8 May 2022Psalm 23
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me. (v. 4)
The book of Psalms is in the Old Testament and consists of 150 psalms. Psalms are songs or prayers and are written in poetic language. King David is thought to have written some, but there is no certainty about that. There are different kinds of psalms, such as psalms of thanksgiving, lament and trust, among others.
Psalm 23 is a psalm of intimacy and trust. Shepherds during that time had a personal relationship with their sheep and even knew their names. The psalmist likened his relationship with God to that of a sheep with its watchful shepherd. Sheep can be wilful and wayward and are inclined easily to go astray.
The psalm paints a picture of green pastures and still waters and then goes on to talk about dark valleys with dangers lurking. One of the functions of a shepherd was to use their rod and staff to protect the sheep. The staff was a short wooden club with a lump of wood on the end, often studded with nails. There was a slit in the handle with a thong, which was fastened to the shepherd’s belt. The staff was used to defend the shepherd and his flock from wild beasts and robbers. The rod, which looked like a shepherd’s crook, was used to catch and pull back any sheep that were going astray.
The psalmist is realistic enough to know that God will not prevent him walking through the valley of darkness (which in some translations is "the valley of the shadow of death"), but will walk with him and use the rod and the staff to reassure, comfort and allay fears.
- Think of times when you walked through 'a dark valley' your life, and you were most aware of God’s comforting presence.
- How might this psalm speak to people in troubled situations, such as that in Ukraine?