This week we’re looking at verse 4 of the Twenty-Third Psalm. “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.” This is one of the most well-known verses of the entire Bible. Television shows and movies that include graveside scenes often use this verse. It was even used in James Cameron’s 1997 epic Titanic as the ocean liner sank in the North Atlantic Ocean.
Because Psalm 23 is often used in movies and is frequently read at funerals, it’s easy to associate the psalm with death. Actually, however, it has far more to do with life. Consider these three words in verse 4 that point to life:
Walk—Yea, though I WALK through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. . . .The lamb is walking through the valley and walking indicates life.
Through—Yea, though I walk THROUGH the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. . . . The lamb is walking through the valley. He is not stopping. He is not dying. He is following his shepherd.
Shadow—Yea, though I walk through the valley of the SHADOW of death, I will fear no evil. . . . Many times, shepherds have to take their flock through dangerous territory to reach water or good pasture. In some cases, the shepherd leads his sheep through ravines where wild animals hide and the steep slopes block out light, creating shadows. It is, as the psalmist describes, the valley of the shadow of death. It’s a place of shadows and dangers but the sheep is not afraid. Why? Because he is following his shepherd. I will fear no evil for thou art with me.
What does this mean for ministers who have experienced termination?
You WILL come out on the other side. Right now you are in a valley and your valley is filled with shadows of death. The death of your ministry. The death of countless relationships. The death of your dreams. But you are very much alive. You are not in the valley to stop and die. You’re walking through the valley. Eventually, as you keep following the Shepherd, you will come out on the other side.
You do not have to fear evil. Even as the sheep walks through the valley of the shadow of death, he declares I will fear no evil. If the circumstances that led to your valley are anything like the ones that my husband and I experienced, then you have stared evil in the face. You can probably give evil a specific name and address. But you do not have to fear evil. Psalm 118:6 declares, The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me? (NLT)
People cannot destroy you. People may have destroyed your reputation. People may have destroyed your ministry at a particular church. People may have destroyed relationships. But people cannot destroy you. The Shepherd has not abandoned you in the valley. He is right there with you. He is leading you through this horrendous season of life and He is in the process of working everything for His good.
Two songs come to mind that would be appropriate for bringing this blog to a close. One is an old hymn. The other is by TobyMac. I love both and can’t decide which to use. Or maybe there’s another song that keeps you moving forward as you make your way through the valley. Please leave a comment and let everyone know what it is. But most of all, keep walking. Stay close to the Shepherd. He is not going to keep you in the valley forever. You WILL survive this season of life.