There is one thing that we all can be sure of God is always at work. When you are at some crossroads in your life, when you are forced to face the trials and tribulations of life, when you are at the point of not knowing what to do you can always trust in God because He does. Every one of us go through valley experiences in our lives, in fact these valley experiences are a part of life. Every time we go through these valley experiences we tend to wonder why God allows us to go through them. In this 23rd Psalm, David is speaking of a deep, dark valley where there seems to be no ray of light and you feel like you are not going to make it. But, valleys are not dead-end streets and the disappointments, frustrations, discouragements, and dilemmas of life although they are valleys, shouldn’t be classified as a diaster. David even refers to them as a shadow.
Nonetheless,I submit to you that the valley is the only route to our own personal promise-land; there is no alternate route. When the Egyptians chased the Israelites to the Red Sea there was no way for them to go around it. But God made a way for them to cross—when we journey through the valley we must always keep in mind that God will make a way. We must always keep in mind that His grace, His leading, and His mercy will never fail. His way may not always be the same as the one we would have imagined. In other words, He may do the opposite of what we expect Him to do. And sometimes inadvertently or otherwise we have acquired the habit of trying to tell the Lord exactly how we want Him to help us and ignore the fact that He knows just what to do. When we are journeying through the valley, we sometimes tend to question God’s timing.
I know this because I am guilty of it myself, I don’t know how often I’ve moaned the words Lord why won’t you help me? But I was overlooking the fact that all I have to do is trust Him and stop holding on to the thought or better yet fear that God will wait too long to do something. David here, the writer of this beautiful Psalm takes a personal and possessive view of just what God means to Him. He does something that we all should do in respect of God and who He is. David says, the Lord is my Shepherd. He was not debating whether or not He was some one else’s Shepherd, but when it came to his relationship with God it was a personal endeavor—the Lord is my Shepherd.
When it comes to our relationship with God, we should all feel this way. I would never question whether or not He’s yours, but I know for a fact that He’s mine. David knew firsthand the duty of a shepherd because he was a shepherd himself; he faced the lion and the bear to protect his father’s sheep. He reasoned that God was his protector, just like David had place his life between the beast and the sheep, Jesus Christ place His life between Satan and you. David was journeying through the valley but he didn’t make the valley his permanent home. I believe that from the beginning David’s trust in God told him that the valley was just a temporary place. There is a question that all of us must answer.
Where Do You Do Most of Your Living?
The question is where do you do most of your living? Do live on a mountain or in a valley? Now I’m speaking metaphorically, that’s what David is doing here in this 23rd Psalm although the valley of the shadow of death is a physical location. It is also another name for the road between Jerusalem and Jericho where the Good Samaritan helped the man along the way. It was a winding road that was very steep, and shepherds had to take their flocks through it on the way to fields. People would hide in the caves to steal the lambs to eat, so David wrote the entire 23rd Psalm metaphorically with this in mind. Where do you do most of your living? This is a question that only you and God Himself can answer, is it on a mountaintop or in the valley?
Since we are speaking metaphorically let me remind you that when the Bible speaks of mountains—the mountain is normally considered a place of revelation and awe. To have a mountaintop experience means you have received some insight and some inspiration. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re happy because all your bills are paid, or that you have very little worries because if that we’re true then there are a lot of unbelievers who are always on the mountaintop. The mountaintop for a Christian is where we meet God, when we hear a “Rhema Word” and we can see the promise-land. We all love being on the mountaintop, a place where we can feel God’s presence. A place where we can clearly hear God’s voice and we are able to follow His leading because it is clear to us, but the valley is quite a bit different.
The Valley is Where We Do Our Struggling
The average Christian experiences both the mountaintop and the valley. We do so because life is filled with ups and downs, the truth is if you’re like me most of the time you live your life in the valley. The valley is very different than the mountaintop,the valley is where life becomes challenging, the valley, where many battles are fought and where feelings are hurt and attitudes are developed. The valley is the place in life where we struggle everyday with fears and our hopes and painful circumstances. The valley for us is inevitable, because we find ourselves there for various reasons. It may spiritual warfare, or the actions of others, or because of our own rebellious actions, or even due to the hand of God Himself we will find ourselves in the valley. In the mountaintop is where we come to meet God; but the valley is where God comes to meet us.
God Will Meet You in the Valley
As we struggle during our time in the valley, David reassures you and I that we can make it through. Just remember that after every mountaintop experience there is a valley, you’re either going into one, coming out of one, or in the midst of a valley. Jesus made this very clear to us, “In the world you shall have tribulations: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” You will have many trials and sorrows, there will be people who will misunderstand you; they will criticize you, talk evil about you, and judge you unfairly in the valley.
Again, the bad news is you will have to go through the valley. It’s not matter of if; it is a matter of when. All you have to do is count the sunsets and you will experience some valleys because they are a normal part of life—you can’t plan them, you can’t time them, and you can’t schedule them. And they usually come at the worst possible time, they usually come when you don’t have time, when you are unprepared and feel as if you just don’t have the resources to deal with them.
Valleys are like that, they just happen, a valley can come upon you all of a sudden without a warning. It doesn’t matter how good you’ve been, how careful you’ve been…life is such that those old valleys will come just the same. And valleys are impartial; they are not selective, they come to the rich and the poor, men and women, black or white no one is exempt from valleys. David in his classic psalm is telling us something here by utilizing the word ‘through’; it appears that he is saying that anything you walk or go through has a beginning and an ending. He realized that while we’re in the valley through our faith God would meet us there.
Don’t Take Up Residence in the Valley
God will meet us there as long as we don’t decide for ourselves to take up residence in the valley. Some people have been down so long until getting up just ain’t on their mind. Some people are in the valley so long until decide to stay there, they give up and stop praying. They’re faith is challenged, they’re hope is gone, they are like the Israelites who asked the question, “How can we sing songs of Zion in such a strange land?” But if only they were like the three Hebrew boys Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednigo who were willing to through the fiery furnace; they didn’t camp there.
They said with a great assurance that through the fire, the flame, and the smoke the Lord will be with us. Go ahead and put us in if you will because it is a temporary place. When it comes to the valley, some people want to give up. If only they were like Moses at the Red Sea or Daniel in the lion’s den. Ask them and they will tell you respectively that Egypt was just temporary because God opened up the Red Sea just in time. And the lion’s den was temporary because God momentarily sewed up the jaws of the lion’s in the den. I know that we all have troubled times, sometimes we can’t help but run into some very low places but you can rest assure that God does not intend for us to stay there.
Valleys Are Sometimes A Gift From God
Valleys are a part of life; no one will ever go through life and at the end boast that I made it through without any scars. Believe or not, but sometimes we can view the valley as a gift from God because anything that brings us to Him and to His ways is actually a gift. I have a dear friend who admittedly lived an extremely sinful life of alcohol, drugs, and sex with women other than his wife. He told me that his life was not complete until he was involved in a serious automobile accident; prior to this his life was miserable and headed for a sure disaster. His vehicle was totaled, but there was not one scratch on his body—he said that he took it as a warning that he was headed down the wrong direction in his life. For sure no one wants to experience an accident of this nature, but this particular accident opened up my good friend’s eyes and as the years passed by I can report to you that this same man has a wonderful preaching ministry in El Paso, Texas today.
He lived a wild life in the valley, but received a gift from God while in the valley. And so the valleys eventhough they are temporary they actually do have a purpose. In I Peter 1: 6-7, we read, “Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, you are in heaviness through manifold temptations. That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearance of Jesus Christ” In other words, eventhough it is necessary that we walk through the valleys of life for a little while, we need to come to the clear understanding that these valleys are only a test—we are being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—and here is your shout, your faith is much more precious to God than mere gold.
This is why it is so important for you and I to maintain our faith like David did while we are the valleys. There is a question; a very good question asked in the Word of God, “When the Son of Man comes will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18: 8). Be assured that God has a reason for allowing us to go through the valley; He doesn’t cause them because God is a good God and He cannot cause evil but He does allow them. God allowed His only begotten Son to go through the wilderness and be tempted by the devil, think about it! Jesus Christ Himself was not exempted from suffering (especially on the Cross), He was not exempted from loneliness, and He was not exempted from temptation or discouragement or anything else that we ourselves have to face. He experienced loss (the death of John the Baptist, etc.) just like any one of us. He was misunderstood just we are misunderstood (and most of the time by people we really love), and here’s where I can really identify with Him—He was persecuted and greatly criticized. And Jesus, by going through the same things we go through enables us to be like Him because we have been given an example of how to get through the valleys of life.
The Lord is My Shepherd
That’s why David said, “The Lord is my Shepherd” meaning I have everything I need. Meaning that the Lord is with me through my life and beyond. “He maketh me lie down in green pastures” What does it mean when the psalmist tells us that the Lord "maketh us to lie down in green pastures?" In my mind’s eye I can picture it for myself: a mattress of soft, green grass, cold shade under some tree, no noisy street traffic or worry from dangers or problems--just peaceful rest! “He leadeth beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul—that means He gives me new strength and He guides me along the right direction in which to go. The first three verses indicates to us that so far everything is going well for David, look at it again, He leads me…He renews my strength…He guides me… but he changes a little bit at the 4th verse, because he says even when (he’s not saying ‘if’ but ‘when’) I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not be afraid for you are with me.
Do you understand fully what David is saying here? No matter where I go, no matter what I have to go through…God is with me! And if God is with me I actually have no need to be afraid. In the valley or on the mountaintop no matter where it may be we have His presence in our pain, His love in our loss, and His patience despite our complaints. Through hardship, He may strip us of pride, renew our passion for Him, refine our character, and/or purify our motives. David said even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death; but the original language of this actually calls it the “valley of shadows” meaning it is only a valley full of shadows and the point being, what can a shadow possibly to do us? It’s just a shadow.
Should we be afraid of a shadow? A shadow is just an illusion, a shadow can’t hurt us but it can make us hurt ourselves. A shadow is caused by an object blocking the light and sometimes a shadow can make things look gloomy and dark but with every shadow we need to look towards the Light. Jesus is the Light of life, He is the Good Shepherd and a good shepherd does not lead His sheep into a deep dark valley and just leave them there.
He does not watch over us from outside of the valley, He does not call us from the other side of the valley because He is with us through the valley. Well, have you any valleys in your life? Have you any rivers that seem un-crossable? Have you a situation that seems as if you’ll never make it through? You’ve prayed about it and then you finally decided to just wait on the Lord and all of the sudden you began to see the end of valley? I’ll tell you right now, there is a blessing at the end of valley!
It is GOD Himself who walks with us through life’s trials to deliver us from all evil and fear. Yes, the valley is where we do our struggling, it is where we have to cry sometimes, and yes the valley is inevitable through out our journey in life, from our earliest existence all the way up unto our departure from this world, but GOD comforts us with the assurance that even earthly death will never separate our souls from dwelling in His holy presence forever in Heaven! This is why Paul declared that our deliverance from evil by the loving sacrifice of CHRIST on our behalf in GALATIANS 1:4, “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of GOD and our Father!” Truly, as it is written, we will fear no evil, for Thou art with us! And truly, as it is written, we shall dwell in the house of The LORD forever! I don’t know about you but in the midst of all my struggles and the fact that the valley is only a temporary place is worth shouting about because it is our reassurance that "trouble don’t last always." Amen.