Life is a journey of contrasts. It moves in and out of both sunlight and shadows. Yet, the LORD shepherds His people every step along the way.
God walks with those who claim Him as their Divine shepherd. Eleven occurrences of a first person possessive pronoun are found in Psalm 23’s six verses. It is perhaps the most intimate and personal of all the psalms.
Stretches of Sunlight
Stretches of sunlight solicit our celebration. For there is where we boast in our God. He lets us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside quiet waters. He renews our lives and leads us along the right paths. He commits to doing so on the basis of His character and not our own. The poetic imagery reflects the peace, provision, and renewing activity of God in our lives. All of which accentuate God’s goodness.
Stretches of Shadows
In verse 4, the scene shifts from sunlight to shadows. In an instant, our path may turn from green pastures to the darkest valley. Yet, the Divine Shepherd continues to accompany us. Whereas stretches of sunlight solicit our celebration, shadows deepen our communion. Words about God should be spoken in the sunlight; but in the shadows, we need to speak words to God.We may talk about God in the sunlight, but in the shadows, we are forced to talk to Him. In the shadows, we find ourselves in need of the presence we may have previously taken for granted.
Walking through the darkest valley does not mean one has walked away from the will of God.He does not lose sight of us in the darkness. He shepherds us through the darkness. Notice that David did not say, “I go to the darkest valley.” He said, “I go through the darkest valley.” Darkness was not his destination. Instead, he moved towards the ever so faint glimmer of light flickering in his future.
God’s will often blazes a trail through the darkest valley because He has a feast prepared for us on the other side. All who once doubted God’s goodness in our lives because we had to walk through the shadows will bear witness to His goodness once again. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue us all the days of our lives. In the end, God’s goodness and faithful love will be the prevailing testimony of our life’s journey.
God Works in a World Marked with Sunlight and Shadows
Psalm 23 encapsulates the entire story of how God deals with us in a world marked by sunlight and shadows. The story began with Adam and Eve being cared and provided for by God. Enjoying His presence together. But then sin happened and death entered the plot as our most fearsome foe. A mixture of sunlight and shadows filled the goodness of God’s creation.
Rather than abandoning us to endure life in a fallen world on our own—God drew near. He made himself known to people like David who claimed Him as their shepherd. Then one day, God wrote Himself into the script through the person of His Son—Jesus the Christ. He came as the Good Shepherd who would lay His life down for His sheep.
By his death and resurrection, he defeated sin, Satan, and death on our behalf. Death no longer serves as an impediment in our relationship with God, but as an instrument. Death now ushers all God’s people into the presence of Christ where we rest and reign with Him until the great reunion feast occurs.
A moment will come when we hear a loud voice from the throne of God saying, “Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. Then the one seated on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new!’”(Revelation 21:3-5a) Shades and shadows will be abolished as “There will be no need for the sun or the moon to shine because the glory of God will illuminate everything and its lamp is the Lamb!” (Revelation 21:23)
This is the hope of all who journey through this life in the company of the Good Shepherd.
This post along with other resources are also available at The Hallows Church.