Summary: This is the fifth message in a series that takes a fresh look at Psalm twenty-three. This message examines how the Lord leads us through the dark valleys.
If you would, I would like you to give this question some serious thought. “What was the lowest point in your life?” That time when the light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be an oncoming train. You prayed and it seemed that those prayers never made it past the ceiling. You so desperately wanted to find some shred of hope to grab hold of. These times try every part of us including our faith. During these times we ask, “Where is God?” Not because we don’t believe in Him but because we feel so alone. We long for someone to come along side us and put their arm around us and say it’s going to be okay. These are the dark valleys that the Psalmist seems to know all too well. Can I be blunt for a second? It’s during these times that those Christian platitudes such as, “everything has a purpose” doesn’t do a thing except making me want to slap you upside the head. In these dark valleys we often find ourselves asking questions and not finding any answers. Today, once again we are going to turn to the twenty-third psalm and learn more of how the Shepherd handles His sheep. If we pay close attention to David’s words we will find out how to make some sense out of those times in the dark valley. More importantly we will discover where God is during these trying times.
I. Shepherds regularly lead their flocks through valleys.
A. The valley was often the easiest way to get the sheep to the best pastures.
1. During the winter and spring months the sheep were usually kept in a pen in the areas of lower elevations.
2. As summer came the shepherd would then begin to move their sheep to the higher elevations where the winter snows and spring rains have brought to life rich green pastures.
3. Leading the sheep during the summer would be hot and grueling as the sheep move along quite slowly.
4. The Shepherd would lead his sheep through the valleys because they had the best paths and the gentlest grades.
5. The valleys also provided the best supply of food and water along the journey.
6. Leading the sheep through the valleys would allow the shepherd the least difficult way to reach the higher elevations.
B. The valleys were often very dangerous but they were still usually the best route.
1. The valleys may have made the travel the easiest for the shepherd and their sheep but it also presented some very dangerous challenges.
2. The valleys often had many cliffs and crags that afforded predators the opportunity to hide and watch for an opportune time to attack the flock.
3. The valley would also offer adequate hiding places for robbers.
4. The most dangerous threat to the sheep traveling through the valleys was the natural disasters.
a. Rock and mud slides.
b. Unexpected storms of wind, rain, sleet and snow.
c. Devastating flash floods that could occur without warning.
C. Our Shepherd will only lead us down the best path that will get us to where He wants us to go.
1. Like the ancient shepherd God knows exactly the right path to lead His sheep down.
2. God will always be able to provide care for His sheep even during the most adverse circumstances.
3. Like with the sheep for us to reach the higher ground we must travel through the valleys.
4. However, God does not leave us in the valley, He gently leads us through the valleys and on toward the higher ground.
II. The shepherd’s presence makes all the difference for the sheep.
A. The absence of danger is not what comforts the sheep; it is the presence of the shepherd.
1. During the summer as the sheep made their way toward the higher ground the sheep enjoyed intimate one on one time with the shepherd.
2. The sheep were able to rest and feel secure not because there was no impending danger but based on the fact that their shepherd was with them.
3. Sheep are timid by nature and the only way they would travel willingly through these dark valleys was because their shepherd was always within sight.
4. The sheep knew that their shepherd would care for them and protect them based on their past experience with him.
B. The shepherd is always alert and prepared for any kind of danger.
1. The shepherd would constantly pay attention to the sky and his surroundings watching for potential danger.
2. The shepherd would scope out the landscape to find safe shelter for him and his sheep if it would be needed.
3. The shepherd was also equipped to be able to repel any attacks and to keep their sheep from straying.