For all our days are passed away in your wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.
This is the point that is specially present to the mind of the author of the psalm; and it is the point specially impressed by the historical associations of the psalm. "Human transitoriness, the creature made subject to vanity, death in its much-disregarded connection with sin, - these and the awful contrast, God's eternity, his absolute disposition of men's lives, his mindfulness of their misdeeds, are here the theme of melancholy contemplation." Recall the fact that during the thirty-eight years of the Israelite wanderings in the wilderness, they were subject to an extraordinary mortality, which was a direct judgment of Jehovah on their rebellion. A whole generation was punished, for the sin at Kadesh, by premature death. All from twenty years old and upward perished during the following years, so that only two representatives of the entire generation, Caleb and Joshua, actually entered the promised land. It is true that Moses himself lived to be a hundred and twenty years old, but his generation could not have reached a higher standard than seventy or eighty years. The truth that "the wages of sin is death" is forcibly illustrated by the historical record of the wilderness generation. We may trace the Divine wisdom in giving the judgment on sin this particular form, of shortened life.
I. PROLONGED LIFE GIVES OPPORTUNITY FOR INCREASE OF SIN. See the case of the antediluvian sinners, who went on sinning through long lives until they became hopelessly corrupt, and had to be swept away by the Flood. It may, indeed, be a severe judgment to prolong a life, and a gracious judgment to shorten it.
II. THE LOVE AND CLINGING TO LIFE MAKE SHORTENING LIFE A VERY EFFECTIVE JUDGMENT. Love of life is natural to man. It is the expression of his consciousness of immortality, only it leads him to want his immortality here. The things which man begins to do make it extremely trying to have to leave them unfinished. Life means pleasant relationships, which man feels it a very bitter thing to break off.
III. MAN'S UTTER HELPLESSNESS IN THE PRESENCE OF EARLY DEATH MAKES THIS FORM OF JUDGMENT SPECIALLY HUMILIATING. To conquer, rise above, mate and master everything, is man's supreme passion. Early death is God - it may be the neglected God - mastering him. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: we spend our years as a tale that is told.