“Yea though I walk through the valley and the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” are the words that begin the fourth verse of Psalm 23 from the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. That entire Psalm (Scripture) is known as the Shepherd’s Psalm.
Most people of faith are familiar with this portion of Scripture because it is the most recited, remembered and respected text in all of religious literature.
It is from that text that I prayerfully and carefully chose some of the words for the invocation given at Monday’s memorial service for the two slain Miami-Dade County police officers. For that powerful and profound phrase, “shadow of death,” describes the atmosphere in which police officers work. While all first responders (fire fighters, rescue workers, police, etc.) deserve our prayers because of the high risks involved in doing their job, police officers are more at risk of danger and death than most of the other professionals.
I recognize that some are cynical about police work and there are mixed sentiments about the value of the work of the police. I also recognize that occasionally some rules of proper conduct are violated by those who are sworn to protect and serve us. But I’ve been challenged to find any profession where someone within that profession has not abused his or her power at some point.
Ethical violations are found among politicians, presidents, promoters, preachers, pontiffs and, yes, even the police. But, fortunately, there are also many more honest, hard-working heroes than there are those who violate the public trust. The days of those who still work hard to protect and serve are still here.
To quote former Vice President Al Gore, “Some may think it’s fashionable to proclaim that the age of heroes has passed, that the glory years of towering giants has faded into a mist of myth and fable. Well, if you're looking for heroes, look around.”
Look at your next-door neighbor, the woman whom you see playing catch with her children on the front lawn, the man who invites you over for a backyard barbecue on the Fourth of July, the person who sits across from you in the place of worship. For it could well be that these men and women shunned a life of comfort and ease and, instead, awake every morning, don their badges and put their lives at risk for the rest of the community.
And some of these heroes, like Roger Castillo and Amanda Haworth, the two county police officers who were killed serving an arrest warrant, paid the ultimate price. All give some but some have given their all. We honor them not because of how they died but because of how they lived. And we vow to pray continually for those they left behind.
We are encouraged, even though police officers live daily with the reality of death, and the presence of the very “shadow of death” because the Lord is with them and us.
In the sobering but comforting words of Psalm 23, we notice the power of the Shepherd and the promise of the Shepherd. We are also blessed to have the provision and pre-eminent presence of the Shepherd. And even though we walk in the “shadow of death,” we have the protection and permanent preservation of the Shepherd and because the Lord is our Shepherd, we have perpetual peace.