LIKE A SHADOW
by Wayne S. Walker
“I am gone like a shadow when it lengthens; I am shaken off like a locust” (Psalm 109:23). Psalm 109 is identified as “A Psalm of David.” Apparently it was written in circumstances where he was being falsely accused by others, so he pled for God’s judgment upon them. His situation reminded him that he was like a shadow when it lengthens. One of the signs that the day is about to end is that the shadows grow longer and longer as the sun sets in the west. Then, all of a sudden, the sun drops behind the horizon and the shadows are gone.
David also compares himself to a locust that can be shaken off. Here in this country we have grasshoppers, which are close relatives of the locust. I grew up out in the country and would often walk through fields where grasshoppers would land on me. They cannot do any harm, but it is rather startling when one alights on your skin, so the natural reaction is to shake it off. Now, if a mean dog jumps on your leg and clamps down with his mouth, that is not easy to shake off. But what about the grasshopper? Just shake quickly and it is gone!
Life is like both the shadow that lengthens and the grasshopper that can be shaken off. Our time upon this earth is limited. “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). Thus, every day that we live, the shadow grows just a little bit longer. The poets often use this picture to remind us of life’s brevity. Frederick G. Lee wrote, “When day’s shadows lengthen, Jesus, be Thou near: Pardon, comfort, strengthen, Chase away my fear. Love and hope be deepened, Faith, more strong and clear.”
However, not everyone has the opportunity to watch the shadows of life lengthen. A major accident, a serious illness, or even a criminal act can cause one’s life to be snuffed out as quickly as flicking a grasshopper off your arm. Even young people die. The simple fact is that none of us has any knowledge of exactly what the future holds. “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that'” (James 4:14-15). The only solution to this problem is trust God no matter what and always strive to obey him. That is what David did, and it is how he found comfort in life.