Scripture: 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. Psalm 23:4 ESV
Observation: David addresses how sheep (and humans) encounter times of trial and suffering in this verse. The words translated “shadow of death” are derived from a single Hebrew word ṣalmawet, a superlative that more accurately means “the shadowiest of all shadows.” As a shepherd, David likely had in mind the dangers of leading a flock across a valley where predators could easily spot and stalk sheep or across low-lying wadis when rain torrents could quickly sweep sheep away.
Regarding the shepherd’s accouterments, a rod referred to a short, mace-like instrument that served to fend off wild beasts, while the staff doubled as a walking stick and poker for guiding sheep. Its wide hook at its end also allowed the shepherd to rescue sheep that had fallen into crevices.
Takeaway: Similar to the perils that sheep encounter, we too will pass through the “shadowiest of all shadows” of life where others wish or seek ill against us or when unforeseen storms of life nearly sweep us away. But like David, we have a Good Shepherd who wields his instruments of justice and extends his staff of mercy to rescue us from danger. Our part? Fear God above evil perpetrated by humans or natural disasters. When we do, we gain perspective of our temporal trials and suffering. And no matter the outcome, our Good Shepherd will extend his staff and gently lift us from harm’s way (even death’s door). So whether our years are extended here on earth, or we enter glorious heaven with him, there are no shadows in his presence.
Prayer: Father God, our Good Shepherd, we thank you first and foremost for your Son who delivered us from ravenous sin that preys on us. With this in mind, would you please help us fear you above evil, that we might walk through the shadows of life into the light of your Son? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling