Every funeral I’ve attended has included Psalm 23. This psalm pours on comfort with its opening words: “The Lord is my Shepherd” (verse 1). The Lord with all capital letters is a special name for God, revealing the abundance of his mercy. God then ties his unstoppable, unending grace to the picture of a shepherd constantly there for his sheep. The hearts of the hurting at funerals relax in the comfort of this grace.
But then verse 4 sucker punches everyone in the heart: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” (ESV). Death. It becomes the focus. How could it not at a funeral? But death is NOT the focus of this sentence grammatically or spiritually. “Of death.” The word death is in a prepositional phrase, so it’s not the focus. God calls death nothing but a shadow! A shadow can’t hurt you. A shadow has no substance. It can scare you if you let it, but it can’t hurt you. Death is a shadow for you, for those who believe Jesus destroyed the power of death.
Make no mistake. The devil is a prowling lion who’s looking for someone to devour; he’s looking for you. Let him roar. Let him growl. His roar is empty. It’s powerless. Why? Jesus’ tomb was empty on Easter Sunday, giving power to these words: “Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord when I open your graves and bring you up from them” (Ezekiel 37:13). Death cannot hold you!