Father, teach us to number our days…
‘So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom’ (Psalm 90:12)
This prayer of Moses, which has always been a daily guide to me, hit me like a thunderbolt again at the weekend at a remarkable funeral service where we celebrated the life and times of a good woman who had gone to be with her Creator. At a farewell service on Friday, the Amazing Grace Pentecostal Church, Palmgrove, Lagos and the Esajere/Egbu families celebrated the remarkable life of Pastor Silvia Ekwutosi Esajere (Nee Egbu), the wife of The Guardian’s former Group Political Editor, Mr. Akpo Esajere. She flew away on May 7, 2021. Until her death, she was the Sales and Distribution Manager of ‘The Sun’ (newspapers). In a good federation where university autonomy is university autonomy, Mr. Esajere, a legendary political journalist, would have been a professor of practice (of political reporting). He has been both prominent and significant as a political reporter and editor. He has been ill for some time too. May the God of all comfort, continue to strengthen him and his children.
The female General Overseer of the Church, Bishop (Mrs) Chioma Grace Dauji who was holding back tears in her message on the life and times of their music director, kept harping on the classic prayer of Moses ‘Oh God, help us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom’. I sat there in a corner reflecting on the significance of that prayer point in the message for all of us, managers, all our leaders at all levels – at such a time as this. Yes, As Michael W. Smith, a significant artiste put it, we need such ancient words, holy words, long preserved, for our walk in this world. Smith puts it much better when he counsels that such ancient words… ‘…resound with God’s own heart and Oh, let such Ancient words impart…’ He says, they are Words of Life, words of Hope, which give us strength, help us cope in this world, where we roam, ancient words will guide us Home. Smith reminds us that, ‘Ancient words ever true, changing me, and changing you…He says, we should ‘…come with open hearts… let the ancient words impart…’
I have, therefore, come with an open heart with these ancient words, which the farewell service for Pastor Silva Esajere stirred up in me at the weekend. We all need the ancient words for our walks, which have become unsteady in this perilous world, in our country where suddenly journalism, a constitutional duty is being criminalised, where electronic voting has become illegal in a world that the digital technologies rule at the speed of thought. We need the Word of Life, Messages of Hope, in this place where suddenly you can’t travel by road, and you can’t afford insufferable air-flight charges. Don’t we need help from above when our children are no longer safe in schools in a country that is suffering from the scourge and shame of millions of out-of-school children and the authorities are seeking to criminalise payment of ransom? We certainly need the fervent prayer of Moses that our Creator should teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom at this time. And here is how:
Life is filled with limitless opportunities even in Nigeria here despite our lamentation but the big question is what do we do with them? Do we let them slip by giving up and saying, “Maybe next time: there is always another day”? Or, do we seize them? We may not have as much time as we think, anymore, especially now that the ‘writing on the wall’ of what our leaders want to do with us in 2023 is clear, fortunately.
“Teach Us To Number Our Days” Meaning
GREG Laurie, a cleric of the Baptist denomination in the United States who quotes John Gill’s exposition of the Bible teaches us the beautiful meaning: “Not merely to count ‘our days’, how many they are, in an arithmetical way; there is no need of divine teachings for that… nor is this to be understood of calculating or reckoning of time to come – no man can count the number of days he has to live. The number of his days, months, and years, is with the Lord but is hidden from him…But rather the meaning of the petition is, that God would teach us to number our days, as if the present one was the last. For we cannot boast of tomorrow, we know not but this day, or night, our souls may be required of us. But the sense is, that God would teach us seriously to meditate on, and consider of, the shortness of our days. That they are but as a shadow…and to observe how unprofitably we have spent them, which may put us upon redeeming time, and also to take notice of the goodness of God, that has followed us all our days, which may lead us to repentance, and engage us in the fear of God.”
“That We May Apply Our Hearts To Wisdom” Meaning
AGAIN, John Gill’s commentary explains wonderfully the what and why behind applying your heart to wisdom – “to seek the way of salvation by Christ – to seek to Christ, the wisdom of God, (for it to fear the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom) and to walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise…For unless a man is taught of God, and by his Spirit convinced of sin, righteousness, and judgment, he will never be concerned, in good earnest, about a future state. Nor inquire the way of salvation, nor heartily apply to Christ for it: he may number his days, and consider the shortness of them, and apply his heart to folly, and not wisdom.”
Dr. Leslie Weatherhead, another cleric calculated the average length of a life using the hours of one day to illustrate the importance of recognizing the value of time. He concluded that if your age is 15, the time is 10:25 a.m. If your age is 20, the time is 11:34. If your age is 25, the time is 12:42 p.m. If you’re 30, the time is 1:51. If you’re 35, the time is 3:00. If you’re 40 the time is 4:08. At age 45, the time is 5:15. If you’re 50, the time is 6:25. By age 55, the time is 7:24. If you’re 60, the time is 8:42. If you’re 65, the time is 9:51. And if you you’re 70 the time is 11 p.m.
And another word of life contained in a letter Big Brother Paul wrote to the Ephesians (5:15) says, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise” (NLT).
That supplication of Elder Moses ‘Teach us to number our days…’ is a call for us to live our short, fleeting lives wholly for the mission and glory of our Creator. These days, especially in Africa’s most populous and richest country, it is too easy to be distracted by the cares of this world—such that we forget where our priorities should be. Our leaders who depend on public purse for survival hardly think about the public good’s game. They don’t know anything about national priorities. They take care of all theirs, anyway.
We need to know as the ancient word teaches us that because life is short, we must number our days and stick to our God-given priorities in life. Even Christian leaders seem to have forgotten their priorities embedded in the marching orders — “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”— yet we quickly lose sight of that mission. Often, Satan tempts us not with direct disobedience but with the mindless tools of distraction and loss of focus. All he needs to do to win is to get us distracted from our mission. How many Christians have once been passionate about the mission of making disciples but were distracted by the cares of our culture as Andrew Paul Ward, an ABWE missionary to Togo, West Africa once noted? Our culture encourages us daily to go deep in debt to earn a degree, drive a nice car, wear nice clothes, and live in a nice house. How easy is it for us to grow increasingly distracted by the everyday cares of life, about which our Lord told us not to worry?
We are now all distracted as we go after our personal priorities. The priority of the whole North should basically be mass literacy as most of the children are out of school. Those in schools (in northern Nigeria) now are being abducted by those their leaders have failed to educate. The northern leaders see winning national elections for their lust as their priority. They are now wielding the number they get from the uneducated and ignorant ones as the number (voters) they always need to win elections without electronic voting. That can’t last forever. It is like truth in a grave: it won’t stay there!
The priority of the South West too should be to be the light of the world of Nigeria in terms of quality in education, the world’s known weapon of country and global competitiveness. The Yoruba nation is to be a house on a hill that can’t be hidden in terms of campaign for democracy and good governance for development. Sadly, Western Nigeria is now a place where most states just boast of many state universities whose teachers are hardly paid monthly salaries, a tragedy not foretold. The South West has become a place where most of its federal legislators who merely put on Pa Obafemi Awolowo’s cap, are voting against electronic transmission of results. Oh, Herbert Ogunde, author of ‘Yoruba Ronu’ (Yoruba Think Deep) where is thy grave?
Doubtless, we need God the Almighty now to enable our leaders at all levels to reflect on the ancient word and prayer, Father, teach us to number our days, so we can apply our hearts unto wisdom that even James 4:14 the woman of God of Amazing Grace Church quoted to us on Friday: ‘whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appears for a little time and then vanishes away’. Do our leaders who don’t care about public opinion anymore, who do what they like with even public funds remember that they too may not live to see tomorrow? So, God, teach us all to know the significance of numbering our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom!
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