We’ve reached the halfway mark of Psalm 23:4.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
This portion of the Psalm gives us a picture of a dark and scary valley that the sheep probably don’t enjoy. Shepherds would lead their sheep to different areas depending on the time of the year. In the summer the sheep would go on a long drive to the highlands. Often the best path to get there was through dark and ominous valleys. Often as God takes us to His “high places” we find ourselves going through “dark places”.
One of the reasons that shepherds would take their sheep on these paths was often the valleys were the easiest paths up the mountains. We may find ourselves on a journey and wish there was an easier path but who is to say that the path God has us on isn’t the easiest path. A shepherd would have scouted the path and discovered the best way. God sees what we cannot see and knows the journey ahead better than we do.
Another reason that shepherds took the valley path was that it was the best watered path. As the snow and ice from the mountain tops would melt, it would travel down the hills. The grass would be lush and green in those areas. Often the path God has us on will provide the most substance for our souls in the long haul. We may focus on the ruggedness of our surroundings but if we focus on God’s providence in those moments we will learn to trust. The path less traveled is often the path of great provision spiritually.
As we follow Christ and lead the sheep He has assigned to us we can learn from this imagery. Notice that the shepherd is leading the sheep through the valley. They aren’t staying there to die. The valley is necessary but it isn’t the end goal. The sheep don’t fear because of proximity to the shepherd. They have grown to trust the shepherd.
Are you trustworthy as an under-shepherd? Does your presence bring fear or comfort? Where are you leading the sheep God has called you to? Do you avoid the valleys and thus never reach the mountain? Or do you try hard-charging up the mountainside killing your sheep in the process?