Psalm 23 Verse Four

Dark scary places on the road of life

by Edward Langenback

© 03/12/05

Psalms 23:4, "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."

Life is often described as a journey. On this journey we pass through many places in our lives. Verse four calls one of the places that we sometimes find ourselves going through "the valley of the shadow of death". A pretty scary sounding name for a place that we find ourselves walking though many times in our lives.

The word valley is translated from the Hebrew gay' {pronounced gah'-ee} [strongs number 1516] and describes a valley, a steep valley, narrow gorge

'shadow of death' is translated from the Hebrew tsalmaveth {pronounced tsal-maw'-veth} [strongs number 6757] and means death-shadow, deep shadow, deep darkness, shadow of death (of distress, extreme danger), death-shadow (of place of the dead)

These two Hebrew words describe a place that is dark and difficult to travel. The shadows in this place harbor distress (fear, worry, stress, Etc.) and threats of extreme danger. Yet we are not afraid and have no concern. The distress of this dark valley in our lives does not touch us because our shepherd is always with us and we rely on Him for protection.

The shepherd's staff has two functions. The first is shown by the word rod which is translated from the Hebrew shebet {pronounced shay'-bet} [strongs number 7626] meaning rod, staff, branch, offshoot, club, sceptre, tribe club (of shepherd's implement) truncheon, sceptre (mark of authority) This is when the staff of the shepherd is used as a weapon to fight off predators, would be thieves and anything that would bother the sheep under His care.

The word staff is translated from the Hebrew mish`enah {pronounced mish-ay-naw'} [strongs number 4938]and means support (of every kind), staff. This word shows the other function of the shepherd's staff. It is more than a weapon and much more than a mere walking stick. The shepherd also uses it to guide the sheep in the direction that He wants them to go, keeping them away from hazards that they themselves are usually not even aware of.

Because we know who our shepherd is, and that He is always with us, we can take comfort and rest in the fact that He is watching over us and is more than equipped to deal with anything that comes after us.

In all this there are two things that are overlooked most of the time. First, the name of this place of fear and dread is "Valley of the Shadow of Death", NOT the "Valley of Death". A shadow may be threatening and scary, but it is still only a shadow. We might be afraid of the shapes that it makes on our bedroom wall in the middle of the night when the lightning flashes, but it is only a shadow. It has no substance, and therefore cannot present a real threat. Likewise, in the light of who our shepherd is, anything that would threaten us is only a thin shadow and not to be feared when we know that He is with us. Someone once summed this up very nicely by saying "The shadow of a dog never bit anyone."

Second, we are not staying in this place. This is a place that we are passing through. We are not moving in and setting up housekeeping in a place of fear, dread and worry. Our destination is the kingdom of the shepherd. We just have to remember that along the way we encounter places like this valley and trust our shepherd to safely guide us through each one as we come to it.

We come to valleys like this from time to time in our lives. It is true that they are dark and can be very hard to get through. It is also true that because of the mountains on either side that make it the only passable way there is no choice but to go through the valley . It is steep and difficult going, and we encounter a lot of things that scare us and make us worry. As long as we trust in and follow the shepherd, we will get through these darkest and scariest times in our lives without any of the fearful things harming us.