Live Long, Live Well, Live Wise
TEXT: Psalm 90:1-12, NLT
TOPIC: Live Long, Live Well, Live Wise
Pastor Bobby Earls, First Baptist Church, Center Point, AL. November 13, 2005
Luther Rice, pioneer missionary to India, wrote in his personal journal of 1836:
“The Lord in His mercy has brought me to the beginning of another year.
I think I have made some progress in religion the past year, but far less
than I ought. God grant I may do better, should life be preserved through
this year also. I think it right to plan, act, and labor, as if I might have
thirty years of service yet before me; for even in that period, I should not
have reached the age of my ancestors; but also to live, plan, act, and labor,
as though I might die soon, any day, or hour.”
When Rice wrote these words, he had no way of knowing that he had only nine months to live. He died on September 25, 1836.
This morning I’d like to share with you a message I’ve entitled, “Live long, live well, live wise.” Take your bible and open to Psalm 90. I am reading the first 12 verses of that psalm and I am reading from the NLT version of the bible. Psalm 90:1-12.
1 Lord, through all the generations
you have been our home!
2 Before the mountains were created,
before you made the earth and the world,
you are God, without beginning or end.
3 You turn people back to dust, saying,
“Return to dust!”
4 For you, a thousand years are as yesterday!
They are like a few hours!
5 You sweep people away like dreams that disappear
or like grass that springs up in the morning.
6 In the morning it blooms and flourishes,
but by evening it is dry and withered.
7 We wither beneath your anger;
we are overwhelmed by your fury.
8 You spread out our sins before you—
our secret sins—and you see them all.
9 We live our lives beneath your wrath.
We end our lives with a groan.
10 Seventy years are given to us!
Some may even reach eighty.
But even the best of these years are filled with pain and trouble;
soon they disappear, and we are gone.
11 Who can comprehend the power of your anger?
Your wrath is as awesome as the fear you deserve.
12 Teach us to make the most of our time,
so that we may grow in wisdom.
There are those who believe Psalm 90 is the only psalm to be written by Moses. If this is true, then Psalm 90 would also be the oldest psalm in the Book of Psalms. It is very clear from the internal evidence of the psalm that it was written near the end of the 40 years of wilderness wanderings by the people of Israel.
You may recall how Moses led the children of Israel out of the Egyptian bondage to Mount Sinai where he gave them the commandments of God and the Law before bringing them to the entrance of the Promised Land. Here the people refused to follow the leadership of Moses and claim their Promised Land. They halted in faith, refused to enter and spent the next 38 years drifting in circles in the desert. Moses buried 2 million of his own generation that never saw the Promised Land.
Some have called Psalm 90 a psalm of death. I call it a psalm of life. Within these brief verses is contained the words of wisdom that teach us how to live long, live well and live wise.
Notice that this psalm like so many psalms is more than a song, it is a prayer. Moses begins by asking the Lord to help us remember that our days are not long on earth, that we are to make the most of them, and that we are to live wisely.
There are two great truths you need to take home with you today from this psalm if we too are to learn to live long, live well, and live wise. Some may call this a philosophy of life, or a culture of understanding. It is the basic Judea-Christian viewpoint, a Christian worldview.
It begins with an awareness of the eternal nature of God.
- THE ETERNAL NATURE OF GOD
The person who wishes to live long, well and wise, acknowledges that God is and that God is eternal. Look again at the first two verses.
Lord, through all the generations you have been our home! 2 Before the mountains were created, before you made the earth and the world, you are God, without beginning or end.
God is eternal with no beginning or ending. It is the first and most basic premise of the Bible, “In the beginning, God….”
Some may wonder how that is possible. May I just say, that’s the reason He is God. Think about it this way. We believe in time. Time has no beginning or end. It has always been and always will be.
We believe in space. If there is a beginning to space, then where is it? If we found the beginning or the end of space, what would be on the other side of it?
If we can believe in time and space without beginning or end, then why not in God who has no beginning or end? God is eternal. He is Sovereign, meaning He is in control.
We live in a world today where many people reject the concept or the reality of God. But if you’d like to have some fun with someone who claims to be agnostic or atheistic, then try this with them.
Ask them, are you sure about that? Are you absolutely certain there is no God? Then say something like this. Then if you are sure there’s no God you must be one of the smartest, most knowledgeable people who has ever lived. In fact, to know there is really no God must mean that you know practically everything there is to know. Would you say that? That’s incredible. Especially in light of the fact that knowledge and new information, facts, new data is doubling every 10 years in our lifetime. It’s amazing how you keep up with all of it!
Well, would you say you know at least 90% of everything there is to know? 90% of all the history, facts, information, 90% of everything there is to know? How about 75%? Then maybe you know at least 50%?
Then if you agree that you don’t even know half of all the history, facts, truths and everything there is to know would you agree that just perhaps somewhere in the 50% of everything you don’t know, that God could very well be a part of what you do not know or understand?
To live wisely which leads to living long and well, you must begin with the knowledge that God is, and that God is eternal.
- THE FRAIL NATURE OF MAN
The wise person, who lives long and lives well, is also aware of man’s brief, frail existence in this world. Over against the eternal nature of God, Moses pictures the frailty of man in verses 4-9.
- He compares our life on earth to a watch in the night, v. 4
For you, a thousand years are as yesterday! They are like a few hours!
The KJV compares the days of our lives as a “watch in the night.” What does that mean?
In ancient days cities had walls built around them for protection. At night sentries were placed on the wall to keep watch. A watch was a three, sometimes a four hour shift of sentry duty at night. To a soldier or guard on duty, the long, dark hours before dawn must have seemed endless, but they really passed quickly.
Our life is like that. When we are young and look forward, it seems as though tomorrow will never come. As we grow older, we cannot believe how fast the years have passed.
B. Life is described as a story, v. 9. “we spend our years as a tale that is told.
In the days before the printed page, most teaching was done by telling stories. A story always had a beginning, an end, a moral, and it was quickly told.
I enjoy reading authors who are great story tellers. I just finished Christian author Frank Peretti’s new book Monster. It’s the first book he has written in six years. Some of you have read his other books such as This Present Darkness, Piercing the Darkness, the Prophet, among others. I recently finished reading another great historic Christian story teller, C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia.
Our lives are like a story. They are not without purpose and meaning. But they soon come to an end, and sometimes, it’s a surprise ending!
C. Life is pictured as a Dream, v. 5 “You sweep people away like dreams that disappear”
Have you ever heard anyone say, “I dreamed all night?” It may seem that way, but those who study dreams tell us that dreams only last a few seconds. The older you are the more your past life seems like a dream that has too quickly passed. Life is frail and life is brief.
- Life is compared to a Flood, v. 5, “You carry them away like a flood;”
Floods can come so quickly and often without warning. In moments the works of a lifetime can be swept away. We’ve certainly seen too many examples of the devastation caused by floods when Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
E. Life is described as Grass and Flowers, vv. 5-6, “In the morning they are like grass which grows up: In the morning it flourishes and grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withers.”
I enjoy gardening. I love beautiful flowers. I love the rich, dark green symmetry of a freshly mowed lawn. But it only takes a few days of draught to wither, dry and destroy the grass and flowers. Such is life.
To live long, to live well, to live wise, we must understand not only the eternal nature of God, but also the frailty of man. That’s why Moses prayed, “Lord teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” v.12
David prayed the same kind of prayer and had the same perspective of life. Listen to his own words in Psalm 39.
“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered,
and that my life is fleeing away.
5 My life is no longer than the width of my hand.
An entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
human existence is but a breath.”
6 We are merely moving shadows,
and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth for someone else to spend.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.
Somewhere, and I’m not sure where, and sometime, and I’m not sure when, but a long, long time ago, I came across this poem. It has meant much to me through the years. Perhaps you’ve heard it. It’s entitled, “So Brief Our Days.”
So Brief Our Days
So brief our days, so very brief
Like an autumn rose with its falling leaf
A moment’s light, a glance of the sun
And then our pilgrimage is done.
As the rainbow fades in the summer sky
As the green grass flourishes to die
This moment’s triumph, too, will wane
And none shall call it back again.
Write quickly then, while the candle glows
A little while and the book will close
Go carve your figure of renown
For soon you must lay your chisel down.
Use well this hour’s joy, its grief;
For life is brief, so very brief.
Some wise person who undoubtedly lived long and well once said, “Tis but one life to live, twill soon be past, tis only what’s done for Christ that shall last.”