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Psalm 23, Verse 4: Yea, Though I Walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death

    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.

Like the Psalmist, David, we have had times of grief, sorrow and trauma, walked through the valley of the shadow of death.  David suffered persecution when Saul tried to kill him;  he was betrayed by people who proclaimed to be his friends; his own son, Absalom, attempted to rip his kingdom from him.  There were many times that he suffered through the “darkest of dark” times.  Times where the perils of death were imminent. The good news that David could proclaim was that the darkness and evil that he walked through were a “shadow of death”–not death, for God was with him all of the time and he needed not to fear the evil.  It is the same with us, through the times of darkness, distress and troubles, we are to be encouraged and fear no evil; we are not to fear “the shadow of death” for God is with us. Heb 13:5 states God as saying, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you,”. . . (NIV)

The shepherds carried a rod and staff. The shepherd’s rod, worn on the shepherd’s belt, was used to defend the sheep from predatory animals and robbers. The staff was used to gently correct and guide the sheep. The staff had a hook at the top which fit around the neck or head of the sheep to nudge them in the right direction. The bottom end contained a shovel in which the shepherd scooped up mud or dirt and flicked at the sheep to re-direct wandering sheep back to the herd. ( So, the rod provided protection for the sheep and the staff disciplined them.

Jesus, our Shepherd, protects and disciplines us. He does with compassion and love. He sacrificed his life on the cross for our sins and then sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us to guide and direct us into all truth. We also have the blueprint for living–His Word, the Bible. Jesus also disciplines us. There are examples of God disciplining his people for sin in the Bible: Moses was discipline for striking the rock twice; David was disciplined for committing adultery with Bathsheba and killing her husband.  God always exhibited compassion and love, even in correcting wrong doing.    
Because Moses struck the rock twice instead of telling the rock to yield water, God did not allow him to enter the Promised Land.  However, in Deuteronomy 34, God did allow Moses to see the Promised Land from afar by going up on Mount Nebo to the top of Pisgah.

In the case of David, when Nathan the prophet confronted David on behalf of God about his sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the killing of Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah. David’s sin produced consequences for him and his future generations:

“You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.
Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thin in broad daylight before all Israel.”

. . . “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.” 2 Samuel 12:12-14

So, both the rod and the staff bring comfort, David knew that even when he was being disciplined, it was better to be in the Shepherd’s hands than anywhere else. We can know and have that confidence in the Good Shepherd, too.

Be blessed.

Scripture for Meditation:

Psalm107:10 — There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in misery and chains, . . .

Psalm 44:19 — Yet You have crushed us in a place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death.

Hebrews 12:6 — because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastens everyone he accepts as his son.

Published inCultivating a Devotional Life

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