Light, shadow, and darkness


(Andilina) #1

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Psalms 23:4 KJV
https://bible.com/bible/1/psa.23.4.KJV

Shadow of death. What is a shadow? I recently sat in a Lutheran church during a memorial service for friend’s father where the pastor recited Psalm 23. Interesting, though common, psalm used in such services. Interesting because I took particular notice of the word shadow in this verse.

Often we associate shadow with darkness, evil, bad things. For some reason I picture a Marvel movie in my head. Anyway, is this really an accurate assessment of a shadow?

Dictionary.com defines it this way:

  1. a dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light.
  2. shade or comparative darkness, as in an area.
  3. shadows, darkness, especially that coming after sunset.

I like the first one. Read that again…

A dark figure cast on the ground or some surface by a body
intercepting light.

While I sat in that church, I noticed a ceiling fan above me and the shadow on the ceiling above it. The shadow was created by the fan intercepting or blocking the light below. This caused me to wonder, what if shadows aren’t meant to be signs of darkness, but signs of light with something blocking the light from getting through?

What if shadow isn’t meant to point to darkness, but to point to light and warn of darkness? A shadow is caused by something blocking the light creating darkness, not by something blocking the darkness and creating light. Wouldn’t it then make sense that in order to get more light, you would simply move the object that is blocking the light and creating darkness?

This may be easy when physical objects are in the way.

“No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.”
Matthew 5:15 NLT
https://bible.com/bible/116/mat.5.15.NLT

Of course, putting a lamp under a basket would simply be silly and would catch fire. :fire:Very bad! Don’t try this at home. But if there is something blocking physical light like this, you simply move that object.

How does this translate in reference to Jesus? If Jesus is the light, what shadows exist of objects blocking the light of Jesus from getting through to you and to those around you? Is it easier to define the shadows so that we can ultimately define the objects and remove them? I think these answers differ individually for everyone, but there are also communal answers that apply to everyone.

These are the things I was thinking about at a memorial service in a Lutheran church. Does this idea make sense? Does it resonate with anyone? What shadows are reflecting objects that are blocking the light of Jesus?

I look forward to reading your thoughts and prayer requests. :slight_smile:


(SeanO) #2

@Aleone1207 Sorry to hear about your friend’s father - may the God of all comfort be with your friend’s family.

Your reflection reminded me of Hebrews 12 - if we see sin casting a shadow in our lives, we need to cast it aside and run after Jesus!

Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Psalms 23 was the first passage I memorized at Church as a kid in the old KJV and I’ve recited it many times. But thanks to you I just learned something new. It turns out that the phrase ’ valley of the shadow of death’ is more appropriately translated ‘dark valley’. However, when Luke translates this same Hebrew term quoting Isaiah 9:1, Luke uses ‘shadow of death’ rather than darkness. Which probably means that the Septuagint used ‘shadow of death’. Pretty interesting.

The Hebrew term צַלְמָוֶת (tsalmavet) has traditionally been understood as a compound noun meaning “shadow of death” (צֵל [tsel] + מָוֶת [mavet]; see BDB 853 s.v. צַלְמָוֶת). Other scholars prefer to vocalize the form צָלְמוּת (tsalmut) and understand it as an abstract noun (from the root צָלַם, tsalam) meaning “darkness.” An examination of the word’s usage favors the latter derivation. It is frequently associated with darkness/night and contrasted with light/morning (see [Job 3:5; 10:21-22; 12:22; 24:17; 28:3; 34:22](javascript:{}); [Ps 107:10, 14](javascript:{}); [Isa 9:1](javascript:{}); [Jer 13:16](javascript:{}); [Amos 5:8](javascript:{})). In some cases the darkness described is associated with the realm of death ([Job 10:21-22; 38:17](javascript:{})), but this is a metaphorical application of the word and does not reflect its inherent meaning. If the word does indeed mean “darkness,” it modifies גַיְא (gayʾ, “valley, ravine”) quite naturally. At the metaphorical level, v. 4 pictures the shepherd taking his sheep through a dark ravine where predators might lurk. The life-threatening situations faced by the psalmist are the underlying reality behind the imagery.

Luke 1:78-79 - because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death to guide our feet into the path of peace.


(Andilina) #3

Thanks for the word study! The literal translation of the bible is always an interesting study. I like that last verse you mention

"…by which the rising sun will come to us."

That is a beautiful idea!! That God would pursue us in our darkness. He not only recognizes and walks with us, but pursues us in our darkness to guide us out of it.

Thank you for expanding on this train of thought! ~Andilina :blush: :steam_locomotive:


(SeanO) #4

@Aleone1207 Hallelujah! Yes, it is a wonderful truth that the Light has come into the darkness to rescue us. Glad to join the train :slight_smile:

Colossians 1:13-14 - For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.