"Time, like an ever-rolling stream..."
First, the psalmist’s (Moses’) way of saying, “Teach me to be wise” (which he does in verse 12 when he asks for a “heart of wisdom”) is to turn all his thoughts upon God. This is the answer to the me-centered sickness that pervades our existence: watch how the psalmist insists that wisdom (practical, day-to-day advice about how living for God) is a by-product of contemplating God’s character. Yes, watch him ring the changes on God’s eternality, sovereignty, severity and mercy. The first question we need to ask in Bible study is not, “What is this text saying to me?” but “What is this text saying to me about God?” God-centered living puts God first, second and last. Those in love will understand full well: we just can’t get enough of those we love and if we truly love God we will be equally dissatisfied with anything (or anyone) else.
Second, Moses’ understood gospel-dynamics. Yes he did! Law-laden Moses, that is! Watch him ask for mercy for his increasing consciousness of sin by mentioning God’s “loving-kindness” (Miles Coverdale’s famous translation) or “steadfast love” as the ESV renders it in verse 14. This must be the most important word in the Old Testament for sure! Its frequent appearances always speak of God’s unmerited favor shown to sinners through blood-bought redemption and forgiveness. It is God’s covenantal, "promise made – promise kept" word denoting how sins are covered and sinners reconciled. It speaks of gospel (for there is no obligation on God’s part to make such a covenant) and ultimately of Jesus Christ, God’s only-begotten Son. He – Jesus – is the seed of the woman that will bruise the head of the seed of the serpent as Moses had written in his opening pages of Scripture (Gen. 3:15). Gospel-focused and Christ-infused – this is the way of wisdom: recalling that each moment we exist in this love-relationship with God is only because of God’s “unspeakable gift” to us – the death of his Son for us. Wisdom comes from knowing we are recipients of mercy!
Third, the psalm encourages a heaven-bent mentality, what the Puritans called living sub specie aeternitatis – in the light of eternity. Our time here is short and living for the things that this world offers is not only misguided but foolish. This world is passing away and we along with it (remember Moses’ warnings about the average life-span being seventy years in verse 10). Dust we are and to dust we shall return. Moth and rust corrupts everything and only what is done for Jesus will last. Wise Christians know this and put it into practice: giving away what they do not need to further God’s kingdom. The brevity of life is a sobering reality, one should force us to look up and say: “Here am I, Lord! What will you have me to do for you today?”