UNDERSTAND the ‘TRANSITORY NATURE’ of HUMAN LIFE: "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; He flees like a shadow and does not continue. Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with You; You have appointed his limits, so that he cannot pass." (Job 14:1-2, 5)
The Book of Job is filled with references to the brevity of man’s life. This chapter (14) is a beautiful, but sad, poem in which Job meditates upon the human condition and the brevity of life. Man is only of few days (v. 1), like a flower (v. 2), as a shadow (v. 2), etc. Physically, death is final. A tree may sprout again, but death for a person is the end (vv. 7–9). Humans have only one life to live (Heb. 9:27) so we must cast ourselves upon God’s mercy.
Job agrees with Eliphaz’s assessment that a person is born for trouble. That God has determined the length of a person’s life (see Psalms 90:10) emphasizes God’s sovereign power and wisdom. On the other hand, man by nature and from his birth is hopelessly fragile and impaired. His existence is temporal (vv. 1–2), his days are foreordained (14:3–5), and his life is without any apparent significance (v. 6). Even a tree has hope; when it is cut down its root system survives, and the tree begins to grow again (14:7–9). A person’s end, to the contrary, is final—there is no coming back (14:10–12).
The life of every living thing is in God’s hand (Job 12:10). He has numbered our days (Job 14:5) and set a limit beyond which we cannot go (Ps. 139:16). The truth about resurrection was not fully revealed in Old Testament days, but Job still rested his hope on God. God has revealed the blessed hope that His people have because of faith in Jesus Christ (John 11:25–26; 1 Cor. 15; 2 Tim. 1:9–10).
We should understand the transitory nature of human life. The wise person lives in view of what he knows to be true about God, the world, and himself. His approach to God is humble and self-effacing. We should never accuse God of any wrongdoing during our adversities. A wise man is able to patiently embrace and endure suffering, knowing that God’s loving hand will prevail beyond it. Also, the wise man knows that although we are to seek to live righteously, our righteousness cannot earn God’s favor: grace is a gift, not a debt.
Let us pray this prayer earnestly today and always:
"So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalms 90:12)