We spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Psalm 90:9,10 (KJV)
Even if we grew up with the King James Bible, we still don’t usually count years according to scores. Decades are more like it.
The words of Psalm 90 are often read at funerals or near the start of a new year. That seems fitting because the psalm points us back over the quick-passing of time. Thus, using the old wording also seems fitting.
Abraham Lincoln used the same method of counting time when he stood before the fresh graves of those who had fallen in battle near a Lutheran college at Gettysburg. He began: “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
Lincoln’s time reference equals 87 years. The counts given by Moses add up to 70, and 80. Both quotes are significant. Both give food for thought. Counting years by scores instead of decades makes an impression on us. Maybe we should add another score to our list of times that could impress us: Two score and fifteen.
Two score and fifteen years ago, it was 1968—fifty-five years ago.
That summer was memorable for many who lived through it. Maybe many of us were too young to remember it. Maybe, some not even born yet. But some of us graduated from school that year. Some of us became married in ‘68. And some went to Vietnam.
It was a summer of protests and raised fists. National Guard troops deployed to city streets with automatic weapons. National political conventions became almost war zones. Hippies advocated free love. College professors were telling students to: “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.”
And some who had been drafted to go to war returned to face disdain and spit.
Who can forget a summer like that?
If the whole world didn’t seem to be coming apart, our nation surely did.
Some might ask, “How did you survive it? How did our nation survive?”
“By the grace of God.”
The survivors can now look back on that year as history, or in Moses’ words, as a tale that is told.
Stories of the individuals take different twists and turns. They are stories of strength and hope, stories containing joy and love. But they also reveal labor and sorrow.
But perhaps most of all, they show how quickly the scores of years fly by. Some of us look at the old pictures with the young faces and ask, “Was that really me? Was life really like that?”
Well, it was. It was really horrible at times, and at times it was really wonderful. And the years really did fly by.
To those who ask us to explain and describe the ‘60s, we might only say, “You had to be there.”
It turns out that only God knew what lay ahead for us as we lived our life in 1968. Only God could make sense of it. Only God could preserve our nation and enable us to survive—and accomplish something of value in our lives.
This he has done. This he will continue to do. Those who are young now will one day, by the grace of God, be able to look back to see his faithfulness at work in their lives.
The prayer of Moses ends with the words:
“May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
Establish the work of our hands for us—yes
Establish the work of our hands.”
Two score and fifteen years ago, it was 1968 A.D. The A.D. means, “in the year of our Lord.” 2023 is also in the year of our Lord.
So it will be every year of our lives—until we leave this earth behind, and in the words of Moses: We fly away.
Prayer: Eternal Father, strong to save, you rule over time and eternity. We thank you for shielding your people from the danger that would surround them. Hold your powerful hand over us and those we love as we watch the years unfold. Enable our lives to be a blessing to others. Establish the work of our hands. Establish the work of our hands. Amen.
Points to ponder:
- Is it scary or comforting to know that time passes so quickly that it seems to fly? Why?
- Is it scary or comforting to hear Moses describe death with the words: We fly away?
- Why does Moses call labor and sorrow the strength of our years?
*A portion of this devotion was published earlier.
Written and recorded by Rev. Paul Horn, WELS National Civilian Chaplain to the Military, San Diego, California.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. Note: Scripture reading footnotes are clickable only in the web version.