About Number Your Days

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen — even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth!
—David (Psalm 8:3-9)

Matthew Fontaine Maury was raised in a home where twice a day his father would assemble his children for a reading a “Psalter for the day.” Eventually Matthew could quote the Psalms. One phrase especially stuck with him: “the paths of the seas.” Most people intuitively understand a path on land. What is a path in the sea? Maury sought to find out. He poured over naval meteorology and navigation, charted winds and currents, and eventually discovered ocean currents.

“Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men” (Proverbs 22:29). The “Pathfinder of the Seas,” as he came to be known, excelled in his work, and excelled before his nation accomplishing much including founding the U.S. Naval Observatory, teaching at the Virginia Military Institute, successfully advocating for the establishment of the United States Naval Academy, helping launch the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and advocating for an agricultural complement to VMI which led to the establishment of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College which later became Virginia Tech. Both the University of Virginia and James Madison University have a Maury Hall named in honor of Matthew Fontaine Maury. Maury Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, is named after Matthew Fontaine Maury.

In his 1851 State of the Union address, President Millard Filmore praised Maury's work saying, “The advantages of science in nautical affairs have rarely been more strikingly illustrated than in the fact, stated in the report of the Navy Department, that by means of the wind and current charts projected and prepared by Lieutenant Maury, the Superintendent of the Naval Observatory, the passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific ports of our country has been shortened by about forty days.”

Maury provides a useful model for exploring another phrase in the Psalms.

You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
—Moses (Psalm 90:8-12)

What is the connection between numbering our days and wisdom? What does that mean? How far does that go?

At the Creation of the world, the days were known by their numbers. “So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5). “And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done (Genesis 2:2). “O LORD, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all. The earth is full of Your possessions — this great and wide sea, in which are innumerable teeming things, living things both small and great” (Psalm 104:24-25). At “the fixed time of the end” (Daniel 8:19), there is a “day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16). In the meantime, Christians assemble themselves together every seven days to stir up love and good works, exhorting one another, and even more “as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). Prophecy in Scripture tells of things to happen in very specific numbers of days: 2,300 days (Daniel 8:14), 1,260 days (Revelation 11:3; 12:6), 1,290 days (Daniel 12:11), and 1,335 days (Daniel 12:12). Daniel was told “the vision of the evenings and mornings which was told is true; therefore seal up the vision, for it refers to many days in the future” (Daniel 8:26).

Peter warned us “that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4). And yet these people make Paul's point who exhorted, “knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). We know from Jesus that we are to heed “the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:1-4). Those days are still coming, and they are closer now than they have ever been!

Number Your Days is an experiment to explore how close of a connection there can be between numbering our days and wisdom, and how far we each can take this. “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7). “Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, And the years of your life will be many” (4:10).

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Return, O LORD! How long? And have compassion on Your servants. Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days! Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, the years in which we have seen evil. Let Your work appear to Your servants, and Your glory to their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.
—Moses (Psalm 90:13-17)

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