When I was a kid, there was a streetlight by our house that cast eerie shadows on my bedroom wall at night. The shadow of a branch blowing in the breeze could look a lot like the fingers of a monster ready to pounce on my bed. Shadows were scary!
In the 23rd Psalm we read in verse 4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”
Now that’s a comforting verse – especially in times of difficulty. Many commentators highlight the word “shadow,” and say, “See, it’s only a shadow of death – not the real thing. Shadows can’t hurt you! They may frighten you, but they’re just shadows.”
Well, the “shadow of death” is a phrase made up of one word in the original Hebrew text. It’s actually the word “shadow” and the word “death” put together. The idea here is that the experience of death has many scary things associated with it – like dark shadows on an eerie moonlit night. They are death shadows.
Marcus Dods, an elder of the Church of Scotland in the 19th Century had a near-death experience. He described it this way: “I have gazed on the face of those dearest to me, till my eye grew dim in the blackness of death, and I could no longer see;…And I have listened to the soothing voice of affection till my ears grew torpid in the apathy of death, and I could no longer hear. And I have felt the icy chilliness of death shooting through my veins, arresting the current of life in its course, till sensation itself forsook me, and I could no longer feel.” Wow. Death’s shadows, indeed! But – praise the Lord, our Shepherd! – “I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” Even in the valley of the shadow of death “Thou art with me.”
Say – Don’t be afraid of the shadows. They really can’t hurt you!