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.
As I visited an elderly pastor near the end of his life, he maintained his warm sense of humor, but his situation wasn’t humorous. The experienced church leader acknowledged what the apostle Paul had said: “The time for my departure is near” (2 Timothy 4:6). He had lost the strength and vigor of his youth, but his years and experience had brought a wisdom that made being with him a treat.
As his chaplain, I had many contacts with this seasoned pastor. Mostly I listened, happy to be his student even in ministering to him. On this visit our discussion moved, not surprisingly, to Psalm 23.
As we zeroed in on verse 4, he questioned me: “Do you know what the most important word in that text is?” And I said, “You tell me—what is it?”
His answer was “The word through.” Then he explained: “It doesn’t say that we go into the valley, but that we go through the valley. The Lord, our shepherd, leads us through the valley. He gets us to the other side, where we ‘will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’”
A beautiful, comforting pastoral word. Our resurrected Lord knows the way through the valley of the shadow of death, and because he is with us, we need not fear. Receive it; believe it: Jesus, our Shepherd, leads us through the valley.
Thank you, Good Shepherd, for leading us through the valley, all the way home. Amen.