January 10, 2014
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion and shall flow together and be radiant with joy over the goodness of the Lord…and their life shall be like a watered garden, and they shall not sorrow or languish any more at all.”
Jeremiah 31: 12, Amplified Bible
“Art thou weary, tender heart?
Be glad of pain;
In sorrow sweetest things will grow,
As flowers in rain.
God watches: thou wilt have the sun,
When clouds their perfect work have done.”
Found in the flyleaf of the Bible of Adelaide Procter
Today’s Study Text:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
Psalm 23: 4, K.J.V.
Psalm 23 Part 12
“Down in The Valley”
“Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights.”
Arthur Bennett, Editor, The Valley of Vision
Is there a time in my life, perhaps right now, where I feel as though I am walking through a deep valley?
How have my “valley” experiences affected my spiritual life?
What have I found out about “My Shepherd” when I was in a valley?
“But if the path we tread be rough and lowly, it is that in which our great Exemplar has gone before. Going down into the valley of humiliation we walk in His footsteps.”
John Dawson (1868)
“Beloved, do not be amazed and bewildered at the fiery ordeal which is taking place to test your quality, as though something strange and unusual to you and your position were befalling you. But insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, rejoice, so that when His glory (full of radiance and splendor) is revealed, you may also rejoice with triumph (exultantly).”
1 Peter 4: 12, 13
Quite a number of years ago, Jim and I took a short day-trip to the Grand Canyon. As we got closer to this breath-taking geographic wonder, Jim pointed to a business on the side of the road. “Hey there,” he excitedly said to me, “Let’s stop and take a helicopter ride into the canyon.” To put it mildly, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea. However, as Jim came out of the building, waving two tickets in the air, I gathered up all my courage and within a few minutes, off we went.
I have to admit it was worth the entire adventure and my white knuckles hanging on to the armrests for dear life, to gain a perspective I’d never had before. From the highest point above the valley floor, to the lowest point along the Colorado River which flows through the canyon, I found that the scenery, as well as the terrain, changed a great deal. The valley floor gave a perspective not seen high atop the rocky cliff walls. It is this difference in the point-of-view which we find in Psalm 23 as we are taken lush green pastures near soothing restful water and on to paths that are just right; then abruptly we find ourselves on a course in Psalm 23: 4, where we are plummeted to the valley depths, stymied by darkness.
What a contrast and yet, these totally opposite scenes take place in your life and mine more frequently that we would like to admit. All it takes may be a phone call and what was once an enjoyable, peaceful day may turn into a tragedy of such proportions it knocks us off our feet. I’m certain each one of us can easily unearth times in our own lives where the fertile green meadows, with their places of rest, unexpectedly are replaced by a roller coaster moment when, at the peak of our performance, we are dropped like a stone into a valley so deep we can’t imagine how we will ever get out or up again.
Thankfully, our heavenly Father knew long before we were even aware that a valley was up ahead, that hidden trouble was on the horizon. This is why, throughout the Biblical record, we find a transcript of individuals whose lives let us in on the fact that when we go from the mountaintop to the valley, we are not left alone to try and navigate a rapid descent on our own.
I’d like to take a second look at 1 Peter 4: 12, 13, which is penned by one of Jesus’ closest disciples, Simon Peter. Here we uncover the fact that this stalwart for Christ, not only found himself going through several valleys in his own life, but he also gives us a “heads up” warning that resonates down through time. Peter points out that the trials we come upon should not be viewed as a punishment from God, but as a faith building experience, which helps us learn to depend on our Shepherd: “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.” Pastor Charles Stanley draws this important lesson from the valleys we go through: “We must never limit God’s ability to turn the worst, most vile experience in our lives into something productive, beneficial and positive.”
It was this particular point that lead me to consider how the Apostle Peter must have felt when on the Sunday, before the crucifixion of Jesus, he witnessed the crowds that, “went ahead of (Jesus) and those that followed Him kept shouting, ‘Hosana to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven” (Matthew 21: 9, Amplified Bible). Talk about the pinnacle of success. I can’t help but think that Peter must have felt he had made the best choice possible when he abandoned his fishing vessel on Galilee and followed the itinerant preacher from Nazareth. For three and a half years he may have second-guessed his action. But on the day of Jesus triumphant arrival in Jerusalem, heralded by adoring throngs as the long-awaited Messiah, Peter must have felt he had hit the big time. But only four days later, where was Peter? The disciple Matthew tells us: “Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and one maid came up to him and said, ‘You were also with Jesus the Galilean!’ But he (Peter) denied it falsely before them all, saying, ‘I do not know what you mean.’ And when he had gone out to the porch, another maid saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This fellow was with Jesus the Nazarene!’ And again he denied it and disowned Him (Jesus) with an oath, saying, ‘I do not know the Man!’ After a little while, the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘You certainly are one of them too, for even your accent betrays you.’ Then Peter began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear. ‘I do not even know the Man!’ And at that moment a rooster crowed” (Matthew 26: 69-74, Amplified bible).
How far down in a valley do you think Peter felt when after professing undying love for Jesus, he made an abrupt turn and fell farther than he could have ever imagined?
Sometimes, the heartache caused from the valley we enter may be self-inflicted. And sometimes, our valley experience may be God’s hand of love, teaching us to rely more deeply on Him. Whatever the reason, as Robert W. Fisher notes in his commentary of Psalm 23, “The Shepherd walks with you in the midst of your trials. The darkness is not changed, but rather you are changed when you receive the gift of (God’s) presence.”
It may be that today you feel you are in one of those valley times and things in your life appear to be at the lowest point. Possibly it was your own action that lead you into this pit. Or it may be that you have chosen to follow your Shepherd and much to your surprise, the way He has chosen to lead you is through a valley, not around it. As Robert Fisher further explains, this may be “the valley of extreme darkness, the place of our deepest troubles and fears, the place where we think no one will ever accompany us. Notice that the Shepherd does not lead us away from this place. Instead, we walk right through it. We face the darkness, but it holds no power over us because we are in the presence of the Lord.”
As I think about the disciple Peter, fleeing the courtyard after denying he even knew who Jesus was, I’m reminded of the response found in Mark 16: 7 when the angel in the empty tomb, relayed this touching message, “Do not be amazed and terrified: you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But be going, tell the disciples and Peter, He (Jesus) goes before you into Galilee” (Mark 16: 6, 7, Amplified Bible). Isn’t that just like our Shepherd?! Going before us, no matter how deep the valley, no matter how far we’ve fallen, no matter how lost we feel.
Today, if you are going through the deepest and darkest valley of your life, keep close to the Shepherd, for His promise is sure: “It is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31: 6, Amplified Bible).
“Good when He gives, supremely good;
Not less when He denies:
Afflictions, from His sovereign hand,
Are blessings in disguise.”
The Practice of the Presence of God
“I will not in anyway fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down, or relax My hold on you. Assuredly not!”
Hebrews 13: 5
“I thought that God had come to me,
That after the wild delights –
The suffering and the joys,
The pain and the hopelessness
Of the years –
That God had come to me.
That after adventure and achievement,
Pain, despair, and death,
God had come to me.
Yes – with relief and mild surprise
I met my God again.
And then I saw,
Oh, fool, I saw!
That God had suffered
The pain and hopelessness,
Had shared the achievements and the joys,
Had been there…
All the time.”
Psalms of a Laywoman
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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