…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… Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall well in the house of the LORD forever.
This is perhaps one of the greatest loved Psalms in the entire collection of Psalms. It is quoted, sung about, and well known by many. David wrote many of the Psalms, likely including this one, during his time fleeing for his life from King Saul. As he hid in the caves and valleys of Israel, and even venturing to neighboring countries, his journey through the valley of death was very real to him. He faced the threat against his life by those who wanted to do him harm on a daily basis. Death is something that we all at one point or another tend to fear, tend to avoid, and tend to think of it as the worst fate that can befall us. Certainly, in David’s life, the greatest harm his enemies could do to him was to destroy his body, but even at what often times seemed to him, the likely prospect of being killed in the wilderness he is able to say… “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”
Death may be the worst David’s enemies can do to him, but he is also convinced that through the power of his ever present shepherd, even the power of evil is taken from death itself. David doesn’t say that his shepherd will certainly spare him from death, he doesn’t say that He will stop his enemies from killing him. David did understand, however, that even in the midst of the greatest destructive power that this world can muster, it is rendered impotent of evil. Instead of a dark end or great evil, David equates it to coming home to the “house of the LORD” where he will ever find rest and peace. A millennia later, Paul will display this same serenity when he says “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil1:21). Paul sees death not as a gross form of evil that is imposed upon him, but rather as gain. While there is often pain associated with dying, to Paul it was like ripping off a bandage. Once it’s done, you find true healing and peace.
When the innocent are faced with death, whether by the hand of evil men or by the natural corruption of the world, we often ask the question “why would God allow this thing to happen?” To be sure, this is a valid question. We should not make light of it or belittle those who ask it. Though often times the answers to these questions are outside the sliver of providence which God has revealed to us, we can trust in a greater truth. That is, we can trust in the truth that, for those in Christ, death is devoid of all evil, and has become nothing more than the final steps until our shepherd brings us home. It is not something that we must fear. We can grieve it, we can prepare for it, and we can avoid it to an extent, but we need not fear it anymore. For we are assured that death has lost all power of victory or sting (1 Cor 15:55). We are assured that even when we are face to face with death; the guiding of the shepherd does not stop until we rest, as David says, “in the house of the Lord”. I like the place God has made for me in this life, but I am excited to be led home.