You can recite this psalm from memory, and probably in King James English. I’m keying in on that phrase: walking ‘through that Valley of the Shadow of Death’. Death…lots of it in the news these days. Disease, terrorism, famous people (who have so much of this world’s goods) choosing to end their own lives.
I have no idea how many times I’ve read the 23rd psalm at hundreds and hundreds of funerals during my 40 plus years of ministry. No idea. Somewhere, I remember reading that in the Holy Land there is an actual place called the Valley of the Shadow. It’s a narrow ravine where sheep have to travel through single-file nudged by the prodding of the shepherd. One by one, which sheep do not like. It spooks them.
So, the shepherd, who knows that the good grazing land is on the other side of the ravine, gets them through using his shepherd’s crook and his very familiar voice. You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? Once we were driving through the lovely Cotswolds of rural England when we spotted a Norman church off in the distance, off a narrow road. We turned onto an even smaller road, certain that no one would be coming the other way. Out of nowhere comes a large truck unable to push too far over to the side. So, I did or I hoped I could. I braced myself, put my head down, prayed for a miracle…and the shadow of that truck totally blocked our vision as it passed over us. Whew!
We were fine. Our rental car was fine. It turned out to be only a shadow of trouble. Death is the same. It’s scary, unknown, big and dark, our vision clouded, we’ve never been down that path before, we travel it alone (or so it feels), we leave loved ones and lots of unfinished dreams and business. So we imagine.
But death will only be a shadow– for in Jesus Christ ‘death has been swallowed up in victory…But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 15: 54-57). Death has been defeated. The shadow will lift and we’ll see our Shepherd holding our hand guiding us to the best pasture land we’ve ever seen with satisfaction like we’ve never known. I will fear no…well, anything! And singing will be better than ‘Me and My Shadow’, and with interesting true stories much better than Lamont Cranston of old-time radio days for ‘The Shadow Knows’! We know…because the Bible tells us so!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for being our good Shepherd. In Jesus’ name. Amen.