“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.”

Psalm 23:4

Sir Winston Churchill once said, “The mountain top inspires leaders, but the valley matures them.” Everyone likes the mountain top experiences but they always want to avoid the valleys. The mountain top of achievements, accolades and promotions are what everyone wants but the valley of sweat, training, studying and preparation is a very lonely path that's less traveled. But if you avoid the valleys, you will miss the mountaintops. Many give up in the valleys. It’s where they throw in the towel because it’s quiet, dark and no there’s fanfare or cheering going on.

David experienced many valleys in his life and here in Psalm 23, he is encouraging us. The idea is that of death casting its gloomy shadow over that valley - the valley of the dead. It’s a dark and dismal valley, full of terrors and dangers that have claimed many victims in its grip. David says though I am in peril of death, though I’m in the midst of dangers, deep in a valley, dark as a shadow, and dreadful as death itself: I will fear no evil — David knew it was just a shadow. It is but the shadow of death: the shadow of a serpent will not bite, nor the shadow of a sword kill.

David gave us three keys here, keys that sustained him in the valley of despair, fear and looming death: The presence of the Lord, His rod and His staff.

Here is the ground of a true believer’s confidence when in the valley of the shadow of death, “God is with me.” God’s presence inspires David with confidence and comfort, hope and joy (Romans 8:31). David says that he will not give way to his fears but will confidently rely upon the promise of the presence of the Lord. He was persuaded that His grace would be sufficient for him, and that God’s peace would be his guide.

God’s “rod and staff” were a big source of comfort for David. The rod David is referring to is what shepherds used to guide and correct the sheep. But It is also an allusion to the rod of Moses, considered as an emblem of power and authority, a scepter, symbol of power. Moses uses it to display the supernatural by raising it up and splitting the Red Sea (Exodus 14:16). The same word translated staff here properly signifies what a person leans upon for support as another. Thus interpreted, the Rod of the Lord is His power that protects me, and its support upholds me and so both minister to my comfort.

The presence of the Lord, His Rod and His staff is what will sustain you in the valley.

In going through this verse, I was reminded about a time I was in the world and wasn’t saved yet. I was a young man at the North Shore swimming at Sunset Beach. I was pulled out by a strong current and found myself in real trouble. I was so far out. Large waves were breaking all around me. I would go under water for 30 seconds at a time because of that current. I didn’t see any other swimmers or surfers near me at all. My body was cramping up and I was starting to drown. I was taking in water. I was so tired, and I was just about to give up when out of nowhere, a surfboard appeared next to me and a swimmer reached out his hand to me. He told me to get on his board. Even though I was exhausted, I was flooded with so much comfort and peace as we glided toward shore and safety.

Holy Spirit reminded me so vividly about the peace I felt that day, over 25yrs ago. Even though I wasn’t saved at that time, the surfboard I was laying on had the power to keep me afloat and the ability to support and uphold me. It kept me safe, which brought me comfort in the midst of the violent waves. The same way now, as a believer, as you go through life’s situations and circumstances, the presence of the Lord, His rod (power) and His staff (support) will comfort you in the valleys of the shadow of death and preserve you with life forevermore. Amen! (Pastor Fika Esau)

“I will not fear the Valley of the Shadow of Death because God is with me and His rod and His staff comfort me.”


    • Old Testament: Isaiah 42-43; Proverbs 26:1-16
    • New Testament: Luke 23:26-31; Hebrews 9:11-28