Peace in the Valley of the Shadow of Death 5/31/98

Psalm 23
Page 813 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Nothing does more to increase your opinion of Christ as “the good shepherd” than a visit to the Bible Lands. Seeing the land that was the setting for shepherds makes one all the more appreciative of a good shepherd.

Knowing your own dry, arid wasteland, those barren badlands of your own experience, makes you aware of a need for a good shepherd in your daily affairs. It seems we live in the valley of the shadow. Life’s most ominous shadows loom on our path causing fear and apprehension. How can we live in such a foreboding valley?

Recently friends and I drove down the old Roman road from Jerusalem to Jericho. It was the same road traveled by Christ. Rounding one curve it seems the bottom drops out of the earth. A breathtaking narrow, craggy, deep valley suddenly appears. We were awestruck.

Running along the same route slightly below the road level is an aqueduct built by Herod the Great. Peering down into the valley we looked over the rim of the aqueduct. With no forewarning a small shepherd stepped from behind rocks and walked along the narrow rim of the aqueduct. To his left the valley dropped off immediately, the equivalent of a forty or fifty- story building. The young shepherd glanced up and walked on without fear. I leaned as far away from the valley as I could.

In observing some aspects of the shepherd’s life in light of the Twenty Third Psalm, I have been enabled to see how we can live on the rim of the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil. Consider with me the reasons:

He who runs before the Shepherd is on a fool’s errand.

No longer do you need to live a life of “the blind leading the blind.” Many people develop a tolerance for living. They have simply learned to put up with life because the only option seems so undesirable. That needs not to be true with the offer of “abundant life” available to you.

Have you ever heard someone say, “I am hungry but I don’t know for what?” That is true of the spiritual appetite of many. Futile attempts are made to satisfy our spiritual appetites with things other than the one thing that will satisfy it. That is, a right relationship and reliance upon the Good Shepherd.

The matter of decision-making is a cause of much anxiety, frustration, fear, and uncertainty. Much of this is caused by a lack of confidence in God’s guidance. In considering His supernatural guidance, remember some basics.

One is He always guides us within the guidelines of the Holy Bible. Therefore, it is simply critical that we grow in our knowledge of the Scripture. The Lord will never guide you to do anything contrary to His Holy Book. NEVER!

He guides you by His Holy Spirit. Anything that would grieve the Spirit of Jesus Christ ought to grieve our spirit. Therefore, let the peace of God rule in your heart.

He will guide you within the guidelines of His Word and by His Spirit. Keeping these principles in mind, now consider some of your human dimensions He uses.

He will guide through circumstances. That’s odd — no that’s God.

He will guide through intuition and impulses. That’s odd — no that’s God.

He will guide through conscience. That’s odd — no that’s God.

He will guide through coincidence. That’s odd – no that’s God.

Samuel Shoemaker said, “I only know when I pray coincidences happen and when I don’t coincidences don’t happen.

He had rather lame us than lose us.

He will never lead you into a position from which you can’t advance and from which you must retreat.

When my soul is empty, He will restock, that is, restore it–give me a new supply

We with our limited ability know how to restore old cars, ancient art, paintings by the masters, furniture, and valuable antiques. He with His supernatural ability knows how to restore our soul.

I enjoy the seasons of the calendar. I like winter not so much for itself as for what it helps me envision. I know that no matter how bitter the season, it will have to sooner or later give way to spring. The bows and branches of the foliage may be barren and subjected to bitter cold but inevitably the Lord will restore nature with the refreshing breezes of spring.

In the winter times of your soul remember that.

“I shall not want” doesn’t mean we have every comfort, gadget, and trendy thing others have. It means I have resolved to be content with what I have because I have confidence in the providing Shepherd knowing He has given what is needed. I won’t long for what I don’t have because I know that what I have that is provided by the Lord is all I need.

The Psalmist’s expressions regarding “still water” and an over running cup are best interpreted in light of the circumstances still to be observed in the Bible Land today. In that vast dry desert water is a premium. It rains only three months a year and water is limited. Shepherds find small caves in the ground. We think of a cave as being in the wall of a hill. Most are but some go straight down in the ground. When a shepherd finds one of these he uses rocks on the hillside to form a large “V” to funnel the rain water into the cavity in the earth. This reserve water is called “still water.” A shepherd would then carve a large hole in a sizable rock which was called a “cup.” The shepherd draws the water from the “still water” supply and pours it into the cup. Thirsty sheep crowd around so closely that the shepherd has difficulty seeing the cup. As he keeps pouring one way he can tell it is full because it runs over and his feet get wet. Then he knows he has provided more than adequately. This watering process is a beautiful picture of our Lord providing for us.

In our spiritual desert He knows where there are blessings equivalents to “still water.” He provides these blessings to the point that our cup runs over. We tend to want to live at “the cup.” There are days in the desert for all of us however. While there keep in mind He has blessings in reserve for us at the proper moment. Wait on the Lord — run not before Him.

This simple statement has calmed more troubled minds, stilled more disturbed hearts, given peace to more jangled nerves, and offered comfort to more perplexed persons than all the tranquilizers and psychiatrist in the world.

That little shepherd we saw in the valley of the shadow was calm and confident. Later from a different vantage point I saw the reason why. There across the valley where a massive spring rushed from the hot dry desert rocks and cascaded down the mountain there sat the good shepherd. The master shepherd was with the young shepherd. He was with the youth physically, but more importantly he was with the youth in attitude and action.

He is present with us to lead us through the valley. Even the valley of the shadow of death is not beyond the range of His leadership. The ultimate fear faced by most is the fear of dying and death. He even takes away the fear of death when it comes.

This is true because as Christ said, “the Good Shepherd gives His life for His sheep.”

On Calvary Christ cried “My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me?” The mystery of this cry is explained by the Psalms. In the era of Christ the Bible didn’t have chapter and verse. As parents taught their children the Scripture, they would identify major sections by the lead statement. Christ’s cry, “My God, My God…” introduces Psalm 22. His cry meant, “If you want to know what is happening here on Calvary, look it up in Psalm 22.” Psalm 22 is a prophecy of the crucifixion of Christ. It foretold the Good Shepherd giving His life for His sheep. Without the enactment of the truth of Psalms 22 there would be no comfort such as is promised in Psalms 23.