Exploring Hope: Valley of the shadow of death

Psalm 23 is a beautiful piece of ancient Hebrew poetry that countless believers have sung and prayed for generations. Therefore, taking a verse a month, we are walking through this Psalm verse by verse. And today, we find ourselves in verse 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” (Psalms 23:4 KJV).

The last 12 months have been challenging for many individuals, our nation, and the world. It has felt as if we are walking through “the valley of the shadow of death.” Therefore, we are fatigued and worn out. We don’t know how much more we can deal with.

But in this verse from Psalm 23, we see David reflecting on the valley of the shadow of death. It is a terrifying place, but he will fear no evil. There is a sense of peace and confidence.

But where does this peace and confidence come from? He doesn’t say that he will fear no evil because evil is an illusion. He doesn’t say that he will fear no evil because death isn’t terrifying. No. He will fear no evil because God is with him.

Now 2021 may be far better than 2020. But one way or another, the shadow of death will catch up with us. It may be this year or 50 years from now, but eventually, we will face death. So are we prepared? Will we be afraid on that day? Or, can we know with complete confidence that God is with us?

Ultimately, we take hold of this confidence through Jesus Christ. He faced the valley of the shadow of death on the cross. He was separated from God as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Psalms 22:1 and Matthew 27:46). But he went through death to purchase life. And because he took the sting of death on the cross,  we may face the shadow of death, but the sting of death is gone. Therefore, we can join the apostle Paul in taunting death itself:

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:54-58 ESV).

Ways to Pray:

  1. Father, thank you for your presence with me in Christ Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am not alone!
  2. Please forgive me for fearing death. Help me to remember that Jesus has disarmed the power of death through his life, death, and resurrection.
  3. Give me strength to encourage other people facing hardship in the valley of the shadow of death today.

 

About Will Stern

Originally from Colorado, Will Stern is the pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Garnet Valley. He majored in violin performance for his undergrad and taught violin for a number of years before being called into ministry. He studied theology at Duke University and Westminster Theological Seminary.

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