Moses took the rod of God in his hand (Exodus 4:20, NKJV).

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4, NKJV).

I recently had the opportunity to “walk through the valley of the shadow of death” with a neighbor named Dave. Dave had never professed a belief in Christ or even acknowledged God at all, except to use His name as a curse word. Apart from that, he was a nice man and an enjoyable neighbor, as well as a law-abiding citizen. When he became extremely ill and the doctor said he would not be leaving the hospital alive, some of his family members who knew I was a licensed minister contacted me and asked me to come and see him.

My husband and I went immediately, and it was obvious the moment we saw him that he was in his last hours of life. Hooked up to tubes and needles and machines, he seemed to be in a coma, though the doctor said he was nearly certain Dave could hear us. I began to talk with him about the only thing that really matters in life, and that’s a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. His eyes fluttered open, and he gave me a brief smile of recognition. I could tell from his eyes that he was listening. We had a short but meaningful conversation about his need to receive Jesus as his Savior, then we prayed together. I saw a peace wash over Dave’s face as his body relaxed. When I asked him if he understood what had happened and knew Jesus stood ready to walk him through the valley of the shadow of death, he nodded and whispered, “Yes.” A few hours later, he completed his journey through that valley and into the Father’s arms.

Some of his family members and friends came up to me afterward and said things like, “I know Dave is at peace now” or “I believe Dave is in heaven now.” Their reason for believing this? All declared the same thing: “Dave was a good man.”

Sad. Yet how many believe that same lie, that any of us could possibly make it to heaven based on our own “goodness”? Jesus was quite clear when He said, “No one is good but One, that is, God (Matthew 19:17).

Moses came to understand this crucial truth. A former shepherd who was used to carrying his own rod and staff as he protected the sheep in his care, Moses dared not go into Pharoah’s presence depending on his feeble human strength. Instead he “took the rod of God in his hand” (Exodus 4:20) before beginning the process of leading the people of Israel out of slavery.

King David knew this truth as well. Also a former shepherd, the Psalmist declared, “Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” He knew, particularly as he so often faced the threat of death from those who hated and persecuted him, that only God’s road and staff could lead him safely home.

Dave is safely home now, not because he trusted in his own rod or staff of frail human goodness, but rather because he finally put his trust in the perfect goodness of God’s rod and staff. At that point he received comfort and assurance that he no longer needed to fear walking through the valley of the shadow of death, for his newfound Savior would carry him.

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