The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Psalm 23:4 ESV: “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.”

  • “Even though, …” 

Collins Dictionary: You use ‘even though’ to indicate that a particular fact does not make the rest of your statement untrue.

Cambridge Dictionary: despite the fact that

  • “Even though, I walk…”

This is going to be a personal journey and it’s going to take some personal effort. However long it takes, you’re walking through that place; you’re not standing still, even if it feels like that.

  • “Even though, I walk through the valley…”

A valley is a low place or a low point. Everyone is going to have one of these at some point.

  • “Even though, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

Here’s a very specific valley – the valley of the shadow of death…

The shadow of death – obviously a pretty scary thing to even imagine but the reality is this: while shadows are not the real thing, they have the form and shape of that which they represent and their illusive representation can actually loom significantly bigger than even the real thing.

[So if death itself is scary and its shadow looms bigger, even though it’s illusive, that’s a big and scary illusive…]

Another truth about shadows is that they are formed when something gets in the way of light. So where there is a shadow, you can believe that light exists somewhere close by. The Psalmist says in chapter 27 (just a few chapters down from 23) that “The Lord is my light and my salvation” [Psalm 27: 1].

So, I imagine that what is really going on here is that death would like to get close enough to harm but it knows it can’t unless given permission by God [ Luke 22:31; Job 1:12, Revelation 1:18 ] who is the very light of/in our lives. So it sends the next scary thing that has the potential to throw us off our game and make us turn against the light that we may not see but whose reality is no less true because of our inability to see it.

  • “Even though, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”

Of course, fear is a likely emotion or state to be in when faced with the valley of the shadow of death. It’s scary stuff. Not just that…because the threat is real – where the shadow is, what it represents is also close – and its intent is harm.

Why would God allow us to go through this dark, dangerous place?

Perhaps, God allows us to walk through this valley to help us grow in the realization that nothing, however, seemingly real, is as REAL as He is.

Remember, it’s a walk through this place; the intent is never for anyone to stay here… and however long that walk takes and however long the shadow stays, it won’t be forever because light cannot be blocked forever – and definitely not the light that is Jesus. The shadow will have to pass eventually. It has no choice. 

  • “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me;…”

The man who knows this is in the safest place in this valley. However it feels, you are not alone in this place.

  • “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 staff, they comfort me.”

Quick grammar lesson: a semi-colon [;] is used to join two independent clauses without using a conjunction.

First independent clause: You are with me.

Second independent clause: Your rod and Your staff…comfort me.

So this could very well read as: You are with me because Your rod and Your staff [are here to] comfort me.

Why would a rod and staff make any difference in the situation we’re in?

Because they are assurance that we are not alone and the Shepherd is with us; the rod and the staff that we know are the Shepherd’s. The comfort in these is this – the Shepherd’s rod and staff do not move or work independently of the Shepherd. He carries them; He uses them… and where they are, the Shepherd is too. 

The rod and staff mean the Shepherd is close. There is comfort in this knowledge. 

The rod – in the context of this passage, was a relatively short, heavy, club-like device that the shepherd would typically use to fight off predators. In this valley, there are bound to be predators – looking to attack and devour in our weak and vulnerable state. Our Shepherd knows this and He fights for our safety. We are not alone. Our Shepherd, who is the LORD, never leaves us – even when we cannot feel Him.

The staff – in this passage’s context was longer and thinner with a hook/crook at one end. The shepherd would use this to pull wandering or lagging sheep back to the fold. In the valley, we are prone to wander off the path that leads towards home and back to the light because of how lost we feel in our despair. Predators like and want this because it’s easy to prey on the sheep that is away from the Shepherd and the flock. The destroyer of our souls wants this for the same reason. Without the Shepherd’s staff to pull us back to safety, we risk being swallowed up in this valley. 

The Shepherd’s rod and staff…

God’s Word warns us and pulls us back from predators; it guides us along the narrow way towards the glorious light that is Himself.

Don’t reject/leave the Word of God in the valley days; it’s your hope of getting out of the valley safely. The Shepherd is with the rod and staff… better yet, the rod and staff are with the Shepherd.

Shadows bring darkness… the valley of the shadow of death is a dark place. 

In darkness, all our other senses ought to be heightened so we can “see” what or who is near.

When we lose our sight because of darkness and just give up or give in to the darkness rather than engage our other heightened senses, we may miss feeling the rod and staff which bring us the comforting knowledge of the Shepherd’s presence. 

You and I are not alone in the valley; He is with us and He is for us and He says Himself:

“Never will I leave you or forsake you!” [Joshua 1:5]

Deuteronomy 31:8 [NIV] says this:

“The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Once again… be reminded that even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you need not fear any evil, for the LORD is with you; His rod and His staff, they comfort you.

16 thoughts on “The Valley of the Shadow of Death

  1. This is very insightful Dedo. I was particular blessed by the section on the illusive shadows and the fact that the rod and staff point us to the Person who is near and how He uses them. God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

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