LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am. Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my age is as nothing before You; certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah. (Psalm 39:4–5—NKJV)

Nothing illustrates the mortality of man like sandcastles and footprints in the sand. With the arrival of summer, people head to the beach. When the tide recedes and the beach is exposed to the sun and wind, beach-goers turn to play. Out come the umbrellas, the towels, the toys, and the kids. Before the tide comes in, sandals have tracked across the dunes, castles and moats appear, and people have carved out ruts where their feet have rested while reading a favorite book. After all the energy and life has been expended between the ebb and flow of the tidal dance, the people all leave, the sun goes down and the water erases all traces of the lives enjoyed, the memories made, and the lives lived on a breezy day so quickly passed.

What child has not labored long and hard on the construction of a sand castle sure to withstand the onslaught of “hoards of marauders,” secretly hoping that his castle may still stand tomorrow, or wondered if perhaps the remnants may still be traced when he returns the following summer? The brevity and transiency of life could not be more aptly illustrated. The lessons for the thinking man’s admonition and improvement are legion.

Man, above all other created beings, has the capacity to see and consider. The lie of our lives is that we will go on forever in this world and our myopic thinking seems to crowd out any awareness of eternal reality. The average man judges the meaning of his life by gauging himself among his living peers. The genuine believer knows the fallacy of this thinking by taking 2 Corinthians 10:12 in mind, “…they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves are not wise.”

The above-average man usually has his eye set on the record-setters primarily of his own generation, but he is also mindful of the record holders of preceding days. He measures his significance by the victories he won, the success he has earned, or the legacy he has built. Some of the mightiest among men like to be compared with the people who are the stuff of the legendary or the mythical. They love to be reputed to be as strong as Samson, having the wisdom of Solomon, thought of as a founder akin to George Washington, or presiding over a current-day Camelot. Though a man measures his stature among men, he fails to value the words found in Hebrews 11:10, for Abraham “waited for the city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God.”

Our text states that there is a measure to our days. Psalm 90:10–12 reads, “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away…so teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Why is there a measure to our days? We are mere mortals because of Adam’s sin as Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Why do we measure our days? We measure things for precision, for conservation, for stewardship, for significance, and for success. Why must we measure our days? “That we may gain a heart of wisdom” and so that we may hear our Master say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Quite appropriately, the Scriptures are filled with such wisdom. James 4:13–15 opines, “You who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” The Psalms share that our beauty is consumed like a moth (39:11), we are “but flesh, a breath that passes away and does not come again” (78:39), and “we are dust”, our days are like the flowers of grass which the wind passes over and it is gone and “its place remembers it no more” (103:14–16).

What are the lessons of mortality? Mortality makes all men equals for all die. As we see in the Bible, what God says about you is the stuff of legends. The only real record of legends is the Lamb’s Book of Life—is your name written there? Our life is finite therefore do not fritter it away for you are granted life by your Creator to whom you will give account and give it all back. But you do have one life; though others may only be marking time on the shifting sands, be different, pray the prayer found in Psalm 71:17–18. Trust and obey.