“Show me, Lord, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is” (Psalm 39:4).
“This just doesn’t seem real.”
Have you heard people say that during the early months of the pandemic? It was odd for many people to watch the news in the early days of COVID-19. We saw the death toll rising, even if we didn’t know anyone who fell ill. We watched the job losses mount, but the people we knew could still work from home. We knew COVID-19 was out there, but maybe it didn’t feel real.
Losing sight of death
In some ways, for many people, that’s what is true of death itself. During the blessings of life, death can seem unreal.
We have the great blessings of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospitals to care for our loved ones and us when illness strikes or death draws near. Most of us don’t know the difficult privilege of providing comfort and care for our loved ones on their death beds or caring for their bodies once they have gone. Death can seem far off. Unreal.
That’s a real danger because, of course, death is real. When we lose sight of that, it can be overwhelming when death eventually touches us. When death does not seem real, we lose sight of the truth that our lives are “fleeting” and “a mere handbreath” (v. 4,5), and we forget what our true priorities should be.
Seeing our real treasures
It seems King David wrote Psalm 39 in his latter years. He thought about his own coming death, and God inspired him to write this beautiful song about it. Psalm 39 was written to be sung in public worship and was preserved in Scripture to help us think about death too.
In closeness to death, we too can see the real treasures in this life.
In this psalm, David shares how drawing near to death changed his perspective on life. His early focus on worldly wealth and success faded away. He saw that God’s forgiveness was his greatest treasure. He no longer valued temporary success but wanted to serve God in a way that would continue to bring blessings to those who came after him. “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Save me from all my transgressions; do not make me the scorn of fools” (vv. 7,8).
In closeness to death, we too can see the real treasures in this life. That’s a blessing that God can give all of us at this time. Death seems to have drawn much closer to us than normal; it has dominated national news and private conversations. We could walk away from this time more committed to rejoicing in the passing stuff of this life. We could commit to catching up on the vacations we missed and refocusing our retirement funds. But instead, pray that God grants us a heart like David’s. See what truly matters in life. Use this as a reminder to share your faith with your friends. Call your wandering children and urge them to come to church with you. Use your time and treasures to build up strong congregations that can share God’s Word for generations to come. And above all, rejoice in your forgiveness. God has shown us his great mercy and will shower us with his love forever.
Isn’t that why God preserved this song for us? It’s so that we don’t have to wait for a brush with death. We can learn these lessons now and live knowing that it’s not just death that’s real. Our home in heaven is too.
Author: Joel Seifert
Volume 107, Number 08
Issue: August 2020