The sun shone high over the lone shepherd and his flock. From his vantage point in the valley, young David could see salivating wolves sprinkled across the mountains, casting deathly shadows across the pastures where his sheep grazed. However, the sheep continued to amble through the valley in search of tender grass, confident their shepherd would keep them safe. The eyes of their enemies were upon them but they were at rest and without fear. Their shepherd had led them through green pastures and had tended to their wounds.
As far as they were concerned, the worst the wolves could do was cast shadows.
What an image: wolves glaring down upon their prey, growling through jagged teeth, the very picture of fear. But as powerful as they seem, they are kept at bay, unable to attack, because the shepherd is stronger than their shadows. So the picture is one of peace. The sheep feast in the valley of shadows, gaining strength under the shepherd’s protection and their enemies can only look on in envy, powerless to do anything more.
David’s thoughts must have returned to that valley when he penned Psalm 23. Each valley in his life was darkened by a particular kind of deathly shadow. His family did not value him. The king who had once been a friend spent years trying to kill David. His wife scorned him as he worshipped. He fought battle after battle with a ragtag team of society’s rejected wild men.
But David had learned long ago what it meant to be a shepherd. He would bear the worst battles so his sheep could live in peace. He would walk through valleys beset by shadows of his enemies without fear because the Creator of heaven and earth was his Shepherd. Death could stand on the mountaintops and project its scariest image but David knew a shadow had no power over him. God’s light stood behind death, overshadowing and overpowering it.
Even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, God gave him strength in the presence of shadows.
As we walk through our own valleys, shadows may look down on us. Still, although darkness may be near, it is not yet upon us. To the Christian who has eternal life, death is but a shadow. It is merely a resting place before the final reward. Even though they may darken the valley momentarily, shadows are nothing to fear. We have a Shepherd who prepares goodness in the presence of evil. We may still encounter evil but that evil is only a shadow – an ephemeral mist that has no power in the presence of the Shepherd who guides us. When we walk on the path and follow Him, goodness and mercy will follow us. He will provide strength over shadows. In the end, death may overshadow but God will always overpower.