Shadow of Death

In Psalms 23, David writes;

‘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.’

I needed a few things to fill up the background here.  First, I think David is still talking as a sheep.  I used to think that David was holding on to the rod and the staff himself, but sheep hooves would make him a terrible melee fighter.


The rod and the staff are shepherd’s tools.  The rod is like a cudgel, and the staff had a hook with which to snare wayward sheep.  Whack enemies and snag stupid sheep– all that a shepherd needs.  So here is David, wandering through this dark valley, and God is right next to him, ready to both pummel wolves and ‘redirect’ David if he wanders too far off the path.  And David is comforted by this– why?  I think because David doesn’t have to worry about defense.  He’s covered.  And poor David, accustomed to fighting for his life every minute of every day– this must be his idea of peace.

My other thought is about the valley itself.  Some people say it’s a real place, and some believe it is purely metaphorical.  A dark place in our lives, that we inevitably come to.  But me, i don’t know.  Maybe life is that dark valley.  The whole thing. from birth to death is one big long valley of the shadow of death.  We never escape it.

But what David is saying is that no matter where we find ourselves, God is covering the defense.  All we have to do is stay within reach of that shepherd’s crook, and we have nothing to fear from that old shadow.


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