The Lord is my shepherd. This is how one of the most beloved and known chapters of the Bible begin: Psalm 23.
It brings us the assurance that the Lord is always taking care of us, like a good and loving shepherd.
But it isn’t uncommon to overlook some parts of the Scripture, for whatever reason. In this case, we usually don’t notice that the same Psalm that says that the Lord is our shepherd and that we won’t be in want, it also says:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4)
I don’t know about you, but just hearing the words “valley of shadow of death” is pretty scary to me.
Can you imagine finding yourself in a place like that? Honestly, I can’t. I’ve never been anywhere that would be close to that description. I’ve seen a few places in TV that maybe could qualify, but I certainly have never come close to one of them.
Even if we don’t think of it as a physical place. Maybe it could be an “emotional place”. In that case, you would have to go through some very traumatizing experiences so that it would feel like your soul is in the valley of shadow of death.
But when we talk about those scary moments in life, if anyone of us would go through it, we would probably question God, wonder how he allowed that to happen.
At this point, we must re-read that part of the Psalm:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. (Psalm 23:4, emphasis added by me)
David, this Psalm’s author, not only doesn’t complain about being in such a terrifying place, he affirms that he won’t fear any evil. I must be honest, I feel fear just thinking of such a place. Can you imagine not fearing it at all?
And why does David feel so assured? Because he knows that God is with him!
The contrast of the first scenes described in this Psalm with this part is breathtaking. But the psalmist is positive about it: no matter if he is in green pastures, still waters, or in the valley of shadow of death, he knows God is his shepherd and that He is there with him. And no matter where he is or what he is going through, knowing that his Good Shepherd is there is enough.
For David, being in the valley of shadow of death didn’t mean that God abandoned him, not for a second.
And David showed throughout his life that he meant every word he wrote. Although he went through very difficult times in his life, he never doubted God’s love.
And after describing two very contrasting scenes, he closes the Psalm with a powerful affirmation:
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:6)
No matter what happens, even if he is in the valley of shadow of death, he knows that goodness and love are following him. Wow!
And what really matters is that he knows that he will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
And thanks to Jesus, so can we.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2)