Psalm 39: Take Stock

Read Psalm 39:1-13

Take Stock

Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life.
(Psalm 39:4)

One day you will have an epitaph chiseled on a headstone. If you doubt that, take a stroll through a cemetery and you’ll see that everyone gets one. Seriously, as morbid as it might sound, I’d highly recommend that stroll, because what you’ll read on those markers will tell a lot about the people buried beneath them.

On that stroll you will see the history of those dearly departed ones succinctly packaged by the dash between two dates—the date of their birth, and the date of their death. That dash is what we call life. One little dash, but what a story it tells. And often those who are left behind sum up the departed one’s dash with an inscription left on the headstone, an epitaph.

Some of those inscriptions are profound. Some express tremendous love or a deep sense of loss. Some are actually quite humorous. There are websites dedicated to the more memorable tombstones in history. Here are a few that might cause a chuckle:

“Owen Moore has passed away, Owin’ More than he could pay.”

“Here lies a man named Zeke. Second fastest draw in Cripple Creek.”

“I told you I was sick.”

Whether profound, heartwarming, heart wrenching, or even funny, each epitaph is quite instructive. Here’s one that not only made me laugh, it really made me think:

“This is what I expected—But not so soon.”

Epitaphs like that remind you of the unavoidable reality that one day you, too, will have your entire life summed up and chiseled onto a stone for others to read. There’s a New England headstone that captured this sobering truth:

“As you pass by and cast an eye,
As you are now so once was I.”

We will all have an epitaph some day. David, the author of this psalm got one…I will get one…you will get one. The only question is, what will yours say? So here’s the deal: Whatever you hope it will say means that you will have to live your life that way between now and then.

David, who was far from a perfect man, apparently did a great deal of thinking about the end of his life. That’s what this psalm is all about. And it really changed the way he lived out the rest of his dash, so much so that at the end of it, his friends wrote on his headstone:

“A Man After God’s Own Heart.”
(Acts 13:22)

Hmmm! I think I’ll take some time…and while I’m at it, I’ll take some stock, too. Why don’t you join me!

“Let thy hope of heaven master thy fear of death. Why shouldst
thou be afraid to die, who hopest to live by dying!”

—William Gurnall

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