This is one of those “memory verse” passages that we might recite without giving much thought to it. The rhythm and images of this psalm are comforting, but they also hold a powerful confession of trust. It is God who provided manna to the Hebrews in the desert. It is God who led them into a fertile place and gave them rest. Similarly, it is God who guides us in the way we should go. It is God who lavishes us with abundance and “oils our heads” as if we were honored guests.
Within this recounting of God’s gracious care is an acknowledgment that sorrow and pain are an assumed part of life. Notice the phrase is, “Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil.” It’s not, “Even if…” When those dark times come, we can depend on God to continue walking before us and beside us. And when we feel as if we are being pursued by frightening, worrisome things, it is God’s goodness and mercy that follow us.
Read this psalm again slowly, pausing after each line. What images arise? How might God be speaking to you within in each phrase? After this exercise, offer a prayer of thanks.