By Erin Bird
Let’s continue on with our series on Psalm 23. This week, we come to verse 4, which says:
Even 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.
Let’s look at the first half of this verse this week. (We’ll cover the last part next week.)
Far From Green Pastures
Two weeks ago, we looked at verse 2, which talked about green pastures and quiet waters. If I were a lamb, I’m sure green pastures and quiet waters would seem like heaven. For many of us, “heaven” is a hike in the mountains, or sitting in a boat out on calm waters, or soaking in a sunset with a loved one, or reading a book at the beach, or watching a favorite movie cuddled on the couch. Heaven is peaceful, joy-filled, and restorative.
But hikes end, storms come, and sunsets fade to black. This is what I think David is getting at when he says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” He realizes life isn’t just green pastures. He is acknowledging the truth that sometimes life is hard – so hard it feels like you are on the verge of death, walking in its shadow.
And yet, did you notice in verse 4, David has the same sense of peace that he had back in verse 2? He seems content even when walking through “death valley.” How can he have no fear when his “heaven” has been snatched away and his life is threatened?
No Fear in God’s Presence
The middle part of verse 4 tells us: “for you are with me.” King David knew theologically that His Good Shepherd is an omnipresent God, everywhere at all times, which means even in his scariest moments, God was with David.
But it wasn’t just God’s presence that gave David no fear. It was the knowledge of Who God is and what God could do that gave him peace.
You have to remember that David spent time as a shepherd himself before ascending to the throne of Israel. Part of his job as a shepherd had been to keep the flock safe. In 1 Samuel 17, David tells King Saul that as a teenager, he had already fought lions and bears who tried to take a sheep from him. So David knew that no matter what “lions” came into his life, God could protect him. And that knowledge gave him peace.
May you know God as David did, that when life’s lions try to attack you, whether a lost job, or a health crisis, or a relational struggle, or even spiritual doubts, try to drag you into the valley of the shadow of death, your Shepherd is with you and able to protect you, provide for you, and rescue you. May the presence and power of God help you to lead a life without fear, knowing the peace that surpasses understanding.