As we come to the end of the year and stand ready to mark the beginning of another, it is good to remember that we mark time because time is intrinsically measurable, intrinsically finite.
Not only is time itself finite, having a definite beginning in and with the creation of all things. Our times are also finite, limited by definite beginnings and definite endings: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty. . . They are soon gone, and we fly away” (Ps 90.10). The psalmist thus counsels us to gain a heart of wisdom by learning to number our days (Ps 90.12).
But learning to number our days does not exhaust the wisdom Psalm 90 commends. Its opening verses declare with confidence: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps 90.1-2). As we mark the end of one year and the beginning of another, it is worth pausing over what it means to have the eternal one as our Lord and God.
To say that God is eternal is not to say that God is very, very old. God’s eternity is not an exceedingly long span of time. In fact, God’s eternity is not susceptible to measurement at all (Job 36.26). Nothing in God’s eternal being recedes into the past or rushes upon him from the future (to paraphrase Robert Jenson). Eternity is God’s mode of being as God. As such, God’s eternity precedes and transcends time, even as it is present to time as its ground and governor (Ps 90.2; John 8.58; Rev 1.8). God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever in the replete perfection of his eternal being (Ps 102.27; Heb 13.8).
As the eternal one, Psalm 90 tells us that God is the “dwelling place” of his covenant people (Ps 90.1). At a minimum, the psalmist identifies God as our dwelling place to signify that he is the source of our security in the midst of a world characterized by danger (Pss 36.7; 91.1-2) and to signify that he is the source of our supply in the midst of a world characterized by want (Ps 36.8). Security and supply, protection and provision, these are the traits of our “dwelling place.”
And because our dwelling place is the Lord, our dwelling place is eternal. Ours is no temporary security. Our feeble days are enveloped by an eternal security that outbids the threats of any temporal assailant: “The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night” (Ps 121.6). Ours is no temporary supply. Our feeble days are enveloped by an eternal provision that is untiring, never slumbering, that is new every morning with the newness of God’s own eternal life (Ps 121.4; Isa 40.28). In the shelter of the eternal one is “the fountain of life” and the light in which we see light (Ps 36.9).
So teach us, Lord, to number our days in the year that lies ahead; it is good to remember that we are dust (Ps 90.3). And teach us to meditate upon your eternity: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love”–which endures forever (Ps 106.1)–“that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Ps 90.14).
This article first appeared at Reformation 21