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Psalm 23 Part Eight

By Pastor Philip Howle
web posted December 19, 2012
RELIGION – In light of the tragedy this past week it is fitting that we continue in our study of Psalm 23 and in particular Vs.4 “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.” We began last week by looking at the fact that Jesus will lead us through hard times to lead us closer to Himself. In response to events of last week we look at an entire community that is walking in the shadow of great and senseless death.

I don’t want to try and answer the question of where was God. There is time for theologizing and there is a time for simply weeping with those who weep (Rom 12:15) I did hear one Catholic Priest comment that he knew where God was not and that was not in the heart and life of the young man that committed this atrocity.

I can’t imagine the darkness of the valley for these parents. I know that it is not always consolation to simply say, "We'll meet again in heaven." The question before these people is, "How will I make it until then? How will I survive with this vacancy in my life?”

The only way through is to know that God is with you. This is the story of Christmas. Matthew as he writes commentary on the events of Mary and Joseph’s hearing the news of the Virgin Birth says in Matthew 1:22-23  “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  (23)  "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us).” God with us. This is what ought to come to mind as we celebrate Christmas through the tears of shared sorrow and grieving for the community of Newton.

We also ought to remember that the celebration of Christmas even 2000 years ago was not without tears and heart ache. Matthew chapter 2 records for us the Slaughter of the Innocents. We know the story, but it does not make the cut in our Christmas pageants and plays. The death of a whole community of little boys, just doesn’t seem like it ought to be read it during the Christmas season. It doesn’t sound right amid all the Christmas carols. It doesn’t look right surrounded by sparkling lights and candy canes. It takes all the joy away and leaves only sadness. As far as I know, no Christmas carols mention this tragic event. Yet it happened one night in Bethlehem.

Where was the Good Shepherd that night? We believe the event takes place when Jesus is around two years old. Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem after the birth of Jesus and did not return to Nazareth, their prior home.  I assume because the grand-parents could not deal with their little new born Jesus being a 100 miles away from them.  So, another angel appears to Joseph and tells them to leave that very moment. Leave all they have, grab what they can go for soldiers are coming to seek to kill their child. Imagine infant Jesus being covered up and jostled as Joseph and Mary fled away from their make shift home in Bethlehem to become exiles in Egypt. Imagine Jesus asking where are we going, why is mommy crying.  Think of the physical and emotional toll on Mary. Think of the stress and weight on Joseph.

Then Herod’s soldier’s came and murdered all boys two years and younger in Bethlehem.  For a town of tahst size, that would have been approximately 20-30 boys. Herod, at this point, in his life was an old and cruel man. He had killed anyone that had gotten in his way. His list included his brother-in-law, mother-in-law, and even his own wife. He could stand for anything getting in the way of his power.

This is the world Jesus was born into a world of sin, death, and hurt. Jesus, whose very name means The LORD Saves, lived in this world, died in this world, and was raised from the death of this world to live and be our Good Shepherd. Who is able to walk with us through the dark valley’s of life.

You see while the events of last week hurt, they don’t surprise me. Jesus tells us in Matthew 24 that things are rough and going to get rougher. I read last week as writer Max Lucado asks have you ever spun a top? He notes how the initial thrust forces it to spin powerfully, knocking over obstacles as it rips across the floor.  But then something starts to happen. The thrust weakens; the top wobbles. Now when it bounces off something, it teeters and totters. Finally the top is in a full-on death spin, until, boom . . . it crashes and stops.

Lucado notes how the top is an example of the second law of thermodynamics, which explains why things, over time, slowly go from order to chaos. He says how the law is directly applied to the physical world of planets, baseballs, and tops, but indirectly it makes some sense in regard to the spiritual and moral fabric of our society.

As time goes on, things seem to spin more wildly out of control. Sin caused the initial wobble in the garden. Ever since then the world has groaned for relief (Rom. 8:22). Jesus in Matthew 24 warns of wars, persecutions, and earthquakes, but many of those things have happened and still happen. People all throughout time have thought that evil was running rampant:  the Roman persecution, the crusades, Hitler and World War II, and modern Middle East terrorism. Lucado, in conclusion, writes how sin works proportionately to the number of opportunities it is given. As communication and technology grow, sin expands with it. So while the world appears to be spinning out of control, it is only behaving as expected. From our perspective, the world looks like chaos. From God’s, it’s all going according to schedule. From our perspective, evil is center stage. From God’s, evil is taking a selfish bow during its final act as defeated foe.

I am a prophet of love, not a prophet of doom. But this old world will one day reach its end. One day Jesus returns, not as a humble baby in a manger, but a warrior on a horse. He is described in Revelation 19:11-16 as John writes that “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war.  (12)  His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.  (13)  He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.  (14)  And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.  (15)  From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.  (16)  On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.”

So weep with Newton, but stop and look at your own life. You might not be as evil as King Herod and Adam Lanza, but James 2:10 reminds us that “whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” You are not prefect and when time on earth expires, please be certain you have placed your faith solely in Jesus Christ, the Savior and hope in this world in which we live. Please accept the greatest gift of Christmas: Salvation!

Pastor Phillip

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