The Boundless Nearness of God (Psalm 23:3-4)
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. —Psalm 23:3-4
The focus is on the Lord’s active nearness as shepherd. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
This is a boundless nearness. It’s a nearness even in the valley of the shadow of death. Death? Now the message of this psalm has intensified. No one else can go with us there. Death stands off in darkness like a monster. It’s terrible, lonely, fearful.
But we—those in Jesus by grace—we won’t be afraid. We will fear no evil. Our shepherd is with us, even there. Just like Jesus wasn’t forsaken in the tomb, we will also be raised. For the Lord is with us.
The Lord is with us. I don’t think we can overstate this. He really is with us. Even unto death (see Psalm 139:7-10). And if we have the guarantee of His nearness in death, what does it mean for us now?
It means that He’s with us in all afflictions, even when it hurts. He is there and His rod and staff comfort us—though this comfort may not be comfortable.
Shepherds used staffs to protect their flock from danger. It was an instrument for keeping, and not in an abstract sense. No doubt that at the moment when put into action, the staff seemed painful rather than pleasant (Hebrews 12:11). Discipline is never fun. But if it keeps us from eating our way off a cliff, we don’t question that it’s for our good.
If you’re in a difficult season, take heart. God is with you even in the shadows of death, you know he’s with you now. And in the midst of pain and uncertainty, feel the goodness of his staff. Know that he is leading you. God is with you.