The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; they rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23 (KJV)
It was obvious she had not practiced.
Emily was in front of the congregation at her grandmother’s funeral. She was given the task of reading her grandma’s favorite Psalm: Psalm 23. She looked nervous and when she began to read the Psalm, it was apparent she had never encountered the old King James Version before. She stumbled over the language with its “eths” in the first two verses and then she got to verse three, she almost brought the house down. “YEAH!” she read with more than a little bit of emphasis, “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.” People chuckled. “Yeah?”
I got a kick out of her “version” as well, but I as I think about it I’ve decided that, though she read it wrong, she still captured the intent. In this psalm, David is affirming his trust in God’s presence and strength to face dark times in life. Again and again God had proven himself faithful to David. Here, he is looking back over his life as an older man who is facing new challenges. He is saying “Yeah! Though I walk through the valley of deepest darkness, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
God is with us as well. We can affirm with David,
Yeah! Though I walk through the valley of sickness I will not fear, for God is with me.
Yeah! Though I face the darkness of grief and loss, I will not despair, for you are with me.
Yeah! Though I stumble through the valley of financial calamity, you are with me.
Yeah! Though I walk through the darkest valley of death, you are with me.
The “with-ness” of God is our hope and confidence. Fear melts away when I trust in God’s promise to never leave. My Shepherd is with me no matter where I go, or what I face. He knows me. He loves me. He gave his only Son to die and rise for me so I might be his own.
Dennis DeHaan, the former editor of Our Daily Bread devotional booklets, tells this story:
When 8-year-old Jacob visited his grandpa in the hospital, he came with his own custom-made “Get Well” card. It was a piece of stiff white paper folded in half. On the front he had written, “Hope you feel better soon.” On the inside, in large block letters was this message: “I will be with you, wherever you go.” There was no scripture reference, so Jacob added these words: “God said that.” He wanted to be sure that his grandfather didn’t expect him to be at his side during his entire hospital stay. The added note conveyed an unintended and deeper truth that brought a smile to his face and comfort to his heart.
It is a wonderful thing to have the Shepherd in your life. No matter what the circumstance, he is with you always to the end of the age.
I encourage you to claim Emily’s version of Psalm 23:4 as your own. “Yeah! Though I walk through the valley of___________I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
In Christ, you and I are never alone! May that truth be your comfort and strength.
Sometimes, like Emily, the version of Scripture we are reading from can trip us up. If you find yourself having trouble understanding a particular passage, try reading it in another version. Popular versions include New International Version (NIV), English Standard Version (ESV), New American Standard Bible (NASB), and the New Living Translation (NLT). Click here to go to Bible.com where you can read Psalm 23 numerous versions and languages.
What threatening shadows like across your path today? What dangers do you face? Your shepherd knows them all and he will never leave you to face them on your own. Trust the Shepherd.
Just as David is remembering times in his life when God was with him in trial and turmoil, what are some times you can recall God being with you in the midst of trial and turmoil?
If you missed it, you might also enjoy reading Kristin's thoughts about the Storms of Life from earlier this summer. You can read her blog entry by clicking HERE.
Steve Kramer is our guest speaker for the 2019 Fall Elderversity camp. He recently retired from Shephard of the Valley Lutheran Church in Afton, MN and is currently serving as the radio pastor of Christian Crusaders.