Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Valley of the Shadow. . .

Psalm 23

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: 
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil:
 for Thou art with me; 
Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.  
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: 
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. 

I have long pondered this Psalm, especially the phrase, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death."  

The thing which strikes me about it is what it doesn't say.  It doesn't say "through the valley of death."  David clearly describes the Great Shepherd leading His dear one through a valley which is shadowed by death.

For those who have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, there is no death in the sense of ceasing to be.  In fact, those who have come to know the Lord are said to have "eternal life."

"And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent," John 17:3

Not only that, but for the Christian, the moment life escapes from our earthly bodies, our spiritual lives are in the presence of the Lord.  I personally don't believe that moment of passing from this life to our eternal life, which Paul described as "far better," will be a difficult passage.  In fact, I believe it will be just the opposite.

The moment a Christian prepares to depart this world and enter into Heaven, I believe the angels of God form such a welcoming party that we could not imagine the wonder of it.  And our own Great Shepherd, who ever seeks after that lost sheep, will surely be there to walk us through the "paths of righteousness" which He has created with His own nail-scarred feet.

The mountain of death may be nearby, but it is only the shadow of death which falls across us, and the shadow cannot hurt us.  For us, no climbing of a dreadful mountain, but walking in the sweet valley with our Savior.

Our dear friend Larry tells the story of his father's recent passing to Heaven.  His father had been a minister throughout his life and even into his last months was faithfully believing and trusting his Lord.  As the moments of his passing drew near, those around him said he would look up toward the ceiling and with the look of amazement on his face state, "Is it really this easy?  Can it be this easy?"

When my own father died, a close friend called the next morning.  His first words were, "I hear your father moved to a better neighborhood."  There was nothing better that could have been said.  An easy move to a far better neighborhood!

So let us have hope and not fear that passage before us.  As with the rest of our lives, we will not travel it alone, our Shepherd will be there with us and we "shall not want" and we "will fear no evil."   We will have an easy, glorious journey home.

"We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, 
and to be present with the Lord." 
2 Corinthians 5:8

"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." 
Philippians 1:21

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