Summary: The Good Shepherd leads through the valley! His presence brings comfort.
Psalm 23 [NKJV] A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. 4 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. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
We have come to a moment of great sadness as we pay tribute to the memory of A. – what else can I call her? For Annie she was to most of us! Oh, the times when we walked into M. V. to take our Songs of Praise Service on the second Monday of each month. There on the left as we went in was A. – her face smiling, her eyes twinkling. What was she like in here young days? Perhaps it is best not to go too far down that road! What a character! I am told she enjoyed our visits to M. V. I know that we enjoyed visiting. How she teased, and loved being teased. She worked hard during her life, and especially during the war years – did you know that she once worked as a crane driver? What can we say? She was generous to friends and family, even though she was a widow for 27 years. There will be a gap.
We read from the Scriptures earlier about the Shepherd who looked after His sheep. I think A. knew the Shepherd. We do not always understand the way the Shepherd leads, and sometimes we go astray from the path, but in His great love for the sheep He continually seeks to guide us back into the right way. His way is the best way to walk in; it is the way of His constant presence.
Sometimes we are led into a valley experience – the writer of this Psalm speaks of the valley of the shadow of death. Shadows can be grim and frightening, particularly as this is a way we have not gone before. In the Psalm we read that He leads us through the valley. There is a way out! There is another side! When we reach the other side we find that the fearsome shadows have no substance to them, they are only shadows.
The best way to dispel shadows is to bring in the light. Light will always drive away the darkness; light will always dispel the shadows. The Lord Jesus Christ spoke of Himself as ‘the light of the world’. If we invite Him into our experience, the darkness will be banished. David knew something of this experience, for he said that he would not fear ‘for Thou art with me’. It is the conscious awareness of the presence of the Lord that makes all the difference. When we know that He is with us, the shadows of doubt, despair and fear have to flee.
None of us know when we will be called to pass this way, so the important thing is to be prepared. We can be assured of the Lord’s presence by inviting Him into our hearts and lives. God is not just the God of the dead, but of the living also. He can, and wants to be with us in our day to day living. Helping us in our moments of sorrow, guiding us when we are in difficulty, and when we have to face the ‘valley of the shadow of death’ ourselves, we do it with the assurance of His Divine presence! The one who truly knows the Lord as their Shepherd has a glorious hope. But the joy of the Christian is not just something in the future, for in this Psalm we read of a table prepared for us –a banquet! It is good to realise that God wants to bless us now, and in the future.