“Yea, 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”—Psalm 23:4 (NKJV).
After John 3:16, the twenty-third Psalm is probably one of the most well-known scriptures in the Bible. It brings comfort to those who are going through trials. The popular chapter is also often read at funerals. A recent morning devotional made me take a new look at the fourth verse.
The devotional, by O.S. Hawkins, brings new insight into this psalm. Hawkins writes, “A lot of voices tell us how to live, and self-help books flood the marketplace. But only one Book tells us how to die. And no verse in that Book of books is more relevant to the subject than the verse above.”
According to tradition, David wrote these words about the “valley of the shadow of death” while sitting in the Judean wilderness. Today, the spot is known as the Wadi Kelt. The long valley is about four and a half miles long. In some places, the canyons are 1,500 feet deep. With the sun casting shadows over the canyon, David was aware of the deep valleys around him. However, he knew he could travel with the Lord through the deepest valley and face any trial that came his way.
When We’re Faced with Trials
Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”
We’ve all faced times when our plans have changed due to unexpected circumstances. This year, because of a pandemic, we’ve been made more aware of this than ever before. Schools and businesses were closed. Some businesses have declared bankruptcy. People have lost jobs.
Loved ones have lost lives to the coronavirus. Family members mourn their loss, but they’ve been denied closure. Due to restrictions, their loved ones died without family beside them. For those who don’t know Jesus, they’ve had to walk “through the valley of the shadow of death” alone.
Walking Through the Valley
Hawkins reminds us we are never alone in our trials, especially when we’re facing death. He says, “You will never walk through the valley of death. Jesus did that for you. You will walk only through the valley of the ‘shadow’ of death.”
He adds, “a shadow might frighten,” but “it can never hurt us.”
David wrote about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but he knew it was not his final destination. Like David, we will enter the valley as we journey through life. But we don’t remain there. It’s on this journey, however, that Jesus is beside us, walking us through those dark days. When we come out on the other side, we’ll be stronger, or we’ll find ourselves celebrating in heaven.
The Key Word is “Through”
Says Hawkins, the key word in “through.” We don’t walk “in” the valley, we walk “though” the valley. We don’t remain there. Without valleys, there would be no mountaintops.
Whether we’re still journeying through life or headed to our final home, the Good Shepherd is always with us. He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
That is one of many promises we can cling to as we journey though life. We’re never alone. He is with us always. Whether it’s in the deepest valley or on the highest mountain, He is always near.
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