Numerous comparisons are used in Scripture to impress upon our minds the brevity of life—the movement of a weaver’s shuttle (Job 7:6), the duration of morning fog (James 4:14), the appearance and then disappearance of one’s shadow (Job 14:2). In Psalm 90: 4-5, Moses uses three additional, vivid analogies:
- A flood. “You carry them away like a flood.” Unlike Noah’s cataclysmic deluge, most floods come and go over a short period of time. Because of God’s covenant with humanity—sealed with a rainbow promise, all floods today are local in nature, not universal. However, even though a flood may only last for several days, its destruction can last for years. You may live for a few decades—70 or 80 years (v. 10)—but the choices you make during that time will impact your immortal existence forever.
- A night’s sleep. “They are like a sleep.” Regardless of whether you get a few hours or an abundant amount of sleep, healthy people do not spend weeks or months “lying in the bed”. Productive people rarely spend more than a third of the day sleeping. Such is life on this earth. We will live far more of our existence in our immortal realm than here on earth.
- “In the morning they are like grass which grows up: in the morning it flourishes and grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withers.” A field of clover is grown by a farmer for the purpose of harvesting hay every six weeks or so. Quoting Isaiah, Peter reminds his readers that “all flesh is as grass and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away” (1 Peter 1:24). In contrast to the frailty and brevity of humanity, Peter continues “but the word of the Lord endures forever” (v. 25).
In light of life’s brevity, learning to “number our days” (Psalm 90:12) is of paramount importance.