Yeah Though I Walk Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

Several times [1] I have noted the striking similarities in expression and theme and language between the writings of David and the book of Job, all of which indicate that David was aware of the book of Job and responded critically to it by presenting the response of faith to Job’s more skeptical comments.  Recently, one of my blog’s readers pointed out a connection that I had not discussed yet and it was one that I felt it worthwhile to discuss not only because it was an intriguing expression but also because it captures a concern of my own in the face of winter and in my reflection about the deaths of friends in the past few months that have reminded me more than usual about the temporary nature of this mortal life and some of the factors that threaten my own longevity on this earth.  Let us therefore look at the two verses mentioned by my reader, Psalm 23:4 and Job 10:21, and let us see if these follow the pattern previously noticed about David’s response to the message of Job with the comfort of faith in difficult times.

Psalm 23:4 is a familiar verse of the Bible, in one of the most familiar Psalms of the Bible [2] and it reads:  “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.”  In contrast, Job 10:20-22 is far more unfamiliar:  “Are not my days few?  Cease! Leave me alone, that I may take a little comfort, before I go to the place from which I shall not return, to the land of darkness and the shadow of death, a land as dark as darkness itself, as the shadow of death, without any order, where even the light is like darkness.’””  Here, as is in the case of Psalms 139, 8 and 39, there appears to be a deliberate contrast between Job’s answer of fear and David’s answer of faith, which makes this the fourth such case where such a contrast exists with similar language between the writings of Job and David, a level which reaches beyond the level of mere coincidence to one where we can say with some degree of confidence that the connection is an intentional one.

Let us first note that there are some similarities between the two passages that provide some context to the rather short Psalm 23.  Job complains in Job 11 that life is short and that he wishes to be left alone so that he may die and know peace.  He sees the fact that God has kept him alive in the face of his disaster as a trial and does not see divine providence working.  Indeed, David in Psalm 23 recognizes the danger of his own walk through the valley of the shadow of darkness, a land full of evil where death threatens.  Yet David saw beyond the valley to the Kingdom of God which follows it, and he knew that death was not an ending, but rather something that would not last, for he looked forward to the experience of being with God forever in His Kingdom.  Job, we know, ultimately came to that understanding and belief as well, but it was not an easy path.  As fragile mortal beings, we all face times of great darkness as a result of the evil of the world or the weakness and frailty of our own bodies, which betray us just as friends and family members and circumstances betray us.  The question is not whether or not we will face this darkness, or that we will ultimately die, but how we view suffering and trials and death and dying.

The contrast between fear and faith is instructive here.  In this world there are places where the light is like darkness, and a valley, especially a deep valley where the light seldom reaches, is a good way to describe these places, either literal or figurative ones.  That said, if we are lights reflecting the glory of God wherever we are, we will brighten up no matter what places we find ourselves in.  Being a light in a world full of darkness is not easy, but the alternative is to wallow in the darkness and to bemoan the circumstances we find ourselves in rather than to be a positive influence through God and Christ living within us.  Ultimately, it is the light that is within us or not rather than the light or darkness that is outside of us that will ultimately be subject to darkness.  Our circumstances do not determine our character, but they provide the testing grounds in which our character will be formed as well as displayed, and the contrast between Job’s fear of darkness and longing for death and David’s confidence that God would lead him lovingly as a shepherd is one that we would do well to remember, giving us yet more confidence that David not only knew the book of Job but wished to provide the answer of faith where Job was more skeptical and fearful.  Those of us who have a strong tendency to be timid and fearful and anxious ourselves would do well to reflect upon this contrast.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/08/10/was-david-familiar-with-the-book-of-job-the-enigma-of-psalm-139/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012/11/18/psalm-8-what-is-man-that-you-are-mindful-of-him/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2013/02/19/psalm-39-for-i-am-a-stranger-with-you/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2012/12/01/psalm-23-the-lord-is-my-shepherd/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/no-more-a-stranger-or-a-guest/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/the-importance-of-chiasms/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical History, Christianity, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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