A Grasp of Life's Brevity
Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten as a dream
Dies at the op’ning day.
The busy tribes of flesh and blood
With all their cares and fears,
Are carried downward like a flood
And lost in following years.
These verses from Isaac Watts’ hymn, O God, Our Help in Ages Past, are based on the profound contrast in Psalm 90 between the eternality of God and the brevity of our earthly sojourn. This psalm, written by Moses near the end of his own journey, counsels us to number our days in order to present to God a heart of wisdom (vs. 12). David’s meditation in Psalm 39:4-7 develops the same theme:
Lord, make me to know my end, And what is the extent of my days,
Let me know how transient I am.
Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my lifetime as nothing in Your sight,
Surely every man at his best is a mere breath.
Surely every man walks about as a phantom;
Surely they make an uproar for nothing;
He amasses riches, and does not know who will gather them.
And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You.