“You, indeed, have made my days short in length,
and my life span as nothing in Your sight.
Yes, every mortal man is only a vapor.” Selah
Psalm 39:5 (HCSB)
Teaching four inquisitive boys at home gave me plenty of opportunity to learn some things I somehow missed in my own education. One of our sons lived for science experiments. He’s the one who created tabletop volcanoes and set up catapults in the back yard.
“Vapor” was one of the physical states of matter we studied at our kitchen table (with the help of the Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Physics) and it was easy to demonstrate — turn on the tea kettle and let it boil. Not very exciting and gone in a flash.
Just like mortal man.
When David writes “my life span as nothing in your sight” he’s weighing the measure of his earthly days against the eternity he knows he will share with God. David the scientist knows that, like a vapor, he is but a wispy puff without substance or weight. And David the poet feels the full weight of that truth.
Warren Wiersbe’s “BE Bible Study Series” includes this comment about David’s lament:
“Life is swift, life is short, and for most people, life is futile. In modern vocabulary, people are living for the image and not the reality.”
The modern image portrays us as pretty important and powerful. The reality is that mortal man’s short life doesn’t amount to much.
Kind of depressing.
But consider this — by increasing pressure on vapor, it can be turned into liquid. Liquid has substance. It “flows and takes the shape of its containing vessel” (Usborne). Turn down the temperature on that vapor-turned-liquid and it becomes solid.
Increase the pressure on mortal man and he gains substance, taking the shape of Jesus his Savior. And in his “days short in length” maybe he’ll achieve some depth, become something “solid”.
Because it’s really not the breadth of our days but the depth that makes them matter. I don’t know about you, but I’ve wasted more than a few days “living for the image.”
In this “fourth quarter” of my life, God’s calling me to live intentionally. We can’t increase the span of our days, but we can press in on the days we’ve been given.
Father Creator, these days I cling to are nothing in comparison to the glory days we’ll celebrate in eternity. But I know every day — even the painful and difficult ones — are a gift, a portion of my inheritance. And I thank you for them.