Redeeming Time





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Redeeming Time

Text: Psalm 90:12

Dr Alex Tang


Sermon Statement:

Our lives are short and fleeting. Let us redeem our time on earth by rest, ceasing, feasting and embracing.


download and listen to sermon (mp3) here






The life of humankind is not only brief, it is also lived under wrath, wearisome with toil, and in trouble. The “somber reflections” (von Rad, “Psalm 90,” 214) in this psalm continue in these verses; the “bleak transience” of vv 3–6 moves to an even more “somber horizon”: “We are consumed by your anger, / and overwhelmed by your wrath.” The relationship of humanity to God is complicated both by transience and by sin: the guilty waywardness of human beings is constantly before the face of God; sins kept secret from other human beings are not hidden from him (v 8). The light which streams out from the divine face illumines the dark places of human culpability; God knows human beings—all of us—as they actually are[1]

10 Our days may come to seventy years,

or eighty, if our strength endures;

yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,

for they quickly pass, and we fly away.


Even when human life is extended to its full length, the span of the years is full of toil and trouble, and as the years fly by they are soon gone (v 10)[2]

11 If only we knew the power of your anger!

Your wrath is as great as the fear that is your due.

12 Teach us to number our days,

that we may gain a heart of wisdom.


V 12 is a petition which corresponds most closely to v 10. The need for human beings is for a mind wise enough to sort out the days, with their events, responsibilities, and opportunities, so that they can cope with the transience and evil of human life (v 10). This verse represents mainstream wisdom theology and acknowledges that the wisdom required lies beyond the power of humanity. It is the gift of God, a power of discernment which is not the result of human endeavor, but must be taught by God (cf. Prov 2:6–15). Cf. Eph 5:16, “making the most of the time, because the days are evil” (rsv), and Col 4:5, “conduct yourselves wisely … making the most of the time” (rsv).

V 12a is traditionally understood as “numbering days” (מנה) in the sense of realizing how few the days of human life are; i.e. a constant awareness and response to the temporality of life—the wisdom which emerges from contemplation of “the fleeting character and brevity of our lifetime” (Delitzsch, III, 57). This is doubtless true, but “numbering our days” is surely more than checking them off on the calendar and thinking about the reduced number left! After all, we hardly need to ask God to teach us how to count days. We can do that very well. The verb מנה does mean to “count/number off” in its simple forms: e.g., 2 Sam 24:1; 2 Kgs 12:11. But some contexts suggest that more than mere numbering is involved: e.g., 1 Kgs 20:25; Isa 53:12 (KB, 537, suggests “summed up with”); Ps 147:4; Ecclus 40:29. Thus the meaning probably includes the ideas of “evaluation/judgment” and the like. Perhaps the English “deal with our days” gets to the meaning rather well.[3]


[1] Tate, M.E., 1998. Psalms 51–100, Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[2] Tate, M.E., 1998. Psalms 51–100, Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

rsv Revised Standard Version (NT 1946, OT 1952, Apoc 1957)

rsv Revised Standard Version (NT 1946, OT 1952, Apoc 1957)

[3] Tate, M.E., 1998. Psalms 51–100, Dallas: Word, Incorporated.


When does the Sabbath start? Genesis 1:5 says, “The evening and the morning were the first day.” A day began when the preceding day closed, at sunset. The dark part of the day came first, then the light part. In describing how to honor one of the feast days, God instructed the Israelites, “From evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath” (Leviticus 23:32). “Evening” is when the sun becomes even with the horizon, what we call sunset. “In the evening, at the going down of the sun ...” (Deuteronomy 16:6). “That evening, after sunset …” (Mark 1:32).

Sabbath starts with a meal, rest and sleep. Modern life starts with action, not out of rest.


By the time we reach the end of our narrative we will see that the multiple claims pulling upon Martha represent a threat to the single-minded devotion proper to the disciple. Martha’s request is an entirely natural one, but one that ultimately fails to take account of the uniqueness of the situation and that reflects the outlook of a person who, despite the best of intentions, has become ensnared by “the worries and riches and pleasures of life” (8:14) and has lost sight of that in which her true life as a disciple consists (4:3).[1]


[1] Nolland, J., 1998. Luke 9:21–18:34, Dallas: Word, Incorporated.



more about the hurried and busy soul here





our lives are a series of moments. Let us fill up our lives with loving, memorable moments.


in the end, what happens are relationships with other eternal beings.










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