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What the Bible says about Number our Days
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Leviticus 23:15-16

Pentecost is unique among the holy days because it is the only annual feast determined by counting. All the other festivals God commands us to keep on certain dates on the Hebrew calendar, but we must count for Pentecost. Whether we count fifty days or seven weeks or seven Sabbaths from the day of the wavesheaf offering, we must still go through the exercise of measuring the time to keep the feast properly. Why?

God does nothing without a purpose, and His purposes always include giving His people additional instruction for their ultimately eternal benefit. Counting to Pentecost is no exception. Even a cursory examination will expose several fascinating avenues of study.

First, God commands us to count. Counting is a means of calculating sequential items, events, and measurements. The Bible equates counting to numbering and measuring, and it becomes a metaphor for judging and evaluating. When we understand what the period from the wavesheaf offering to Pentecost represents, the extended meanings come into play.

Passover symbolizes our redemption from this world and the forgiveness of our sins. Unleavened Bread typifies our lifelong task of coming out of sin and putting on the new man in sincerity and truth. We begin to count on wavesheaf day, which occurs during this period, and the fifty days extend to Pentecost, a festival that prefigures the harvest of God's firstfruits. The fifty days, then, represent the period of a Christian's conversion, the time between his calling and his resurrection to eternal life.

Thus, God wants us to count, number, or measure the time of our conversion. This should bring several well-known verses to mind. For instance, Paul considers us wise if we are "redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16). He cautions the Romans, "And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" (Romans 13:11). In both instances, he is advising Christians to measure and make use of our time carefully.

A few Old Testament verses may be even more on point. David writes in Psalm 39:4, "LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am." If we understand just how short our time is, we also realize how weak and insignificant we are next to God and eternity. It forces us to rely upon Him and strive to improve. This is the kind of attitude that God desires in us and will enhance our growth in character.

Moses, too, makes use of this imagery in Psalm 90:12: "So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." Properly evaluating our lifetimes builds wisdom in us, and wisdom—the godly use of knowledge and understanding—will make our behavior pleasing to God. Wisdom will help us to prioritize our time properly so we can devote ourselves to what is truly important.

Second, God has us count fifty days. What is significant about the number fifty? Fifty is the round number of years human beings live in a normal adult life (compare Numbers 1:3; Psalm 90:10). Fifty years, then, represents the period during which we live, grow, overcome, bear fruit, and prove our devotion to God through trials, tests, blessings, curses, and life's other varied experiences. Fifty years corresponds to the span of our conversion.

Biblically, the number fifty has its closest association with two things: the Tabernacle/Temple (in some of its measurements) and the Jubilee. The apostles describe God's church as a temple, and Christians are individual "living stones" within it (I Corinthians 3:9, 16-17; Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:5). The fifty days thus symbolize the time it takes to complete the work of building a habitation for God.

Every fiftieth year in ancient Israel, the Jubilee was decreed on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:8-9), which, among other things, represents unity, being at one, with God. The Jubilee was a year of liberty, when all debts were cancelled and inheritances reverted to their original families (verse 10), foreshadowing "the restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21). It was also a year of rest (Leviticus 25:11), when no crops were sown or reaped, a foretaste of God's rest (Hebrews 4:4-10). Under this type, the fiftieth day of the count, Pentecost, represents the harvest of Christians into God's Kingdom by the resurrection.

Overall, then, we count to Pentecost for two major reasons:

1. God commands it, and
2. It teaches us to realize and use carefully the ever-shrinking time we have to come "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

In His wisdom, God has us annually take stock of our procession through time so that we will devote ourselves to making the most of it. In doing so, we can gauge our progress toward God's Kingdom.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf Offering

Psalm 90:12

The phrase "number our days" expresses the thought of putting in order, arranging the use of, or prioritizing time because the end of one's life is fast approaching. Moses wanted us to remember that our remaining number of days grows smaller each day.

He reminds us because we rarely make a conscious relationship between sin and our mortality. We are so busy living for the moment that we fail to see a connection between our conduct and our finite lifespan. Moses appeals for help that we might be wise and live by faith. Proverbs 4:5-6 urges us, "Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you." Because it bears so profoundly upon our accountability to God, using time properly may be the greatest of wisdom.

Romans 13:11-12 carries this thought down to our day, expressing the urgency of our situation:

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Simplify Your Life!

Ecclesiastes 7:1-4

By asking God for help regarding its reality, Moses makes a vital statement about preparing for death: “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). The phrase, “number our days,” suggests that we put our use of time in order. Death and its reality play an important role in Christian life, for God fully intends that it have an overall positive effect on the lives of His children. Everybody dies. It cannot be avoided, but not everybody prepares for death.

Martin Luther also made an insightful observation on preparing for death: “It is good for us to invite death into our presence when it is still at a distance and not on the move.” The time to learn about rock climbing is not when hanging from the edge of a precipice but well before starting up the side of the cliff. It seems, though, that many do most things on the spur of the moment, a practice that is not good, especially concerning something like death that absolutely no one escapes.

God gives some insight and counsel in Ecclesiastes 7:3-4. Death, He says, is good for the heart. The heart beats at our core. Attending one good funeral can shape a person's worldview more positively than a whole year's worth of parties. Verse 3 may be better understood if translated as, “By sadness, the heart is made better.”His point is aimed at the soundness of the heart, which results from the honest thoughtfulness that sorrow causes a person to engage in. God is saying that sorrow tends to make us better people.

A specific and important sorrow is one Paul names in II Corinthians 7:8-11. In this brief passage, he uses “sorry,” “sorrow,” or “sorrowed” seven times. Why is it important? Because godly sorrow produces repentance, a change of mind and conduct.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon is clearly implying that, because we love to laugh, worldly mirth is attractive on the surface and momentarily focuses our attention. However, in terms of conduct, it frequently leaves an individual essentially unchanged. When this is combined with the godly truths of II Corinthians 7:8-11, it becomes clear that, by God's design, the discipline of sorrow tends to lead to improvement of conduct. Thus, God Himself sometimes afflicts us to produce sorrow in the hope that the pains and their accompanying sorrow make our hearts tender so that we change.

The result of a parent disciplining a child in a timely manner and in appropriate measure is a good illustration. Is not some measure of pain and its accompanying sorrow inflicted? Proverbs frequently tells us to spank our children. Why? Is not it to produce the sorrow of separation from one who is loved to accomplish a change in attitude and behavior?

God is saying through Solomon, then, that sorrow—in a morally and ethically beneficial way in which laughter cannot—penetrates and influences the heart, the very center of our being and from which conduct flows. So important is godly sorrow that II Corinthians 7:10 states, “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.”

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eight): Death


 




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