“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4 NIV)
Before addressing anything else about this famous and powerful verse, let’s note that this verse represents a transition in the psalm.
Until now, David has been speaking of God by describing what he is like. Describing God as one who knows and has walked with him, for sure. But something changes here and David stops speaking about God and starts speaking to God. He ceases describing and begins addressing.
There is a natural interplay between describing and addressing in worship, and in some ways in prayer too. Some of our songs describe the nature and character of God or tell about the saving work of God. Many (though not all) of older hymns do this. Other songs speak to God, addressing him directly. Many (though not all) of modern worship songs do this. Personally, I appreciate both of these and find both approaches appropriate for worship and spiritually nourishing.
No doubt, however, this shift to direct address signals a more intimate turn. Perhaps David is overwhelmed by his own proclamation of who God has been in his life. Perhaps he gets all worked up and simply cannot keep this in the third person any longer–he must break out in praise.
Exercise: Use Psalm 23:4 as your breath prayer today (and throughout this week). Taking each verse as a breath prayer, one per week, is a pretty good start toward memorizing the whole psalm. So, take a moment to review the whole thing a couple times today. This psalm is an excellent one to have committed to memory.
Prayer: God, let me remember your marvelous character often today. And may that remembrance lead me into praise and prayer. Amen.