit. Your life is nothing more than a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “It’s About Time” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.

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.

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