Off the Pulpit

The Most Important Word

“The Lord is my shepherd…” Few passages in the Bible are more familiar than the 23rd Psalm. It is recited at funerals, at the bedside of the sick and in times of consolation. Its brevity and majesty make it among the most loved poems of all time.

For English speakers, the King James translation of the Psalm is part of the common culture: ‘my cup runneth over’ and ‘I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.’

For us however, it is a word often unnoticed that is the most important in the entire Psalm: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me.” The word to notice is “walk.”

The Psalmist is teaching us that we do not stay in the valley. When a mourner is trapped by grief, or a society overcome by sorrow, it is crucial to remember that grief is not a permanent state. The shadow must give way to light. In our time what word could be more poignant? We are all in the valley, but we must not stay there. From 3,000 years ago the Psalmist is reminding us – walk.