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Psalm 23 Part Seven

By Pastor Philip Howle
web posted December 12, 2012
RELIGION – 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. Psalm 23:4 With Christmas approaching, we all look to the manager. The manager was a place where animals feed.

Jesus came to lead us to truly satisfying nourishment (verse on spiritual food).
We are not good at picking our own food are we?  We don’t know the foods we should eat (or we know the right foods we just prefer other ones.) We don’t know how much food to eat, so we gorge ourselves in gut busting gluttony. We don’t know where to find good food, so we order it out of windows served by high school kids (for the record, I love McD’s and high school kids). I know making people feel guilty about food at Christmas will proobaly turn off readers pretty quickly, but I have a point and I do pray your enjoy every sausage ball you eat and send me any you don’t want!
See throughout the year at various times, sheep will eat a pasture fully bare and the shepherd must move the sheep higher up to better pastures and new fields to graze.  Moving stupid sheep to find food is treacherous work! The journeys can last for long periods of time and the sheep are exposed to poisonous plants along the way, dark steep slopes to fall down, wild animal’s waiting to attack, and bad weather.  All these dangers lead some shepherds to simply not move their sheep. They let the sheep deal with a little hunger and learn to get by eating less. 
But, as we have teased out all the meaning that we can from the Good Shepherd metaphor, we know that Jesus our shepherd will not be content to leave us to hunger and do without the nutrition that we need.  Jesus desires to lead us to higher ground, and Jesus knows the dangers that are present to us as well, but he does not send us on this journey alone, He Himself will lead us, even though every mountain has its valleys.
Verse 4 of Psalm 23 is probably one of the most well known verses in the whole Bible. It resonates with people. Life is hard and death is a painful reality. If you were to just look at the three prior verses life would appear to be nothing but having everything you need; spending your days eating in green pastures and drinking from still waters. You’d be walking down a righteous path and giving glory to God all the way. But quickly we would learn that we’d be disappointed that life is hard.

The first thing we notice is "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." Notice, that David, was not trying to communicate that this walk is a possibility that you could face, but he phrased it with present tense reality: "Though I walk through the valley ..." Jesus echoes this as he says in John 16:33 “ I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world."Jesus is communicating here the truth as one writer I read put it “When you're walking with the shepherd, the dark valley always leads to higher ground.”

There is a purpose and a goal to walking through the valleys. Those sheep, when they went on the move, got their world rocked by all they encountered, but avoiding the journey, they’d go hungry.  Now I don’t want to downplay the death of someone close, a broken marriage, a financial crisis, health problems -- these experiences take us into dark valleys.

But notice that David used the phrase, "the valley of the shadow of death." Steve May notes how Pastor Rick Warren tells us there are three things to remember about shadows.

One, shadows are always bigger than reality. Just like a man five and a half feet tall can cast a 12 foot shadow, our fear of the problem is always greater than the problem itself. We easily let our actual problems grow larger in minds that in reality.

Two, shadows cannot hurt you. There's a difference between being run over by the shadow of a truck, and being run over by the truck itself. Shadows are an image without substance. They can scare you but they can't hurt you. This is not to say that the hurt you still feel is not real.

Three and this is the most important!!!!! There's no shadow without a light somewhere. The light of God will never disappear from your life. Don't look at the shadow. Look instead at the light, and the shadow will fall behind you.

As you walk through the valleys of the shadow of death, keep your eyes on the light! It may seem to grow dim through your troubles, but Jesus desires to shine into to your life. Focus on the light of Christmas!

Pastor Phillip

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