Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
LUKE 1:68-75 (ESV)
My wife and I recently welcomed our second child into the world. He is a great joy to his parents and his sister, and every moment with him brings with it sweetness and memories. We hold his tiny little body in our arms and look out at our four-year-old wondering how time could escape our grasps so quickly.
You know the feeling. Most days you open Facebook or Instagram and are reminded of something you posted years ago. Your face looks younger in the photo. Your circle of friends is different now. Even the caption you wrote can seem like the words of a different person. Time has moved and swept you along with its current.
Though this experience is a modern one, all people throughout history have struggled with this feeling. Like a sleepy driver who finds himself in front of a light wondering how he got there, our days can seem to come out of nowhere, leaving us trying to retrace our steps.
For the Hebrew people of the Old Testament, this feeling was even more profound. They understood time in similar ways to how we do today. Our lives are just as finite and delicate now as theirs were then, but their concept of time ran deeper than ours. We tend to look at time quantitatively – measuring and monetizing it, counting and disposing it. Most days we want time to come and go quickly, so we develop pastimes to give a sense of speeding it up. The Israelites knew this default perception, but they also looked at time qualitatively. It wasn’t enough for them to know they had “today.” Each day given represented a blessing and a choice. So a day wasn’t lost when it simply passed. It was lost when it was wasted.
Most of our lives are built around looking at time as a unit of measurement. We clock in and out of our jobs to get paid. We set the DVR in exact hour increments to record our favorite shows. We celebrate the same day every year to recognize another trip around the sun. To the Israelites, though, time was a container. Just as we are holy vessels, temples of the Holy Spirit, so too was a day something to be filled with God’s presence and purpose.
There was a time where this was always the case, when the eternal God was moving in past and present and future to reveal Himself to all of humanity. It wasn’t until the Fall that our days became corruptible. Now it is possible for time to become filled with something else: sin. This is what Paul means in Ephesians 5 when he warns, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” On the other side of the Garden, corrupted by sin, time has to be recaptured and sanctified. Moses’ prayer in Psalm 90 is still relevant, as it recognizes this need and takes it to God. “Teach us to number our days,” he says, “that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Herein lies the key to days of fulfillment and promise. The desperation of our internal ticking clocks was not meant to drive us mad with anxiety or busyness. Eternity beats within our chests so that we might turn to God. We need the one who revealed Himself in time to enter it for us once again.
This only happens in worship. Only by encountering and surrendering to the transcendent God can our days be rescued. Worship is where the time-bound is called to approach the eternally, and not simply for a moment. A life of worship is our calling, where Christ inhabits our finite bodies and empowers us for Kingdom service in all the days he ordains. Andrew Hill puts it like this: “Worship is the key to a Christian understanding of life and time. Only worship can place all of human experience in the larger context of life’s ultimate purpose and meaning. For the Christian, all of life is a response to a loving and gracious God.”
The ultimate measure of our quality of life is how much of it God inhabits. The same God who numbers our days longs to fill them. This is why Christians don’t need to become burdened by nostalgia or futurism. There is no “good old days” sorrow or “just around the corner” crawling because for us the God of eternity inhabits and directs this very moment. As Psalm 118 says, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Scripture says that when God formed you He had in mind this day (Psalm 139:16), an empty vessel waiting to be filled by His presence and purpose. There will never be another day like this one, but while we know it leaves us quickly, we can rejoice. Because God holds our times in his hand (Psalm 31:15), a day gone doesn’t have to be a day wasted.
God, I confess that time often becomes my master. I can feel the burden of it on my weary spirit. I struggle and shake under the weight of trying to save my time on my own power. But for all my efforts, I cannot escape that my days are numbered and set beyond my control. Lord, don’t let me cower in fear or rise in pride when confronted with this. Help me trust Your guiding hand. Give me the perspective that knows my time is limited and rejoices that it can be stewarded for Your glory. Remind me that you work and move in this day for me, so that I might work and move in it for You. AMEN.
What does a wasted day look like to you? Is it aimless? Lazy? Unproductive? What do you think a wasted day looks like to God? Moses turned to worship in Psalm 90 to see his days like God does. We can do the same. Slow down and in prayer, seek God’s wisdom for how His presence and purpose might guide your time. Don’t waste today.