Yea, I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
When the sheep have grazed the Springtime pasture bare, the shepherd must lead them to the deep grass of the hillsides. The shepherd and his flock will be gone for weeks, perhaps months. They will stay until the grass is gone and chill unbearable.
Not all shepherds make the journey. The trek is long and dangerous. Poisonous plants can infect the sheep, or even wild animals might attack the flock. These are dark and narrow valleys.
But the experienced shepherd knows the path. Besides, he has his staff to nudge his flock and with his rod he will protect and lead the flock safely to the mountains. David, was an experienced shepherd and understood why we needed a good shepherd to lead us to the mountain by way of the valley.
I’ve heard this verse spoken as comfort at a funeral, in patient’s rooms by a loved one. If you walk through a cemetery, you’ve probably read the words carved into headstones. Why are these words so treasured? I think because with this Psalm David gives us two important reminders that can help us surrender our fear of the grave.
Our culture does it’s best to avoid that topic. Our vitamins won’t save us, exercise may buy us a few more heartbeats and medicine a few more breaths. But in the end, to be honest, there will be an end to earthly life. Psalm 23 is treasured during this difficult time because it’s God’s promise to comfort us.
This verse, unlike the first three verses, speaks to God. David’s poem becomes a prayer in verse 4. ‘You are with me; Your rod and Your staff comfort me.” Would a shepherd required his sheep to journey to the highlands alone? No! Would God required His children to journey to eternity alone? Absolutely not – He is with you! David knew God and God alone can guide us through the valley. Only God.
As God told Moses, He says to you “My presence will go with you…” What God told Jacob, He says to you, “I am with you and will watch over you…” and what God said to Joshua, He says to you, “…I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
God is with you and will protect you. You have no reason to fear evil, and every reason to feel comforted.
Last year when I contemplated Psalm 23 I used wrote about using your five fingers for Psalm 23:1 one finger at a time. The little finger represents The; the ring finger Lord; the middle finger Is; the index finger MY and the thumb Shepherd. I like to place special emphasis on the index finger, pointing it to Heaven to remind me that He alone will get me home safely, and without fear … His rod and His staff comfort me.