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. Psalm 23.4

In verse four David transitions from the peaceful environment of the green pastures to the valley of the shadow of death. I have read a diversity of opinions about the valley of the shadow of death, where it is, or what it is. One truth that I believe is clear, David is referring to a place of danger. Whether it is a specific valley, I do not know. But we know that the valley can refer to a place of danger, or a dark or distressing period of time in our lives. David claims that he can experience danger or distress without fear. As a shepherd David killed a lion and a bear. He fully understands the concept of danger, in his own experience he was able to protect the sheep. Even though sheep are skittish, they rest easier in the presence of the shepherd.

There is no fear in the valley because the shepherd is present. David references the shepherd’s rod and staff. But the real confidence lies in the shepherd, in his presence and his ability to protect the sheep despite danger. The rod and staff are useless unless carried and wielded by an experienced shepherd. The rod is a club that is used to protect the sheep. It is used as a weapon against deadly predators. The staff is a walking stick, the particular staff of a shepherd has a crook in the top and can be used to catch hold of a sheep. The sheep are comforted by the presence of the shepherd and his ability to care for them.

The Lord is our Shepherd. We can rest easy in His presence. He told the disciples, and us, to not be afraid, but to be comforted. He sent His Spirit to indwell us; He is always present, even during the dangerous and distressing times in are lives. The Shepherd doesn’t always change the circumstances, but he will never leave us nor forsake us. We must walk through our own valley of the shadow of death, but we do not walk through alone. He is always present. The valley doesn’t last forever.