In Psalm 39, David ponders the meaning of life in light of his suffering. He considers how short life can be (v. 5) and how readily we fill it with emptiness. "We are merely moving shadows" in that "all our busy rushing ends in nothing" (v. 6). This verse is reminiscent of Ecclesiastes, which reflects upon the vanity of life. In fact, the word hebel, translated as "vanity" or "emptiness" and used thirty-eight times in Ecclesiastes, is the word behind "nothing" in verse 6.
David points to one prime example of how our busyness leads to vanity. "We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it" (v. 6). Though we might intend it for our offspring, we cannot be sure they will be able to use it or even if it will be there for them. It's hard to think of a more relevant insight for our time of history, when we've seen our nest eggs drying up and our economic hopes dashed. Perhaps we feel as if we've been rushing about as moving shadows, living without substance.
Psalm 39:6 challenges me to take stock of my life. Does my life have solidness? Am I filling my relatively few days with that which really matters? How much time do I waste on emptiness?
Jesus deserves to have the last word here: "Don't store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be" (Matt. 6:19-21).
Mark D. Roberts is the senior advisor and theologian-in-residence for "Foundations for Laity Renewal." He is the author of several books including Can We Trust the Gospels? His article is adapted with permission from the original article "Moving Shadows" at TheHighCalling.org. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures quoted are taken from the New Living Translation.