August 05, 2015

The Valley of Shadows

Psalm 23

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.

—  Psalm 23:4

Sheep are difficult animals to care for. They are totally dependent on the shepherd for food, guidance, and protection. Even at night, someone has to watch over the sleeping sheep in case predators attack or something else frightens them and they panic. In the chaos, lambs can be badly hurt and adult sheep injured. The work of a good shepherd never ends.

This psalm is about the Lord as a shepherd who faithfully tends his sheep. Jesus is the good shepherd (John 10:11), the great shepherd (Hebrews 13:20-21), and the chief shepherd (1 Peter 5:4). As Jesus is our shepherd, so we are his sheep—not dumb, frightened animals, but obedient followers wise enough to follow the one who will lead us in the right ways to the right places.

Our shepherd knows the “green pastures” and “still waters” that will restore us. We will reach these places only by following him obediently.

Death casts a frightening shadow over us because we are entirely helpless in its presence. We can struggle with other enemies—pain, disease, injury—but in the end our strength and courage cannot overcome death. Only one person can walk with us through that shadowy valley and bring us safely to the other side. Jesus, the perfect shepherd, promises to guide and protect us and bring us into his home forever.

When you recognize the good shepherd, follow him!

Good Shepherd, help me always to trust in your watchful care and mercy. Help me to be faithful. In your name, Amen.

About the author — Thea Leunk

Thea Nyhoff Leunk has been a high school English teacher, a director of Christian education, a pastor of discipleship, and a regional coach for the Christian Reformed Church in North America. She is currently the senior pastor at Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Thea has also written courses for teens and young adults on world religions, Christian faith traditions, and science and the Bible. She and her husband have three adult children.

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