January 8th, 2021 – Psalm 23:4

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Psalm 23:4   Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

This verse is one of comfort.  In the previous verses David speaks of the Lord as shepherd and guide, how He brings him to places of good food and clean and easily accessible water. How He provides every need he may have, and how when he is lost, the Lord brings him back to the fold and restores him completely.  And He guides him on paths that lead to righteousness.

Our focus verse today speaks of protection from danger and the comfort this provides. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4.  In studying for this devotion, something I had not seen  or thought of before came to light. It seems clear that the idea of walking through the valley of the shadow of death is a consequence, or reality of living in this life here in a depraved world.  Therefore, this is probably speaking of a ‘right path’ which if we take this into account, as theologian Derek Kidner puts it, “takes much of the sting out of any ordeal.  Not every place back then where the sheep went was wonderful.  There were paths they had to take to go from one place to another, and some of these paths probably had dangers associated with them, such as wild animals or thieves.  However, when a good shepherd that was trusted by the flock would lead them in a particular direction, they followed him for they trusted him completely.

I am sure we can all look back in time and remember difficulties we have endured.  I can remember various times where things were just not going well at all, but in the end, it turned out good.  And I attribute this to trusting God and knowing He was there with me all the time.  And just as it said, ‘I fear no evil, for you are with me’.  Just as with the shepherds who in order to bring the sheep where they needed to be, would need to travel through places of danger, there are times where we wonder why do I need to go through this?  In all these times, we need to always remember we are never alone.  Our great shepherd is us. 

Also, there is a very interesting distinction between verses one through three and four.  Note the wordings:  Verse one “The Lord is my Shepherd”. Verse two “He makes me”.  Verse three “He restores my soul, and He guides me”.  And now look at four.  “I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. “.  In verse four, he changes it from the more distant “He” to a more personal “you”.  This is done for the shepherd here is no longer ahead of the flock, to lead them but is alongside them to escort them.  During times of need and danger, it is good to have a companion with us.    

And He will protect us as our shepherd.  They had two different instruments to make this happen.  The ‘rod’ was known as a cudgel which was worn at the belt and was used as a weapon,  while the ‘staff’ was used to walk with and could be used as a weapon as well.  However, the main purpose of the staff was to round up the flock, bringing them closer to him, and in so doing they would feel more secure.  And as He gathers His people close to Him, there is a feeling of safety that comes upon us.

The main idea of verse four is that no matter where we are or what we experience, if we are truly following Jesus He will keep us safe and secure.  Even if it is in troubling times.  As Paul said to the church in Rome, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28.  No matter our circumstances, God will bring about a good and safe ending if we stay close to Him, for He will always stay with us.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

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