“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.” James 4:13-16
God gave King Nebuchadnezzar a dream and then gave Daniel the interpretation to warn him about the brevity of his life. In the dream he was pictured as a head of gold, but Daniel explained that the reason why the metal changed at the shoulders was: “after you will arise another kingdom…” (Daniel 2:39) The king didn’t like this reminder of his humanity so he ordered that a ninety foot statue be made of himself out of pure gold, and then ordered those in his kingdom to bow down and worship it. He had those who would address him use this phrase before stating their business; “O king, live forever!” (Daniel 2:9)
God was very patient with this proud king revealing Himself in many ways until he finally came to a place of worship. Daniel records his words: “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.” (Daniel 4:37) I wonder if he had his servants remind him by changing the greeting to something like: “O king, you won’t live forever.”
When we remember how short our time on earth is, it is easier to live for the important things of eternity instead of the temporal things of this world. No wonder David prayed, “Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; let me know how transient I am;” (Psalm 39:4) and Moses prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
When we’re right with God we have no anxiety about the brevity of our lives because the best is yet to come!