Monday, September 8, 2014

Psalm 23:4 – The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

It’s a little funny that the verse that speaks most clearly to the danger faced by the sheep is also the verse that contains perhaps the greatest promise of peace in the whole passage. Isn’t that true, though, that the ultimate peace that can be obtained in this life is not peace from the existence of trials but peace while in their midst? And this verse makes it abundantly clear that kind of peace is only available to me if God is walking by my side.

Mr. Keller (A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23) makes note in his book that shepherds would often have to lead their sheep through such valleys in order to reach higher ground and new food sources. Thus, in making application to our spiritual walk he states, “The disappointments, the frustrations, the discouragements, the dilemmas, the dark, difficult days, though they be shadowed valleys, need not be disasters. They can be the road to higher ground in our walk with God.”

What a beautiful and comforting thought! When we find ourselves struggling through those valleys of trials, temptations, and discouragements… When we see danger and death bearing down on us from all sides… When the darkest days of our lives weigh heavily on our souls, we need not be afraid! Like David, we can live above the fear of evil’s power over us by putting our full trust in God.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

We don’t even have to live in fear of death itself, since in Christ we have victory even over the grave.

So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?’ The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)

So if we have God walking by our side, we really have no reason to fear evil. Even in the face of trials and torments, we can live the more abundant life that our Shepherd promised to give us (John 10:10). And we can live in anticipation of the time to come when we will be able to dwell in the courts of our God and enjoy the perfect peace He will provide us there.

And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)

Yes, David found peace and comfort and strength in the presence of God, but he doesn’t leave the thought there. He goes on to explain further what specifically brought him this peace and comfort and strength – the rod and the staff of God. The rod and the staff were the shepherd’s tools for guiding, examining, correcting, and protecting the sheep. Thus, the sheep that would need fear no evil was the one who could trust in its shepherd’s effective application of his rod and his staff, not just against approaching dangers but also against the sheep’s own self-destructive decisions.

God’s word acts as His rod and staff, revealing the temptations of this world for the lies they are and exposing the signs of weakness and sin within our own lives (Hebrews 4:12). Within the Bible, we can find everything we need for guidance, for self-examination, for correction, and for protection against the attacks of the devil (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 5:8-9).

We cannot afford to walk through the shadowy, death-filled valleys of our life without God beside us. But we cannot expect His presence if we reject His word and all that it provides. Let us all commit to study His word, to do what it says, and then to realize the comfort of our Savior in all seasons of our lives.

Thanks for stopping by!


Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.