Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will Fear no evil. The 23rd Psalm says that. But is it for real? Can it really happen? Maybe for King David, who wrote the Psalm. But for us today?
Psalm 23 A psalm of David. Ps 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. Ps 23:2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, Ps 23:3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Ps 23:4 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. Ps 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Ps 23:6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
Background on Psalm 23
The twenty-third psalm is the most beloved of the 150 psalms in the Psalter and possibly the best-loved (and best-known) chapter in the entire Bible. The great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon called it “the pearl of psalms.” Nineteenth-century preacher and commentator J. J. Stewart Perowne observed that “there is no psalm in which the absence of all doubt, misgiving, fear [and] anxiety is so remarkable.” Alexander Maclaren said that “the world could spare many a large book better than this sunny little psalm. It has dried many tears and supplied the mould into which many hearts have poured their peaceful faith.”
Millions of people have memorized this psalm, even those who have learned few other Scripture portions. Ministers have used it to comfort people who are going through severe personal trials, suffering illness, or dying. For some, the words of this psalm have been the last they have uttered in life. 1
Fear no evil in the valley of the shadow of death
One of the thoughts above is one many people are familiar with. Ministers have used it to comfort people who are going through severe personal trials, suffering illness, or dying.
That’s so true. Especially when people are dying.
I have my own experience with that.
You can read about it using the link in the adjacent inset for “God – is it time for me to go home?”
My week in the hospital, along with the two weeks leading up to it and the month and a half after it, were the most peaceful time in my life.
It was amazing. Unreal. But true.
What about fear when we’re not in such dire straits?
So here’s my question for this Psalm. For today. What about the times when we’re not in the valley of the shadow of death?
What can we do to alleviate fear when things aren’t so bad that the 23rd Psalm comes to mind?
For instance, when you get a letter from the IRS – of whatever entity collects taxes where you live? Or final exams, if you’re s student? A first date? Interviewing for a job. Going in for a performance review. All sorts of things. So just think about various times when you’ve felt some sense of fear, foreboding, or just plain nervousness.
Did the 23rd Psalm come to mind? Probably not.
Why should the 23rd Psalm be thought of more often?
Am I really asking you to think about this Psalm more often?
Sure. Why not? It doesn’t have to be about death, taxes, or other things we fear.
Why shouldn’t we want the various things in this Psalm all the time?
I wrote a piece titled, “Jesus is my copilot?” several years ago.
It used to be a saying popular with some Christians. But hey – it’s wrong! Jesus shouldn’t be our copilot.
To find out why not, and to see a much preferred alternative, please check out the adjacent info box.
Conclusion – How can we fear no evil in the valley of the shadow of death or not?
There’s a hint in the image above. The one with the dead tree. Obviously, death. And it’s black and white, because that’s often a sign of something dark and foreboding.
But what else is in the picture? It’s s dove. The symbol of the Holy Spirit. The mind of Christ, as Paul wrote. The mind of God, Father and Son, as the Bible tells us.
The Holy Spirit is with us all the time from the moment we’re baptized. And as the background points out, the 23rd Psalm is likely the best-known chapter in the entire Bible. Even lots of non-Christians hear it at funerals they attend for Christian friends.
If it takes remembering something we already know so well to remind us of the fact that He’s always with us, why not begin with this Psalm as a reminder to call on the Holy Spirit always? As we do this more often, and as our faith grows, we will naturally want to learn more about the Holy Spirit.
The thing is, as Francis Chan points out so well in His book, “The Forgotten God”, we so often do “forget” about the Holy Spirit. The One Jesus promised us for all sorts of things as we try to follow Him and carry out His mission for us in this life.
For a whole lot more on both this topic in general and the Holy Spirit in particular, please check out the inset box below.
Image by Bronisław Dróżka from Pixabay
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