Even when I walkthrough the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. 5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.. Psalm 23:4-6
(23:4) David uses a phrase, “valley of the shadow of death” to describe a time or place of extreme fear. This is a poetic word for darkness. Other meanings include, in the shade of death, shadow of death, deep darkness, terror and calamity. David is not referring directly to death. This verse has been widely misunderstood. David describes himself walking “through” the valley of the shadow of death. David also said that he is in the shadow and not in the substance. However, even in this close proximity to terror, David says that he will fear no evil. Why? Because of God’s presence there with him. The items that give David comfort are the shepherd’s “rod and staff.” These were the common tools of the trade for shepherds. The staff was mostly used for defense, fighting or walking.
(23:5) The shepherd has prepared a meal for David in front of his enemies. This shows that God has and continued to provide for David even in the face of persecution and hostility. David’s head is then anointed with oil. Oil means literally “fatness”. This term was used to describe richness or fullness. David is saying that God will not only provide for his basic needs, the meal, but will bless him above and beyond.
(23:6) In the final verse of the chapter David expresses his confidence in further blessings. The word, “mercy” has been said to be one of the most important words in the Old Testament. It can be described as kindness, good will, favor, grace, unfailing love and beauty. David says not only will goodness and mercy be with him, but also they will “follow him”. The shepherd constantly cares for and looks after his sheep. David even goes further by stating that all these wonderful blessings will follow him “all the days of my life.” There is an interesting pause in this verse. After the phrase, “all the days of my life,” David then says that he will dwell in the house of the Lord. David is focusing upon life after death in heaven. In conclusion, David states that he will have the Shepherd’s blessings throughout eternity through God.
What ways are you trusting God during dark times? How is God our refuge?