Moving Shadows

Moving Shadows March 28, 2023

We all strive for meaning and purpose in life, but if our hope is not in God, “all our busy rushing ends in nothing” (Psalm 39:6, NLT)


Judges, chapters 4-5; Psalms 39, 41; 1 Corinthians, chapter 13

Psalm 39:6-11 (NLT):

We are all merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.  And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you. Rescue me from my rebellion. Do not let fools mock me. I am silent before you; I won’t say a word, for my punishment is from you. But please stop striking me! I am exhausted by the blows from your hand. When you discipline us for our sins, you consume like a moth what is precious to us.  Each of us is but a breath.


At first glance, Psalm 39 does not seem to be very encouraging.  We are all moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.  If we think that we are important, the phrase moving shadows and the judgment that our activity ends in nothing are sober reminders of the transitory nature of this life. As David prayed earlier in this psalm, “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is” (v 4).

The last few verses of this passage aren’t particularly upbeat either. Please stop striking me! I am exhausted by the blows from your hand.  We have no idea what particular situation prompted this psalm, but we need to recognize the principle involved.  There are times when God disciplines us, and that discipline is usually not pleasant. We need to remember that the difficulty of God’s discipline is proportionate to the importance of his correction. If God really needs to get our attention, it often requires the spiritual equivalent of a baseball bat to our heads.

Where do I put my hope?

But in the middle of the passage, we find the key:  And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?  My only hope is in you. God had proven himself faithful to David time and time again in David’s life. Whether he was facing Goliath, running from Saul, fighting for Israel, or battling Absalom’s rebellion, God was with him. When discipline came, God was just; he did not discipline David for no reason.

So David remembered, even in the midst of his despair and questions, that my only hope is in you.And no matter what we’re facing, we need to remember the same thing!


Satan relishes opportunities to “kick us while we’re down.” If we’re feeling oppressed, or experience God’s discipline, Satan tries to get us to rebel.  “You don’t have to put up with this!  It’s not fair!” Or, to use the words of Job’s wife, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” (Job 2:9). Our response should be similar to Job’s response to her: “You are talking like a foolish woman. Should we only accept good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” (Job 2:10).

It’s important to remember two things: first, the word “foolish” in biblical usage refers to spiritual and moral, and not intellectual, deficiency. Second, such “foolish” thoughts and words are just as likely to come from men as from women.  Job’s wife was talking like a “foolish woman” because she was a woman, not because “foolish” was synonymous with “woman.”  All of us are prone to such thoughts; after all, David wrote this psalm!

My only hope is in you

Whatever we’re experiencing, the key is to remember that our only hope is in God.  When we feel like we’re on top, we should beware; if we start to trust in ourselves, our destruction is on the horizon. When we’re at the bottom of the pit and fear we’ll never get out, we need to remember that God is our hope. When we’re struck with our own mortality – we are merely moving shadows – we take heart in the assurance that we will be with God in his eternal kingdom.  If our hope is in Him.

So many people – both inside and outside the Church – long for importance, and recognition.  But when we make that our focus, we quickly recognize how brief our time on earth will be…we are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.  The antidote is to put our hope in God, to seek first His Kingdom.  When we follow his way, we can trust that he is at work – and he calls us to join him!


Father, thank you for reminding us that when we start to feel insecure, unimportant, or marginalized, you are at work for our good.  Help us to remember that our hope is in you.  When we trust in you, we will recognize that your discipline is for our good. Seeking first your Kingdom will help us to live lives of eternal worth, rather than settling for the fleeting fame that this world offers.  In this life, we may only be moving shadows – but you have adopted us into your family, and given us an eternal home.  What other hope could we want?  Thank you for your blessings and your faithfulness to us.  Amen.


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