Living Shadows: Reflection on Psalm 39

NOTE: This is part of my Psalm Reflection Series. See the whole series here (or Click “Reflecctions” Llnk).
Psalm 39:1-13

Mom’s Advice

I remember my mom telling me, “If can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” If she told me that once, she told me a million times (she also told me not to exaggerate, but some lessons are hard to learn). I can’t remember the events triggering her bit of wisdom, but I remember I wanted to say something to someone, and it wasn’t very nice.

The Psalmist tries to heed my mother’s advice because he didn’t want to sin in what he said. We know the feeling well, biting our tongue as we passively listen, wanting to say something, but fearing if we did, we would cross a line that we don’t want to cross.

I use to tell my kids that they were responsible for their actions and saying, “So and so did it” wasn’t going to save them from trouble. The Psalmist knew that if he went too far, trying to blame his actions on someone else, just wouldn’t fly, so he remained silent.

There was a problem, however. Not only was he keeping negative comments quiet, even positive words were left unsaid, perhaps fearing how they might be received. The words burned within his soul.

Just a Breath

Then a thought occurred to him:

“Why am I like this? Life is fleeting. In the vast universe of time, we are simply ‘shadows’ moving from place to place.

We focus on fame, fortune, and desires that are ever changing and never satisfied. In the end, all of our busyness and rushing gets us nowhere and nothing. We work ourselves to death gaining wealth, and when we are gone, we have no idea who will end up enjoying what we spent our short life working so hard for.

These ungodly, these who could care less about God and instead go running off trying to make a name for themselves, they have no idea what they are doing. Their lives are short and so is their impact.

Secure Hope

Where is my hope? In them? In wealth? In fame? In comfort? No. In God! He is my hope and destination.”

He reflects even deeper, thinking about the end of his life. His gaze moves from the faithlessness of the ungodly, to his own faithlessness. His anger over the prosperity of the ungodly has caused him to lose focus on the goodness of God. “Perhaps I am the problem…” he muses. “The ungodly last for only a moment…I only last for a moment. Maybe I should spend these fleeing moments focused on the One Who lasts rather than those who don’t.”

Travelin’ Through

He realizes, as the New Testament reminds us, we are all travelers here. We only stay a few days and then we move on to the “more than”. The ungodly, well, they live as if they will be here forever, but our destination remains our hope as we prepare for that place by remaining focused on the will and way of the One who loves us more than we could ever imagine.

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