“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.”
Who doesn’t love Psalm 23? It has been a source of comfort for multiplied millions since David first penned it. There are however many who haven’t considered the implications of living as sheep in the capable hands of the good shepherd.
At verse four David acknowledges the only wise Sovereign, the Shepherd king, and his providential care of his people. Great comfort for us all who, like sheep are given to stray, especially in the area of dependence where trusting God for all things is the biblical way of life.
In a myopic society whose chief concern is “what’s in it for me” and “I’ll be the judge of that,” or “nobody can tell me what to do,” surrender is too often dismissed as foolishness. Then again, Paul says the gospel does appear foolish to those who are perishing (see 1 Corinthians 1:18).
When it comes to Psalm 23, many of us love the idea of never being in want, being made to lie down in green pastures, being led beside still waters (literally “waters of resting places”), and having our soul refreshed and restored, and of course the idea of being led in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:1-3) is an added bonus. All is good until we come to verse four.
Here David uses the phrase “the valley of the shadow of death,” which can also be accurately rendered “the valley of deep darkness.” Keep in mind David is still using the analogy of the shepherd guiding the sheep, so, if the sheep are walking through a valley of deep darkness, it is the plan of the shepherd who’s guided them through it for a reason.
The analogy of sheep with their shepherd is deliberate and accurate. Psalm 100:3 says “we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture,” reminding us of our complete dependence on Christ the good shepherd for everything. He will lead us wherever He deems best for our good. Those who refuse to be dependent upon the good shepherd have chosen to follow a stranger, and will not walk in the blessing of Psalm 23 (see John 10:1-6).
The Providential Care of the Shepherd
When the Good Shepherd sends out his sheep, he usually goes before them (see John 10:4). Shepherds will often walk alongside their flock and sometimes may walk behind them to help those in the rear to keep up with the rest.
I’ve read at times the shepherd may deem it necessary to lead his sheep in the darkness of night, as evening approaches or overtakes them. In the darkness the footing can be potentially treacherous, there’s the possibility of a narrow pass, where the shepherd may walk behind them due to the ever-present danger of predators lurking in the night.
In considering the fact that God is in control over all that happens in his creation; we should fear no evil as David says because our shepherd is with us. In good times and in bad, you and I are always under God’s protective care, and our greatest peace comes from yielding to his guidance. We should never fear evil for he is with us.
Psalm 32:8 says “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” As in Psalm 23, David’s confidence is in God, who will guide him with his eye upon his servant, God will show David the way he should go, and God will keep him in His sight as he goes along the way. God will do the same for you and I as we surrender ourselves to the care of the Good Shepherd, so Be Encouraged! – JSP