What is the “shadow of death” in Psalm 23?
You read of “the valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23:4. Picture in your mind a dangerous valley. This valley might have a lot of trees in it, heavily forested. At night time predators could lie in wait in the shadows of these trees within this valley, looking for easy prey such as sheep. The shepherd might have to lead his sheep through this dangerous valley in which death awaits them. Yet the sheep are protected by the shepherd’s rod and staff, which would fight off any predators that might attack within this valley.
In like manner, we as Christians trust in God. That doesn’t mean, however, that we will avoid trials and hardships in this life. We too will have to pass through many dark valleys, including the last one which is death. Yet we have no fear, because the Chief Shepherd is watching over us. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you, even to the end of the world” (Mt. 28:20). Paul said, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). The writer of Hebrews told us that Jesus said, “ ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?’” Take comfort in this.