Shadow of Death

One of this week’s walks began late afternoon. I had been waiting in for a parcel all day, which, naturally, never arrived. So at 4.30pm, off I strolled. It was a lovely, spring afternoon, and most others had already returned home for tea. The sun, though bright, was low, and as I walked down a hill, my frame cast a shadow. And a very long shadow at that. I estimated it to be over 30 feet long, from my feet to the shadow’s head. Not since my early twenties have I been so thin.

In the New King James Version, Job uses the phrase ‘shadow of death’ ten times. It is used elsewhere, notably the psalms, but it is clearly something of a theme in Job's thought. Here we have the image of death, some huge and overbearing ‘thing’, blocking the light and warmth of the sun, casting its cold darkness wherever it looms. Yet for we Christians, basking in Christ’s resurrection light, death’s shadow is no source of fear and trepidation. We still die, our bodies will still occupy holes in the ground or slots in the crematorium’s hectic diary, but the huge shadow it seems to cast threatens us little. Just as my shadow would have us believe I was giant of a man rather than a 5’10 specimen, so death is now denuded of its might and terror. For us, it is the (admittedly rather gruff) concierge, holding open the door of the palatial hotel to which our Lord has made our reservation. No longer the grim reaper, nor sin’s dreadful sting, it now almost become our long-expected taxi, come to transport us somewhere better.