“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” —Psalm 23:4 KJV
The “shadow of death” is a colloquial saying in Hebrew meaning “mortal peril.” For many people in our world who are in mortal peril “the shadow of death” is literal. We might think of the people of Syria, or refugees in leaky boats, or young men in gangs. Or we might think of people we know who are dying. They live in “the shadow of death.”
For most of us, though, “the shadow of death” is an abstraction. Even so, we need to remember that in the New Testament death is never merely death at the end of life. It is that, but it is more than that.
More often in the New Testament “death” means a power that insinuates itself into our living of these days, robbing us of the fullness of life that God wants for us.
If we then live in “the shadow of death” the question arises, “How do we follow Jesus in such a time as this?” Often our real enemy isn’t death so much as it is fear. Psalm 23 tells us we can walk through the valley of the shadow of death without fear only because God goes with us.
There is a powerful Gospel song by Moses Hogan called, “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace.” Its words echo Psalm 23: “We shall walk through the valley in peace. There will be no sorrow there. There will be no dying there.” Why? “If Jesus himself shall be our leader, we shall walk through the valley in peace.”
Prayer: We live in a time of mortal peril, O God. Help us walk through the valley unafraid, with Jesus as our Leader. Amen.
(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for April 20 , 2018. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. There are several good recordings of “We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” on-line. Here are two I like, very different, one by Cantus and Chanticleer and the other by the Chor a cappella Konzertmitschnitt in June 2008 at Lengenfeld, St. Aegidius-Kirche, Germany. My own Berkshire Lyric Chorus really rocks this one, but sadly, no recording of it exists. Photo: R. L. Floyd, 2003. Delphi, Greece.)