Summary: A relevant series looking at Psalm 23
In the Valley
July 22, 2012
A few years ago, a church in Seattle, Washington was having a big kick-off Sunday. They wanted to do something for their children's programs. So they brought in Barney the Dinosaur. They learned, Kids like Barney when he’s on TV or in a stuffed animal. But when you bring in a 7 foot tall Barney, he becomes a little intimidating to kids.
In fact, the church had Barney scheduled for two weeks, they ditched him after the first week. But there he was. One little boy absolutely flipped out. His mom was teaching a Sunday School class, so she couldn't take him. So his dad took him and finally got him calm.
During the worship, the dad was supposed to help take the offering. The church met in a large warehouse and had partitioned off several areas to the side of their worship.
So the dad said to his son, "You stay here. I’ll be right back and you’ll be ok." But the dad didn’t know, that was also Barney's dressing room.
Right in the middle of the offering, Barney opens the door. This kid is trapped. He just goes wild. He’s screaming and everyone hears him. Barney doesn't know what to do, so he tries to help out by taking his head off.
The kid then starts screaming, "He's eaten someone. He's eaten someone!"
If we were to be really honest, we could make a huge list of things we are afraid of, including Barney. Some of them seem totally irrational, and we admit them, but they still bring fear. There are lots of things out there to be afraid of, isn't there?
David picks out the thing we’re most afraid of. The valley of the shadow of death. Death is that last great enemy, isn't it? Most people today are afraid of death. It used to be that we never talked about it. Now we talk about it all the time. But it is still a result of that same fear of facing our own mortality. That’s life's last great enemy.
Death is Satan's last weapon. David could face life, knowing death was always around him, because he knew the Shepherd. David could live life, even through death, because the good shepherd promises that when the moment in life comes for us to die, he will be with us in that dark valley.
The phrase, “The valley of the shadow of death” is an actual location in Israel. It’s south of the Jericho Road, leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, and is a narrow pass through a mountain range. Grazing conditions make it necessary for sheep to be moved through this valley for seasonal feeding each year.
The valley is 4 ½ miles long. The walls can be up to 1,000 feet high, and in some places, it’s only 10 to 12 feet wide. Travel through the valley is dangerous. (Fernando D'Alfonso is revered as a person who is a patriarch of the guild of shepherding.)
Travel through the valley is even more dangerous because there are ditches 7 or 8 feet deep. Footing on solid rock is so narrow in many places that a sheep cannot turn around. It can be a treacherous journey to the green pastures.
When you hear that, you can understand why David describes from a sheep’s perspective the valley of the shadow of death. But David knew all of that. Paul acknowledged the fear of death by making sure that we understood death was conquered by and through the love of Jesus Christ.
That’s why in Romans 8:38-39 Paul writes, 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
If we’re in Christ, when it comes time for you to die you have nothing to fear, for there is one who will protect you, walk beside you through that experience. In fact, He’ll walk with you though all situations we move through in life.
God’s path will have detours and broken roads, green pastures and quiet waters; barren land and raging rapids. It will all be there. And we have to make that decision about which road we will travel. Sometimes God’s road will lead to the beautiful land that feels like those mountain top experiences, but the reality is ~
Even though I walk through
the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your road and your staff, they comfort me.
So, what does David tell us to do when we are walking through the dark valleys?