40 Days of Hope
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Wednesday, April 3
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
David appears in the Bible in 1 Samuel 16. The old prophet Samuel had been led by God to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint the new King of Israel. Jesse warmly received Samuel. Samuel knew that one of Jesse’s sons was to become the new king. After surveying all the sons, Samuel was disappointed because God had not chosen any of them. “Do you have any more sons?” Samuel asked. Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest. He is tending the sheep” (1 Samuel 16:11).
David was a shepherd! He is introduced into the story as a shepherd. What was it like to be a shepherd in David’s day (or in any day)? We have a glimpse into David’s experience as a shepherd. In 1 Samuel 17, we read of how Goliath was terrorizing Israel. David arrived at the camp of Israel and offered to fight Goliath. King Saul questioned David about his skills. He warned David that Goliath was a warrior and he was a mere youth.
David responded to the king by letting him know that he may be young, but he was a shepherd! David told Saul that he had spent his time protecting his sheep. He had killed lions and bears with his rod and staff. He was not afraid of a giant!
In other words, David had led his sheep into hostile territory. He had led them through the dangerous wadis that threatened the lives of the sheep. But he did not abandon them to their own devices. He walked with them. He protected them. Even if the wadi was a valley of “death”—he was there, armed with his rod and staff. He would stand in the way of any predator and bring comfort to his sheep.
This is the background of Psalm 23:4. David was speaking from experience. Notice how he personalized this verse --- “you” are with me, “your” rod and staff will comfort me. David addresses God directly in this section. He knows what a good shepherd must do in the face of death itself.
These are encouraging words. Even when we are in the valley where death is all around us, God is with us. He will guide us through those darkest times. His protective arm is at work. We may face the deaths of those we love and our own death—but God will be with us, just like a good shepherd.
In our darkest times, God is with us. Let this truth wash over your soul today.