I love the Psalms. They are such rich, authentic prayers by real, broken people. Last week, I shared some reflections on the first part of Psalm 23. Today, I want to look at the middle section of Psalm 23.
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 (KJV)
1.) In times of trouble, God wants us to go from talking about him to praying to him.
At this crucial moment of terror in the valley of the shadow, David turns to God and instead of speaking about God, he prays directly to him. God- its your rod and its your staff that comfort me.
Its so easy to talk about our problems to other people and to forget to actually turn to God in prayer, and share with him our fears and worries. God wants us to be in relationship with him and to trust him. This starts with being open and honest with God.
2.) The Dark Valleys are a part of God’s Plan
As I reflected on this part of the Psalm, I’ve realized that the the dark valley is as much a part of God’s “right paths” as are the green pastures. Just because we find ourselves in a uncertain and scary time of life, it doesn’t mean that we are out of God’s will. Our loving shepherd is right there beside us- even when we face darkness and trouble. I pray that this gives you (and me!) comfort when we find ourselves in tough times.
A friend recently pointed out to me the story in Matthew 14 where Jesus sends his disciples into the storm. They found themselves in a very scary situation- where the waves were tossing them and they were uncertain about what was going on. However- Jesus sent them there so that they could witness his glory when he walked on water and calmed the storm. Sometimes, Jesus sends us into the storm so that we can learn to trust him more and so that he can be glorified.
3.) God’s rod and staff comfort
David, who was a shepherd in his younger years, uses shepherd imagery quite well. Typically, a shepherd had a couple of tools at his disposal. The “rod” is a short club that is a weapon of defense or discipline; a cudgel worn at the belt. It symbolizes God’s strength, power, and authority.
The “staff” is a long slender stick with a hook on one end. It is used to draw a sheep close the the Shepherd, guide it in the right way or rescue it from trouble. God’s rod and staff reassure us of God’s love and guidance in our lives. They were used to walk with and to round up the flock.
God both disciplines and guides those he loves. We can be confident that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows what is best for us.
Whatever you’re facing today- talk to God about it. And remember that just because you are in the valley, it doesn’t mean that you are outside of where God wants you to be. He is with you. There is no reason to fear. He is with you.