Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Our Good Shepherd is a Warrior
When we walk through the darkest valleys of life, all of God’s attributes are with us in the valley: His grace, goodness, love, faithfulness, tenderness, kindness, strength, power, might, peace, etc. When life overwhelms us, we are tempted to believe that, if we were truly his, we would never travel into such places.
Even at the lowest points in our lives, we can say, “I will fear no evil, for You are with me…” The Good Shepherd, Jesus, attends us. He is with us to guide us and to minister to our greatest needs. Jesus himself warned His disciples before He left this world, “….in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” The valleys are those times which we would describe as tribulation, trials and tests that come our way. The crises of life draw us closer to God. We are more prone to talk about God when we are in the green pastures and more prone to cry out to God when we enter the dark night of the soul.
What does God do when we are in the valleys of life? The Passion translation explains Psalm 23:4 this way, “Lord, even when your path takes me through the valley of deep darkness, fear will never conquer me, for you already have! You remain close to me and lead me through it all the way. Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for you are near.” Consider who leads us into the darkest valley. This path is not chosen by us. Sheep do not walk willingly into dark places. How did David end up walking in the valley of deep darkness? His Good Shepherd led him there. The same Shepherd who led David into the green pastures and beside the quiet waters also leads him through the dark valley.
The Shepherd of your soul is extremely near to you in the darkest valleys. His authority and love over your life releases strength and peace to your soul, spirit, and body.
His rod and staff symbolize God’s authority and love. David knew the instruments of the shepherd. He carried them with him wherever he went, caring for his flock. The shepherd’s rod and staff were always with him. The rod was an instrument, like a club, used for protection both for the shepherd and his flock to drive off predators or to rescue sheep from danger. And the staff, which identifies a shepherd, is an instrument used for the care of the sheep.
The shepherd was a warrior to defend his sheep!
The rod was chosen by the shepherd, fitting his size and strength. In essence the rod was an extension of the shepherd’s right arm, which is the symbol of strength, power and authority. The rod protected the sheep from enemies. Sheep have many enemies, so the shepherd was always on the look-out. In the dark valley, sheep are vulnerable.
What are our enemies in the valley? Despair, pain, disappointment, discouragement, death, loss, and fear. We will be protected from every enemy as we trust the Shepherd. Revelation 12:10 tells us, “For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.” Satan has an agenda. He accuses you and me. He tells us we can’t trust God. He tells us we do not deserve love. He throws our past in our face. When we are down, he kicks us and speaks destructive lies to keep us down. The enemy’s native language is lies and that is all he knows. His ultimate goal is to steal, kill and destroy. In John 10, the beautiful passage about the Good Shepherd, Jesus speaks truth, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” Remember, Jesus has overcome the enemy! “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he (Jesus) made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross,” Colossians 2:15. Jesus is the overcomer! He has the victory! Jesus has beaten death and he has beaten the adversary of our soul! He is the warrior who cannot be defeated. This warrior Shepherd is leading through the most challenging of times.
The staff the shepherd carries is designed, shaped, and adapted especially to the needs of the sheep. His staff would guide the sheep in the dark valleys, where the sheep could not see. The shepherd would place the tip of the staff on the sheep’s side to guide him through. The sheep trusted the staff of the shepherd.
Symbolically, the staff of our Good Shepherd is Spirit of God. He draws the sheep close to the Shepherd. The Spirit of God guides we sheep, gently along dangerous routes. And the staff, the Holy Spirit, reaches out and catches little lambs and stubborn sheep and those sheep stuck in thorny places. The Shepherd’s staff reminds us that our Shepherd is kind, patient, pulling us up out of our fear, despair, and challenging circumstances. God doesn’t tell us to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. He pulls us up! He leads us through. Our Shepherd knows what we need.
In the dark valleys, let God’s voice propel you forward. Do not let worry fuel your fear in the dark valley. Fear robs you of a future you long for. Fear makes you stagnant.
Why would a shepherd lead his sheep into a valley filled with danger and potential risk? The only possible answer is to get to a better place! God uses the valleys to prepare us for greater things. Trust the Good Shepherd. He knows where He is taking us. He has a place and purpose of where He is taking us. “Your authority is my strength and my peace. The comfort of your love takes away my fear. I’ll never be lonely, for you are near,” Psalm 23:4b.