Psalm 23:4 (ESV) … “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.”
In our verse here, the psalmist acknowledges that life will not always be characterized by green pastures and quiet waters like that of verse 2. Sometimes we will instead walk through the dark and gloomy places of life. Much like what we discover in Psalm 107:10 where the psalmist says, “Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons…” or like what we find in Job 10:22 were we are told that “the land of gloom like thick darkness, like deep shadow without any order, where light is as thick darkness.”
Darkness came in the life of our Lord, we should not be surprised that we too might have to walk through valleys also. The word evil in this passage, is the Hebrew word, ra'ah, can refer to harm or trouble as found in Job 2:10. The promise, however, is that even in difficult times, the psalmist says will not fear any harm.
The reason for his confidence? The psalmist goes on to state that you are with me. The psalmist does not fear because of Yahweh’s presence, which protects him from harm. Again, we are reminded of this promise in Psalm 138:7 … “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.”
The final word of comfort comes to us by knowing that our Lord’s rod and your staff is with him. These tools were used by shepherds to guide their sheep and to keep them safe. Furthermore, having sheep pass under a rod was a way of counting them according to (Lev 27:32). Here, the rod symbolizes Yahweh’s promise of protection and care.
Life will have its valleys that can be dark and gloom. However, let our confidence be in the Lord our God. His hand is steady and reliable. Through life, as we follow the Shepherd, we will have many and varied experiences, some of which will be very trying, but none of them can take the Lord by surprise. We may trust Him and have peace. The closer we are to our Shepherd, the safer we are and the more His peace will fill our hearts.