The Constancy of God

Yea, 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. Psalms 23:4

Yea Though I Walk Through the Valley—

The Hebrew word for “valley” can also be translated as a gorge with high walls.[i] The root word, however, grabs my attention. This root word relates to pride.[ii] This valley I walk through could be a life situation I have no control over, or it could result from my own pride (Matthew 5:45; Proverbs 11:2, 13:10, 16:18).

Of the Shadow of Death —

This “shadow” can be translated as death or grave but figuratively as calamity.[iii] Other words can be deep shadow or darkness, but it can also refer to distress.[iv]

   Yea, though I walk through the calamity and distress of my own pride. Have you ever spoken of a life situation as a dark time? We all experience unexpected life events that can set us in a dark gorge where we cannot see far ahead. The walls are high, so we cannot gain our bearing, and we are shrouded in shadows, making our way difficult. We cannot determine the end of it, we can’t go back, and we can’t turn right or left. We can only walk through the experience without knowing what lies ahead or how long the journey will take. The only thing we might discern here is whether this is a circumstance created by our pride or a circumstance common to man (1 Corinthians 10:13; 1 Peter 5:9).

I Will Fear —

“Fear” can be translated as revere or frighten.[v] It can also carry the nuance of standing in awe or having respect. When I read “fear,” I think of being terrified, not of giving reverence to something. Yet, as I read the definitions, I see the relationship between terror and worship. The question is, what will I worship while I traverse the dark valley? Will I bow my head in reverence to the calamity or will I sit at Jesus’ feet and remember He is good regardless of my circumstance?

No Evil —

The Hebrew word for “evil” can be translated in various ways, covering diverse situations.  It can speak of adversity or affliction but also displeasure or grief. Things that are bad, displeasing, or distressing fall under this Hebrew word. From trouble to misery, wrong to sorrow, this word covers an array of negative experiences and those born of evil.

   At its root word, it means to spoil, as in destruction. Figuratively, it makes something worthless, of no value, whether physically, socially, or morally.

   We have an enemy who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10:10). He does not care if it is life, reputation, finances, or relationships. He will rob whatever he can in any way he can. He will show up in situations we have no control over and ones we start ourselves. He does not care where the door is opened; he will not miss an opportunity. That is why Peter tells us to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Peter graciously follows this revelation with, “resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:9a).  James concurs when he writes, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

For You Are with Me —

At its primitive root, “with” means you associate with me but implies you overshadow or hide me.[vi]

   Whether the calamity I am experiencing is of my own making or not, Your grace and Your mercy overshadow and hide me from the wiles of my enemy. Your presence with me protects me. The idea that You are with me implies I, too, am with You. As I remain close to You through living a life of devotion, quick to repent, quick to forgive, always seeking Your heart, mind, and desire for me, I remain overshadowed by You.

Your Rod —

“Rod” can be translated in a variety of ways. It can be a tool for correction, combat, or hiking. It can also be translated as an implement for writing or ruling.[vii]  I can’t help but think of the phrase, the pen is mightier than the sword.

   Within these words, we see a shepherd’s tools. The rod of the shepherd is used to defend his flock or correct and guide them. When not using it for the benefit of the flock, it assists him in his journey with the sheep as a walking stick. His rod is consistently in use and always at the ready.

   The other tool we see is that of a king, a scepter. When Esther stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, the king held out his royal scepter to welcome her (Esther 5:1, 2). Had he not done this, she would have lost her life for approaching the king without being summoned. His royal scepter held the power of life and death and was subject to his whims.

   Also, from the Book of Esther, the pen’s might is revealed. Twice, King Ahasuerus gave his signet ring to a man to write a decree and seal it with his authority. First, Haman wrote an edict to destroy the Jews, then Mordecai decreed the Jew’s right to defend themselves (Esther 3:8-12, 8:8-10). The king’s signet ring gave their pen irrevocable royal authority. What was written with the seal of the king stood eternal.

   Your rod has the power to guide, protect, and correct me. With Your rod, You penned a love letter to me which bears Your royal authority and decree. It is eternal truth. With Your rod, I am eternally accepted and protected.

And Your Staff —

“Rod” and “staff” seem like they are the same thing, but the author used different Hebrew words. The word used for rod seems virile and potent. It represents the protector and lord. The word for “staff” is the feminine form of the word and a walking stick, while its root means support (of every kind) and sustenance.[viii]

   The staff represents the feminine even motherly characteristics of my God. While He is my divine protector, corrector, author, and King, like my earthly mother, He is also the only one able to support me in every possible way. He knows me, and He sees me. He knows how to draw me out to confess my needs and meet me in that place with deepest compassion.

   A mother ensures her child is fed with life-sustaining food and watches over what they eat spiritually and emotionally; she also seeks to provide life-affirming activities and experiences. As a mother nurtures her whole child, my Shepherd comforts and sustains me. He knows how to lead me to the things that nourish my spirit and soul and fill me with the glorious eternal benefits He has provided. His rod and His staff represent the balance of His authority with His nurture.

They Comfort Me —

What is it like for a child whose father provides for his family while still being present spiritually, emotionally, and physically? He makes his child feel safe and secure while having standards and commanding respect.

   What is it like for a child whose mother sees the nuances of behaviors in her child and knows how to help them process those growing seasons spiritually, emotionally, and physically with grace and kindness? She makes her child confident with her constancy. She is always there and knows just what her child needs, whether advice, a hug, or gentle correction. This child’s parents make them know their value as they can rely on both parents equally and trust them implicitly. They are a safe place to bring their victories and troubles.

   The Hebrew word translated as “comfort” can also mean to be sorry, repent, regret, comfort, and be comforted.[ix]

   Male and female bear the image of God — together (Genesis 1:27). God’s image holds both masculine and feminine characteristics. He is all-powerful and gentle as a dove. He commands awe and respect while being available and approachable (Hebrews 4:16). He is perfect.

   His rod and staff (male and female attributes) work together to bring me to regret and repentance of my sins. As I bring my shame and sorrow to Him, He accepts, restores, and sustains me so that I am restored to His created purpose and know my worth.

   Yea, though I traverse deep dark gorges where I cannot see far, threatened by distress and calamity, I will not stand in awe of, respect, or fear adversity, affliction, displeasure, distress, evil, trouble, sorrow, or wrong. For You are with me to overshadow and hide me. Your rod and Your staff guide me to position myself with You where I am perfectly balanced between Your protection from my enemies or repentance from my sins and Your comfort and sustenance. This is the place where I know and live in my worth, the value You have placed upon me. It is by experiencing Your rod and Your staff that I thrive.

   In comfort, I will not avenge myself, but rather, I will repent of my wrongdoing, and I will be consoled. In both instances, You overshadow (huddle with) me in the dark times regardless of how they have come. You protect, cover, and lead me to safety, whether from the enemy’s wiles or my own sinful nature. I stand in awe with deep gratitude.

Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him. Psalms 33:8

[i]                         J. Strong, Strong’s Dictionaries, e-Sword Bible study software.

[ii]                        Ibid.

[iii]                       Ibid.

[iv]                       F. D. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, e-Sword.

[v]                        Strong, Strong’s Dictionaries, e-Sword.

[vi]                       Ibid.

[vii]                       Ibid.

[viii]                      Brown, Driver, and Briggs, Lexicon, e-Sword.

[ix]                       Ibid.

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