“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…” (Psalm 23:4 KJV)
Did you ever play follow the leader? In our urban New York neighborhood, following the leader meant skipping down a city block, going up and down stairs, crossing busy streets, traipsing through a schoolyard or meandering through a vacant lot dotted with yellow dandelions in the summer, crunchy leaves in the fall and deep snow in winter. No matter where the leader took us, we followed.
The 23rd Psalm is about walking, being led, resting, and following. While reading verse 4, another Bible verse came to mind: Isaiah 52:7, which is quoted in the beautiful hymn Our God Reigns:
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him
Who brings good news, good news,
Proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness,
Our God reigns, our God reigns.
The second stanza tells us that Jesus “had no stately form, He had no majesty, that we should be drawn to Him.” But many were drawn to Him as we are drawn to Him now, because as the third stanza tells us: It was our sin that bruised and wounded Him because like sheep, we strayed. Nevertheless, our Shepherd came and bore our shame. He, who was without sin, let himself be led to the slaughter, so that we might be born again. In the final stanza, we are told:
Out from the tomb He came with grace and majesty,
He is alive, He is alive.
God loves us so, see here His hands, His feet, His side,
Yes we know He is alive…Our God reigns…
Our Lord, whom we follow, is the Good Shepherd, who leads us to the mountaintop. To get there, however we sometimes have to walk with Him through the valleys, even the valley of the shadow of death. He is the Lamb that was slain for our sins. He is the King, who has defeated death and is alive. Because He died for us, saved us, reigns over our lives today, we do not hesitate to follow Him into life’s valleys.
Several years ago, during a revival service, Ernest Easley, a cancer survivor, preached a sermon on walking through life’s valleys with the Lord. In his sermon, he identified nine valleys: the valley of uncertainty, the valley of fear, the valley of detours, the valley of suffering, the valley of storms, the valley of discouragement, the valley of confusion, the valley of correction, and the valley of sickness. The main point of the sermon is that victory comes through the valleys.
Dearest Heavenly Father,
You loved us so much that you sent your Son to die for us. Amazing love! How can we not follow the one who gave his life for us, who went through his own “valley of the shadow of death” so that we might have new life in Him? Thank you for walking with us through life’s valleys. Forgive us when we lose sight of you on the path and begin to doubt. When we hesitate give us confidence. When we tire, give us strength. Gather us into your arms when we are afraid, and encourage us when we hurt. Remind us that beyond the horizon, heaven awaits.
In the name of Jesus, wo shepherds us through life’s valleys,