The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23 is perhaps the best known passage in all the Bible. Familiarity is good, but it can cause us to overlook truth. In the first few sentences we see the peaceful existence of the sheep. Everything is supplied, no needs go unmet. There are still water…peaceful. No worries, no cares, no trouble. All of the sudden the path goes in an unwanted direction. The once peaceful path leads into a valley. Not just any valley. This valley runs alongside a giant mountain. A mountain so large that it casts a great shadow onto the path. The mountain is death.
Few things in life hit like death. All loss is difficult and requires adjustment. Change can be difficult, but we know that what is lost can be regained. Not so with death. There is a loss that cannot be regained on earth. This is why the mountain of death seems impossible to climb. It is a tall mountain with a long shadow. Walking in that shadow is dark. It is cold. The temperature drops in the shade. In the shade you cannot see the light. It is dark and without warmth. For whatever reason God leads His children on this path. When we try to look and find God, all we see is the mountain. The mountain of death.
On this path, we cannot see the light but we must trust that it is still there. We cannot see God but we must trust that He is still God. In these times we are desperate to know what God is doing. The reality is that it doesn’t matter that we know what He is doing. What does matter is the we know that HE KNOWS what He is doing! It is His plan to lead us onto this path so that we learn to trust Him. While on this path, only two things give comfort…His rod and His staff.
The rod and staff are indispensable tools of the shepherd. He uses them to guide, lead, and correct the sheep. This is a reminder to the sheep that the shepherd is near. When in the valley of the shadow, He is very near! We cannot see Him. We cannot feel Him. But He is very near. THAT is the lesson of the valley. HE. IS. NEAR.
Rest in His goodness and nearness. Even though it doesn’t feel like it, even though it doesn’t appear so….He is near to you.