The Valley of the Shadow of Death :: by Ron and Nathele Graham

A Psalm of David:

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:1-6).

Most of us know this psalm by heart. How many times has this beautiful poetry given comfort in times of trouble or encouragement in times of need? David was a shepherd and knew from experience that it is the shepherd who cares for the sheep. The shepherd finds food and water for his precious flock and he protects them from danger.

Because the shepherd provides for the flock he is trusted by the sheep, they know his voice and follow him. David wasn’t shy in saying that “Yĕhovah” (Jehovah, the existing One) cares for him as a shepherd cares for his sheep. David personalizes the statement by saying “my” shepherd; he embraced the LORD as my shepherd and thereby acknowledged that it was the LORD who provided for his needs and David, though he occasionally went astray, submitted to Him.

Green pastures and still waters give a picture of peace and plenty. If the sheep felt any fear they would not be willing to lie peacefully. David’s description shows that he knew he could trust the LORD to provide for his needs and protect him. David fully trusted “my Shepherd” and he was able to feel peace, but when he wrote these words he couldn’t fully understand the peace and comfort of Jesus.

David looked forward to the coming Messiah but was not indwelt by the Holy Spirit like Christians are today. When Jesus, who is called the Good Shepherd, told His disciples that He was going to be put to death He explained that this was necessary, but that He wouldn’t leave them, or us, without help.

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you” (John 16:7).

Christians have the peace of God living inside because they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
“That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:12-14).

David recognized that the LORD does even more than provide peace and supply what one needs to live:

“He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” Psalm 23:3. Various Bible translations translate “restoreth my soul” as “He renews my life” (HCSB), “He restores my Strength” (NLT), and “He refreshes my soul” (NIV).

Once again we see love of the Shepherd toward the sheep. Without Him we cannot have any true restoration, renewal, or refreshing. We can trust Him to only lead us along the right paths….the paths of righteousness; He will not lead us astray. If you have a choice and face a decision as to which path is the one you should take, stop and pray. God will not lead you into sin or into a situation that will cause disgrace upon His name. We can trust Him.

Psalm 23 is all about our Lord providing our daily needs and tending to His flock. When we read, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4), it almost seems out of place…very dark and foreboding compared to the green pastures and the still waters.

Unless the Rapture happens, we all will face death one day. It comes to believers and non-believers alike. Sadly the non-believers have no hope. They have chosen to reject the Good Shepherd and His rod and staff will not comfort them; they face eternity in the lake of fire. Christians have the promise of eternal life in the presence of our Lord and Savior; our Shepherd will go with us through that valley of the shadow of death and we will find comfort. We will know complete love and peace for eternity.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” (Pslam 23:5).

Even in the face of our enemies our Lord provides for us.

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep” (John 10:10-11).

Our fiercest enemy is Satan and his intent is to steal, kill and destroy as many souls as possible. That evil being has followers who follow him in is hatred. We who follow the Good Shepherd have our needs met, and then some. In the midst of battle a soldier has little time to eat, but the Good Shepherd sets out a table for His sheep. The enemy isn’t fed, but the sheep are. The sheep are given the luxury of being anointed with oil and so much to drink that the cup overflows. Yes, blessings abound for those who follow Jesus, but the enemy has no comfort or abundance.

David had confidence in the LORD. He knew that “goodness and mercy” would follow him just as surely as the Shepherd would lead “in the paths of righteousness.” There’s no disadvantage to being led by the Lord. We are given all we need, even when troubled by Satan. There are many Christians around the world who are facing tremendous trials and torture because of their faith in Jesus Christ. We can be assured that even in the face of the Satanic evil that is behind the brutal beatings and vicious torture the Good Shepherd is with them.

I pray that this evil will be put away forever, and I pray that the rod and staff of the Lord will comfort those who are suffering because of their love of Jesus. The apostle Paul was beaten, stoned, and jailed because of his love for Jesus. He suffered much but was able to encourage others to find peace.

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).

Yes, His rod and His staff give us comfort. This world isn’t our home and any brutality suffered here is temporary. “…I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:6b). Our eternal home is with Jesus. When we put our faith and trust in Him our eternal future is secure.

Psalm 23 truly is one of the most comforting passages found in Scripture. David knew what it was to be a shepherd and protect the flock, but he also knew what it meant to be a king and defend his people. Adversity was around him and his life wasn’t always easy so he knew what the LORD, his shepherd, would do for His beloved flock. David had defended his own sheep against bears and lions, he faced and defeated the giant Goliath, he was hated by King Saul who wanted to kill him, his children were troublesome, and he made some bad decisions. Yet his desire was always to be near to God. Is that your desire? It should be.

Let’s take another look at verse 4:

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

The verses before and after verse 4 tell that the LORD provides what we need to sustain us in this life. Verses 1 through 3 tell of green pastures, still waters, and being led in the paths of righteousness. Verses 5 and 6 tell of the abundance and comfort that the Lord provides in spite of the enemy’s presence.

There is also the promise of dwelling with Him forever. In the middle of these verses of promise and comfort we read about the “valley of the shadow of death.” A valley is a low point between mountains and in this case the valley has a shadow over it…a shadow of death. It isn’t death itself, but the shadow of death. We walk through such a valley every day. Christians have life through Jesus, but those who don’t know Him cannot have eternal life…only death. The shadow of death is all around us.

Some of these lost souls are kind and do many good deeds, but those good deeds cannot give them eternal life. Some of these lost souls are pure evil. They are filled with the hatred and venom of Satan and willingly do his bidding. Both of these groups of people overshadow the valley we walk through and eternal death is a part of them. When David wrote Psalm 23 he knew the LORD and desired to please Him. He placed his trust in Him and he feared no evil.

He could have run blindly through the “valley of the shadow of death” but he didn’t. He walked through it and had no fear of the deadly shadow of evil all around. He trusted the rod and staff of his Shepherd to get him through. Christians have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. He is the rod and staff that guides us and comforts us as we walk through this world that is overshadowed by death.

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen” ( Hebrews 13:20-21).

He is my Shepherd and I shall not want…even when walking through this valley of the shadow of death.

God bless you all,

Ron and Nathele Graham