Psalm 39.4, 7
“O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”
As an infant Isaac Watts “nursed on the steps of the Southampton jail where his father was imprisoned as a Dissenter,” says his biography at the Poetry Foundation. Upon his release the elder Watts, also named Isaac, began teaching Latin to his four year old son. In primary school the boy learned Greek, French, and Hebrew.
While Watts is remembered for his poetry and hymns, like Joy to the World and When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, he was successful across multiple disciplines. The Poetry Foundation notes that after his formal education concluded, “Watts was to become a prominent educator whose textbooks and educational theory were republished in Britain and America for more than a century.” He also published four volumes of poetry, 750 hymns, hundreds of sermons, and seven books that span a number of fields.
In all this success Watts grounded himself in the scriptures and prayer. His book, The Psalms of David Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, provides a glimpse into this world. This week we’re looking at five works where Watts rewords the Psalms to make overt what the psalmists allude — Christ is at the center of every longing, joy, and cry.
Today, we look at Isaac Watts’ words, inspired by Psalm 39:
Teach me the measure of my days,
Thou Maker of my frame;
I would survey life’s narrow space,
And learn how frail I am.
A span is all that we can boast,
An inch or two of time;
Man is but vanity and dust
In all his flower and prime.
See the vain race of mortals move
Like shadows o’er the plain;
They rage and strive, desire and love,
But all the noise is vain.
Some walk in honor’s gaudy show,
Some dig for golden ore;
They toil for heirs, they know not who,
And straight are seen no more.
What should I wish or wait for, then,
From creatures earth and dust?
They make our expectations vain,
And disappoint our trust.
Now I forbid my carnal hope,
My fond desires recall;
I give my mortal interest up,
And make my God my all.
Melodies of Heaven
Part 2 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org