David is telling us what it is like when ‘the Lord is my Shepherd’. And now, he tells us about the valleys with deep shadows we may be led through.
Like sheep, we are content and carefree when in green pastures. But then, we are liable to jump and lurch when led towards unfamiliar and threatening circumstances. Here again is where our ‘sails’ need to go higher.
What will happen if a foreign power starts to make things difficult for the economy? …or our whole planet begins to run down? …or if no one wants to employ me? …or if friends think my views are strange or dangerous? …or if a doctor says I have a serious illness?
David says he’s still OK. ‘I will fear no evil’. Things may go wrong but he won’t need to fear because of who is with him. And now, because we are the Lord’s flock, we can look at what is happening and ask, ‘Why should I fear?’
Well may we be scared of certain things that happen in this life. The creation wasn’t made to be terrifying. It was formed as our home and as God’s garden so we would have a place to live, to relate, to be provided for and to work. A place to walk with God and live forever (Genesis 3:22-24).
But this same creation, for the moment, has been given over to futility (Romans 8:20). Things do go wrong—wars, pandemics, accidents, death and lots besides.
The only reason David gives for not being afraid is, ‘For you are with me…’. Notice, he doesn’t say ‘the Lord…’. He changes to ‘You…’. He’s talking directly to the Lord, not about him. And it needs to be personal. We don’t get comfort from an idea. We get comfort from the presence and love and power and purpose of the Shepherd.
And this Shepherd is not helpless. He’s got a club to deal with intruding beasts, and a staff to rescue or guide or save the sheep. David is not making out to be a hero. He’s learning to be a sheep and to be comforted by the presence and power of the Shepherd.
So, this is what we need to do. As I said, our sails need to be hoisted higher to catch the winds of God’s kindness to us. We need to learn more about the Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ. We need to see how well equipped he is to lead us through our difficulties. We need to be comforted by the sight of him and his equipment to deal with all that happens.
And this is what Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 8. The world is not only given up to futility, it is ‘groaning’ (v. 22). It’s as though the world is waiting to give birth to a child and the labour is difficult. There’s a new world coming, but, right now, the present one is hurting us. And sometimes it’s scary.
But Paul goes to the same place David does. We don’t need to fear what happens. Jesus has already given his life up so that we may belong to him as his sheep. He is for us, so who can be against us (v. 33)?
Things still happen that cause us grief, but there’s no sting in them—nothing to accuse us, nothing to say we deserve this, nothing to indicate that we are not deeply loved by God and powerfully defended by Christ. And because of this, we ‘fear no evil’. The Lord is being our Shepherd and directing everything towards a good end (vv. 28-29). He is preparing us to share in the new heaven and earth.
So, even though we may walk through a deep, dark valley, there’s no evil that can touch us. Nothing will separate us from the love of God which has been revealed in Jesus Christ. The Lord will never cease being our Shepherd.