Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me;
What do you think of when you read this verse? What does the valley of the shadow of death mean to you?
In A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, W. Phillip Keller explains that sheep in many parts of the world, including Israel where David watched a flock, only graze in home pastures part of the year. Other times of year, the shepherd drives his flock into higher ground in the mountains. Of course, eventually they come back down. The journeys can be long and difficult, but the shepherd takes them the way that will be easiest and provides the most food and water… that is through the valleys. Along the way, they may encounter predators, storms, and even flash floods. It can be dangerous, but the shepherd knows the best route and his goal is what will benefit them most. He is with them and cares for them every step of the way.
I find it interesting to read in Luke, chapter 2, when the angel announced to the shepherds that the Christ child had been born, they were spending the night in the fields with their sheep. “He is born for you,” the angel told them, “to give you peace,” was the summary. Jesus was born for them, Shepherd of the shepherds, and he was born for you and me.
We are familiar with mountain top experiences. When people come to camp and turn off the distractions of the world, they often experience a new closeness with the Lord and a time of great growth. These are times we wish didn’t have to come to a close. At camp, we try to prepare campers and summer staff for re-integrating back into “real life,” continuing to spend time with the Lord because we know that for every journey up the mountain we inevitably have to come back down through the valley.
It is in the valleys that we often learn the most, and in time of need we learn how we can depend upon the Lord. He demonstrates his faithfulness to us by coming alongside us in the challenges that we face. He stays with us through the night. The world is fearful today. This pandemic has brought out the worst and shown us where we have put our trust. God is present. He promises that for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose, He works all things together for our good… even if that good means the outcome is not what we had expected or hoped for. He is trustworthy.
Our hope is in the Lord. This Hope isn’t wishful thinking. This Hope is expectation. Those who have trusted in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins have assurance and expectation that they are hidden with God in Christ. Their eternal home is with him. Sometimes we may need to be reminded to “fear no evil.” The Lord shelters us from storms, lifts us up out of the floods, and pushes back the enemy. He gives us His peace.
The valley is full of provision, and it is always leading us back to the foot of the mountain.
Are you able to say with confidence that you can keep walking with calm and assurance because the Good Shepherd is with you?
This song by Matt Redman is based on this verse in Psalm 23.
If you are interested in reading Keller’s book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, he takes a much deeper look at this relationship between the shepherd and the sheep. I am summarizing what stands out to me, and sharing from my experiences rather than his. There is much more you can learn!