Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Even 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 overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23 has long been a psalm of comfort to the dying and those who are losing someone to death. I can remember a time when little children were given stars at Sunday School for memorizing things; like the Ten Commandments, John 3:16 and the Psalm 23...I was one of those children. The 23rd Pslam was hard for me for some reason; I never did get that star as a child in Sunday School, but 45 years later, everytime I read it, I draw great comfort from that Psalm.

Because it's always read at funerals and probably because the word "death" seems to stand out (probably it did in my childhood anyway), I've always associated it with death. However, when you sit down and take time to meditate and ponder it, this Psalm is really about right now - life in the here and now. This life we live...getting up, going to work, eating, drinking, sleeping, learning, growing, rejoicing, hurting, sinning, repenting and learning to walk in the wisdom of God is the SHADOW of death.

Today could be the day I die...or you, maybe, or someone close to us. There's about 7 billion people in the world, so that makes a lot of people dying everyday around us, too. We ALL live in the shadow of death because we are all sinners according to the Bible. It is within us all to do bad, bad things, and the Bible says that the consequences of committing sin is death.

If you are like me, you don't like shadows. Walking in the shadows when I'm alone is very scary; you never know what's hiding there, and as a kid, shadows always meant sure death when you played hide and go seek. Being out in the light is much more preferable. A lot of children (and adults when you come to think of it) need to have a night light on to go to sleep. When you think about how big the world is and beyond that, the universe; and add in to the equation just how small and helpless you are in that big world/universe, thinking about being a part of it be a really scary thing.

How comforting it is to know that you can walk everyday in the presence of the Creator of the world/universe and that his rod and staff are there to hold you up and for your protection, and even though you might be surrounded by enemies (human or otherwise), you can trust Him to take care of you. Not one thing will happen to you today that God did not say was okay to happen. Are you hungry? He will feed you. Are you in need of clothing? He will clothe you. Are you a sinner? He will cover you.

When that day comes that is appointed for you and me to take that last breath, we can take comfort in knowing that we can dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

If you have never entrusted your life to God through Jesus Christ. I urge you to take the time today to sit down and make an account of your life. Pray for forgiveness for the things you have done wrong and ask Him to lead you through the rest of the valley.

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