Psalm 23:4 (esv)
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.
A question to ponder – do we cry out to God when things are good, or just when they are bad? Do we let go now, or just when there is nothing left to hold on to?
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death
Also translated, ‘the valley of deep darkness’. The place that we are surrounded, we cannot even see the sun. A deep, dark valley surrounded by cliffs, filled with a dense forest that even the top of the cliffs is out of sight, let alone the sky. A place of no escape.
The psalmist here is giving us a vision of what is could be the worst time of our lives. Maybe death itself. Or intense sickness, or paralyzing fear. Even in those times, or especially in those times, we have nothing to fear if we are already submitted to God. I think the preface of ‘even though’ means this is just the example of worst case, but all of the verse applies – all of the time.
I will fear no evil. For you are with me
Even in the hardest, most fearful, most difficult times of our lives, we don’t need to fear. Why? Because just like sheep in a field, we have a mighty shepherd, and He is with us. He is guarding us. He is guiding us. He is mightier that we could ever be, and can do more than we could ever do.
Your rod and your staff they comfort me
What is a shepherds primary weapon? His rod. With it he fends off the attackers and protects his sheep. With it he clears the path of obstacles, and ensures his sheep can get through unhindered.
How does a shepherd guide his sheep? His staff. With his crook he pulls or pushes the sheep where they need to be, when they need to be there.
Giving ALL to God, ALL of the time.
In verse 1 we read how we need to give up all of our personal desires, all of our personal wants, not only to achieve an inner peace given by God, but that we can best serve Him and His kingdom.
Today we read that even in the worst possible circumstances in our lives, we also need to trust in God – because He is with us, He is guiding us, and He is protecting us. Just like we declared ‘I shall not want’, we also now need to declare ‘I will not fear’. God is in control. We can’t just choose to let a part of us go to be in Gods control – we need to let the lot go! The good, the bad, the ugly. All of it.
So back to our question – when do you call out to God? If you are like much of the population, it will be only when times are bad. It will be only when we get to the valley of the shadow of death, and we are paralyzed with fear. We call out to God when we have no other resources to call on. Like dialling emergency, we only do it when we think there is no other way out, but to call on a higher power. And I am not just talking about those outside of the church, but many of those within as well!
This is not how it should be! We need to submit our lives to God now – in the good times if at all possible. Let go of all of us, so we walk in paths of righteousness. And no matter what happens then, be it blessing or trial, we know God is with us, because we have submitted to Him.
God is not a paramedic. He wants to be there for you always.
Lord God, no matter what circumstances are around us right now, grant us peace in you. Call us now, that we would respond to you now. Teach us to always trust in you, and not to call on your when we think our own resources are all gone first. Help us to see Your great power and love, and our own feeble weakness. Help us to trust in you. In Jesus Name. Amen.
(photo: Flickr / Cross Duck)