"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil" (Psalm 23:4).
This familiar verse comes from a psalm we typically hear read at funerals and see inscribed on mausoleums. But it actually has more to do with life than it does with death. Today I want you to take the truth of Psalm 23 off sympathy cards and inscribe it on your heart as we continue to make our way through this public health crisis. Here are three things this psalm reveals about the Lord's heart toward us:
1. As a shepherd, God gives us direction. "The Lord is my shepherd," King David wrote, "I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake" (vv. 1-3). The idea of God being our caring, guiding shepherd is one of the most beautiful and comforting metaphors in the Bible. Sheep don't navigate very well (see Isaiah 53:6), but the nature of a shepherd is to guide, and we have the greatest guide ever living in us. He also promises to meet our needs, which is how we can confidently declare, "I shall not want."
2. As a friend, God gives us protection. "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" (v. 4). Life's not always going to be green pastures and still waters; there will also be dark valleys. But there's comfort to be found in the valleys. That's because your Good Shepherd not only uses a staff for directing His sheep, but also a rod for protecting us from predators like Satan, who "walks about like a roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8).
3. As a host, God gives us provision. "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over" (v. 5). Now we're dealing with God not as a shepherd, but as a host who lavishes abundant love and provision on us. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (v. 6). This is a statement of faith, a declaration of the future based on the past. David was saying, "God has taken care of me thus far in my life, and I am sure that in the future He's going to do the same."
So even though this valley we're all going through is dark and we can't see where we're going, the shepherd can. He knows what you need, He's going to provide what you need, and He wants to bring you to a place of refreshment, growth, and trust in His goodness through it all. I pray you would take comfort in all the ways you're experiencing His direction, protection, and provision in your life right now. And here's something to keep in mind as we continue to face uncertain days ahead: David spoke of walking through the valley, not living in it forever.