For all our days are passed away in your wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
I. THE TALE OF OUR YEARS IS TOLD IN CHAPTERS. This is necessary for reference, for the understanding of the main points and features of the story — chap, 1, chap. 2, chap. 3, and so through the table of contents. But what are these chapters? Is there one devoted to infancy, that piece that every one forgets if he ever knew it? Is there another for childhood with its gambols, summer days in the woods and on the shore, and Christmas Days in the dear old home? Is there another for youth, that sentimental time, so foolish and yet so sweet? Is there one for manhood, with its responsibilities and strenuous work, and yet one more for old age with its pensiveness and its memories, "the tender grace of a day that is dead"? But these are, after all, only the headings of the chapters. When you read what is written you would perhaps be inclined to make other divisions. There is, e.g., a chapter of sins. Every tale told has that in it. Then there is the chapter of opportunities, the chapter of change, the chapter of sorrows, the chapter of mistakes. When the true man turns to read through some of these, the tears fall upon the page. He can hardly, dare to think. But blessed be God he can pray. To read the story of the years m a spirit of penitence and trust is so to number our days as to get us a heart of wisdom.
II. THE TALE OF OUR YEARS IS ILLUSTRATED. Illustrations are exceedingly popular in these days. Now, one advantage of an illustration is that by it an impression is conveyed immediately. It is to a page or two of writing what a photograph is to a water-colour drawing, or what a telegram is to a letter. The salient features of the situation are seized at once; what would take ten minutes to read is taken in from a picture in ten seconds. So there are many people who see the illustrations who never read the story. Has it ever struck you that it is precisely so in our lives? For one who reads their story there are a hundred who see the pictures. From them they form their opinion of the story. For example, such a comparatively unimportant thing as manners is an illustration of life's story. If you acknowledge an acquaintance in the street as if you saw a ticket-of-leave sticking out of his pocket, you will make an impression on him. It may be that behind a lofty look and a disdainful air there is a kindly heart and a really humble nature. But it was the illustration that was seen and that lingers in the mind. How true it is, too, that our habits illustrate the tale. Such things as exaggeration, little mean ways, indolence, unpunctuality. Or, again, how often we illustrate our story by exhibitions of temper. This is seen by our children and servants, and perhaps by some who have read less of the tale of our years than those who share our home. Now, there is a sense in which all our acts are illustrative.
III. THE TALE OF OUR YEARS HAS A PLOT. It is often not intricate and dramatic. It may be free from excitement, from that which in some stories is so unhealthy, the sensational. It may be homely, familiar, and commonplace. But it is there. God has a plan for my life. Not more surely had He for Abraham and David or for a Tennyson, a Gladstone or a Bismarck, the greatest of great men than He has for me. There is a hidden unity, an interaction and a coinciding, a sequence, to which we have at present no complete key. Life is not a chaos, it is a cosmos.
IV. THE STORY OF OUR YEARS HAS AN END. It is soon told, "the days of our years are threescore years and ten," etc. "A thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday," etc. 'Twas but yesterday that we were children, our world the nursery. 'Twas but yesterday that we were wed, that our children were born, and now 'tis toward evening; the day is far spent-the tale of our years will soon be told. Now of 999 out of every 1,000 of these tales it might be said, they are fleeting literature, they soon pass out of circulation; even the critics forget them, and they are interred in the vast literary sepulchre of the British Museum. But are they on that account valueless? Not necessarily. Those forgotten books may have suggested ideas to greater minds than their authors'. A spark may be dropped that kindles the fires of genius, and they blaze out in a splendour that impresses the world. So these lives of ours, which seem so commonplace, may enrich others.
V. THE TALE OF OUR YEARS HAS A MORAL. Every tale has, implicitly if not explicitly. And so has every life. When it is finished, it leaves on the mind of those who have known it intimately, some impression. There are some features that stand out, some moral qualities that have given a tone to the personality, or some principles that it has livingly illustrated. Men sum up their impression of the character. "He was a successful man, but he never lost the simplicity of his tastes or the geniality of his demeanour." "He was a prosperous man, but his wealth corrupted his spirituality." "He was a disappointed man, but his sorrow never soured him." "He had an uphill fight, but he won the respect of all and the love of many." But what the moral will be depends upon the dominant motives of the life. Are all lower considerations brought into subservience to that all-comprehending and ennobling ideal — "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever"? Then, if it be that, the story told by the years will be a "Pilgrim's Progress," a progress out from sin and bondage and selfishness, guided by the heavenly light, up to the Cross, where the burden of guilt rolls off into the grave of the Divine forgiveness; through the dark valley of temptation and awful conflict with him who would spill your soul; through "Vanity Fair," unsoiled by its corruptions, to the Delectable Mountains of a solid and settled peace; then to the land Beulah, "where the shining ones commonly walk, because it is nigh unto the city;" until only the river remains, over which there is no bridge, but for which there is a Divine Pilot who makes it shallow for all who trust: "when thou passest through the waters I will be with thee," etc. Then through the gate over which is written, "Blessed are they who do His commandments," etc.
(R. B. Brindley.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.