Our Brief Lives: A Response to Psalm 90

Psalm 90 is a meditation on time and eternity and it contrasts the brevity of our lives on earth with God’s eternal years, and yet it also speaks of how God, even from eternity comforts us, as we live in time, comforts us from one generation to another:

  1. LORD, thou hast been our refuge: from one generation to another.

  2. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever the earth and the world were made: thou art God from everlasting, and world without end.

The key image for the brevity of our lives is the image of cut grass withering and fading:

As soon as thou scatterest them they are even as a sleep: and fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green, and groweth up: but in the evening it is cut down, dried up, and withered.

This image in the psalm put me in mind of Cut Grass, the poignant poem by Philip Larkin which begins:

Cut grass lies frail:
Brief is the breath
Mown stalks exhale.
Long, long the death

It dies in the white hours
Of young-leafed June…

I allude to the Larkin poem in my own response but I also turn the psalm around by meditating on how Christ has stepped out of eternity into time, to share our journey with us, to help us bear our griefs and wipe away our tears.

As always you can hear me read the poems by clicking on the play button or the title and you can find the other poems in this evolving series by putting the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

The full set of these poems has now been published as a book David’s Crown which you can buy from UK Amazon Here, or, in North America, it should soon be available from Amazon Here.

XC Domine, refugium

A cosy comforter, a lucky charm?

Not with this psalmist, for he praises God

From everlasting ages, in his psalm.


A God of refuge –yes – and yet a God

Who knows the death that comes before each birth,

Who sees each generation die, a God


Before whom all the ages of the earth

Are like a passing day, like the cut grass

In Larkin’s limpid verse: ‘brief is the breath


Mown stalks exhale’. So we and all things pass,

And God endures beyond us. Yet he cares

For our brief lives, his loving tenderness


Extends to all his creatures, our swift years

Are precious in his sight. In Christ he shares

Our grief and he will wipe away our tears.


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Filed under imagination

3 responses to “Our Brief Lives: A Response to Psalm 90

  1. Steve Silvester

    Blessed by this poem tonight. Thank you, Malcolm. How paradoxical that this psalm wants God to hurry (v.13), and time to speed up, even while painfully aware of life’s brevity. I find myself in that space during this pandemic.

  2. Pingback: Venturing Forth, I Might Freak - Autumn's Garden

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