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Posts Tagged ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death’

Thought for Today

The Lesson of the Fig Tree

“Now in the morning as he returned into the city,
he hungered.
And when he saw a fig tree in the way,
he came to it, and found nothing thereon,
but leaves only, and said unto it,
Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.
And presently the fig tree withered away”
Exodus 3:2

Fruit. God’s purpose for every life is to bear fruit. His purpose in coming was to make the barren fruitful, the desert to blossom and the lame to walk.

Fig leaves represent the response of Adam and Eve to their fallen state. The religious response to man’s need for a covering. It is an inherent desire to be covered on the outside; to appear good, honest and spiritual. This leaves the life barren and unfruitful in the things of God. We may walk in an outward show of righteousness but the inward reality may be void of His Life and power.

Deception comes to those who seek to deceive. The lie of living to appear right will always result in a greater lie.

“But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse,
deceiving, and being deceived
2 Timothy 3:13

Honesty and integrity are the means to Life in Him. We come as we are, transparent with Him and with those about us. This see-through living will bring us to the blood, the mercy and the covering of His garments of Salvation. In being who we are, fully reliant on all that He is, we can rest confidently in His faithfulness to bring glory to the Father.

Authenticity of Life is the fruit of integrity within and without

Fruit is not religious works. It is the means of glorifying God.

“Herein is my Father glorified,
that ye bear much fruit”
John 15:8

His sheep are those who follow Him. They hear His voice and they will not follow the voice of another. He leads them through green pastures, still waters, paths of righteousness, valleys of great shadows and even death; but the assurance to these will always be:

“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”
Psalm 23:6

Brian Troxel
http://www.aword.info

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Valleys Our Door of Hope

“Now unto him that is able to do
exceeding abundantly above all
that we ask or think”
Ephesians 3:20

The valleys of the Christian walk are difficult but necessary. It is in the valleys that our vision of Him is narrowed and our world seems black and white. Life becomes a series of endless, relentless steps seemingly without purpose. The sun rises late and sets early. Friendships become distant and the way is solitary. It is here fellow sojourner where hope becomes the anchor of our heart. This hope does not rely on external things, for the visible betrays the truth and the feelings within offer no encouragement. It is here where we need to be reminded “that (He) is able to do…” His word is not only shrouded in promises but He Himself is the promise. He is the One who accomplishes His Word in and through the context of our journey.

“NOW”

Not at some distant future moment in time but “now” brings our praise to Him in the moment; in the valley, in the heart ache of a circumstance, a loved one, or a broken relationship. Now is God’s Word to us that in the valley He is “doing” in us the very thing that He has promised. The length of the valley is shortened when we with faith and hope cling to Him who is invisible. Faith sees Him. It recognizes the unseen hand even in the face of our enemies and the hard things we must endure. Moses “endured” because he saw Him who is invisible. The enduring graces of faith, hope and love working within His own are in themselves the very fulfillment of His Word to us; to be people of substance in a world void of light and life.

“And now, Lord, what wait I for?
my hope is in thee”
Psalm 39:7

The valleys bring us to new places of trust in Him. We are no longer looking for an event or some external hand of help. We are reduced to a hope centered upon God Himself. It is here that character and trust in God alone becomes woven into the very fabric of our lives.

“And I will give her…
the valley of Achor* for a door of hope”
Hosea 2:15

Valleys are to become doors into new places of hope and glory. It is by walking through them (and not lingering) that they become to us a door instead of a dead end. May our feet keep moving and the fire of His love impel us to new places in Him.

“Blessed is the man that endureth temptation:
for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life,
which the Lord hath promised
to them that love him”
James 1:12

*Note: Achor – עכר
The root-verb עכר (akar) means to stir up, disturb or trouble. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament remarks that this verb “reflects the social dimension of an individual’s action”.

Jacob uses this verb to describe his position among the Canaanites when Simeon and Levi killed the men of Shechem after the rape of Dinah (Genesis 34:30).

After years of drought, king Ahab accused Elijah of being the troubler of Israel (1 Kings 18:17). King Solomon proclaimed that a cruel man brings trouble to his own flesh (Proverbs 11:17), and a man who brings trouble on his household inherits the wind (11:29).

This verb’s derivation עכור (akor) means trouble, but it occurs only as the name Achor. (Abiram Publications)

Brian Troxel
http://www.aword.info

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COMFORT

“O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted,
behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours,
and lay thy foundations with sapphires.
And I will make thy windows of agates,
and thy gates of carbuncles,
and all thy borders of pleasant stones”
ISAIAH 54:11-12

In affliction, tempest and sorrow the God of all comfort comes softly like the dew settling upon the grass after the long dark season of night. His silent ways bring whispers of hope within the human heart and His strong arms hold and carry us in the distress of our circumstances. He walks with us through the valleys. He gently embraces the wounded heart and in the secret of His ways we see the fair colours of His handiwork. We see the precious stones of His making become the foundation of our lives; not only strong and stable but filled with the beauty of His own being. There is no such thing as wasted tears for those that know their God. All sorrows and trials become part of the building of His story in our lives. His comfort becomes the very currency that we can share with others for it has become ours through the experiences of a life with Him.

His promises of comfort in our trials are the foundation of our hope in Him. The history of His faithfulness builds within us a strong hope to face the path that lies before us. The ONE who faced Calvary, and prayed with such intensity that great drops of blood fell as He communed with His Father, is the same ONE who is now able keep you in your dark hour. Let His faithfulness assuage your broken heart and His Grace lift you up as on eagles’ wings. Let the world know that we are not without the rich resources of our Risen Christ.

His mercies are new every morning and though weeping may endure for the night joy will come in the morning.

Ω

“Troubled soul, the “much tribulation” will soon be over,
and as you enter the “kingdom of God” you shall then see,
no longer “through a glass darkly”
but in the unshadowed sunlight of the Divine presence,
that “all things” did “work together”
for your personal and eternal good.”
Arthur Pink

BT

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PSALM 23

PART TWENTY-THREE

CONCLUSION

CONFIDENCE AND REST

“…and I will dwell* in the house of the LORD for ever.”
PSALM 23:5

The Hebrew word translated here for “dwell” comes from the primary Hebrew root word to “sit” (*see below). It speaks of a rest and a posture of confidence and comfort. David in his pursuit of God came to a point where he was confident in His God, not himself. His posture of rest was not based on some teaching or the fact that he was a King rather his rest was based on the character of HIS GOD. This statement of confidence “I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” had little to do with David’s own ability to serve God; it was founded upon the personal KNOWING that the LORD was HIS SHEPHERD! Many of God’s people struggle with this confidence, this sense of knowing and belonging. We seek for assurance by doing good things, by clinging to doctrines, assurances from others, belonging to some Christian organization, subscribing to a well-known teacher or some other outward thing to satisfy this need for security. God has only one thing to offer us: the PLEDGE of HIMSELF; the verity of HIS own character. Every action and motive that is not birthed from this place of abiding will eventually fail to satisfy the deep longing within the heart of His own. This place of rest cannot instill a sense of complacency or apathy. It must and will produce a pursuit and seeking of HIM who has become the ONE THING the true heart desires (Psalm 27:4, Philippians 3:13). The pursuit of Him is no longer based on gaining HIS approval but is birthed of an intense desire “to know HIM”.

“That I may KNOW HIM, and the power of his resurrection,
and the fellowship of his sufferings,
being made conformable unto his death…
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended:
but this ONE THING I do…
I press toward the mark for the prize
of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus”
Philippians 3:10 – 14

The one who wrote the scripture above also wrote…

“But God, who is rich in mercy,
for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins,
hath quickened us together with Christ,
(by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together,
and made us SIT together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”
Ephesians 2:4 – 5

The posture of sitting together with Christ in heavenly places is born of an insatiable desire to know HIM more fully and deeply. It is the starting point of our journey. In this knowledge we will arise from our failures, disappointments and trials that are all part of the discovery of both the depths and the riches of His Grace.

Trust and confidence can only be known via relationship. Such is the heart of our Great Shepherd who leads us to the “still waters” of resting in HIM, the “green pastures” of feeding upon Him in the tranquility of His tender love and care, the feasting with Him in the “presence of our enemies” and to the discovery of His Presence with us in “the valley of the shadow of death”! Let us with great humility of heart follow HIM, seek Him and grow in the graces of HIM who is the LORD OUR SHEPHERD!

Ω

The Lord my pasture shall prepare,
And feed me with a shepherd’s care;
His presence shall my wants supply,
And guard me with a watchful eye.
Joseph Addison (1672–1719)

* H3427. יָשַׁב yāšaḇ: A verb meaning to sit, to dwell, to inhabit, to endure, to stay. Apparently, to sit is the root idea, and other meanings are derived from this. (THE COMPLETE WORD STUDY DICTIONARY: OLD TESTAMENT Warren Baker, D.R.E. Eugene Carpenter, Ph.D.)

Brian Troxel

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PSALM 23

PART TEN

FEAR

“I will fear no evil…”
PSALM 23:4

Fear is a common reality felt from the poorest of men to the richest. Fear, in itself, is not a sin. If fear were not a part of our everyday life words such as courage, bravery, overcoming and fearless, among others, would have no value. It is what we DO in the face of fear that determines whether a thing is commendable and worthy of honour or cowardly and worthy of shame. The Hebrew Word used here יָרֵא occurs hundreds of times in the Old Testament; here as a verb but also (though less) as a noun and is used interchangeably to describe the Fear of the Lord or fear of a particular circumstance or situation. We read throughout the Sacred Scriptures of the Fear of the Lord being the principle part of Wisdom. We also read of those who, because of the fear of the Lord, obeyed Him, served Him and loved Him through the actions it produced in their lives.

In this Psalm we read of an individual following and loving their Shepherd and, in that following, they find themselves walking through the valley of the Shadow of Death. It is in the midst of this experience that we hear the declaration that they will not be deterred in following Him. The fear of this place of evil and darkness will not prevail or have any effect upon their decision to walk through this valley! These valleys are not crossed over because of the absence of fear; they are crossed over in spite of the fear! The love of God displaces the terror and the grip of FEAR enabling us to pass over, to walk through, and to overcome the thing that would prevent us from obeying HIM!

God’s people should never feel ashamed when encountering fear; what matters is what we DO in the face of it. Countless martyrs throughout the ages have faced the fear of torture, persecution and even death yet they found the strength and the courage to be faithful to walk through the realities of these things. They are not moved by the fear because HE IS WITH THEM. There is a peace and a power that holds their souls in adversity; a presence that imparts GRACE to stand, to walk and to hold the course in spite of all that rises up to meet them in the path of following Jesus.

“through whom also we have access BY FAITH into this grace
in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations,
knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
and perseverance, character; and character, hope”
ROMANS 5:2 – 4

It is HIS GRACE that enables us to stand and this grace is only accessed through the portal of FAITH. Without faith we have no access to this Grace; Grace not only to stand but to rejoice and glory in tribulation! Such things are too high for the ability of man within himself. These things are reserved for those who are growing in the seeking, pursuit and abiding in HIM!

God has an answer to the fears that would cause us to falter in our way.

HIS answer is HIMSELF.

“I will fear no evil;
For You are with me”

Ω

“Fear. His modus operandi is to manipulate you with the mysterious, to taunt you with the unknown. Fear of death, fear of failure, fear of God, fear of tomorrow—his arsenal is vast. His goal? To create cowardly, joyless souls. He doesn’t want you to make the journey to the mountain. He figures if he can rattle you enough, you will take your eyes off the peaks and settle for a dull existence in the flatlands.”
Max L. Lucado (1955– )

Brian Troxel

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PSALM 23

PART NINE

THE VALLEY
OF THE SHADOW
OF DEATH

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
PSALM 23:4

The Valley of the Shadow of Death is a place that we are to walk through. Valleys are places where our vision is reduced, our world shrinks, we are hemmed in by steep mountainsides and there is little or no room for others. It is a place of walking without being able to see; a place where the sun rises late and sinks early, a place of darkness and distress. It is here that we also catch the fragrance of the “Lily of the Valley” and though we cannot see Him there is a lingering sense that we are not far from His care.

We all love the mountaintop experiences where our vision sees far and our faith soars as we see the purposes of God in Christ. It is on the mountaintops that we see beyond where we now stand and the wind of His Spirit blows upon our face. The heart rises in eagerness to go from where we are to distant lands of promise, power and relationship. These are good moments and necessary ones as our Great Shepherd stirs our hearts to a greater longing for more of Him! It is these experiences that give us vision but it is in the valleys that WE BECOME the life that we see in Him from the heights. This journey of faith is one of becoming through identification with HIM. Many love the teachings, the visionary aspects of the Christian landscape, but THE CALL OF GOD is one of picking up our cross and following HIM! It is a life of discipline; a life of following the Lamb wherever HE goes. It is not about us, it is about HIM. It is the valley that separates the disciples from the adherents. It is the place of becoming where we learn in full measure that within ourselves dwells no good thing. In the learning of this we begin to grasp the wonder and power of a love that surpasses understanding, a forgiveness that is unmerited, and a joy in God our saviour.

It is in the Valleys that the metal is forged and faith becomes an unshakeable substance within the life of those who would dare cross over. It is here that the prisoner Joseph becomes “Zaphnath-Paaneah”.

“He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:
Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:
Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him”
PSALM 105:18

Time is not sufficient to speak of the countless others all over the world (even at this very moment) who are enduring persecutions, trials, testings and even death for HIS NAME SAKE. These valleys of great sorrow and suffering, though grievous and heartrending, are the means to new places of LIFE within HIM. It is the broken pitchers of Gideon’s army that revealed the inner light causing the hosts of Midian to flee and bringing great victory to the people of God. Those that are broken in the hands of their God can never be broken by the experiences of life.

It is the Valleys where the stamina is wrought into the life of the overcomer. It is in the Valley of experience that the end of man ushers in the strength and glory of God. It is here that we learn of a truth that HIS GRACE IS SUFFICIENT!

The secret of the message of the valley is that we walk through it. We do not succumb to it, we do not spend our life sitting in it; we walk THROUGH IT. We keep moving, trusting, and walking until the DAY dawns and HIS GLORY is seen!

Ω

Lord, we pray for the very substance of your faith to empower, enlarge and encourage every one of your people who at this moment are walking in the valley of the shadow of death. We pray that the Glory of WHO YOU ARE will be their fortress, their Rock and their High Tower in this time of need. May there be a new seeing of you, learning of you and worship of you arise from this place that in the end of the journey may come forth the declaration of FAITH…

“Great and marvellous are your works, Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints!”
REVELATION 15:2 – 3

Brian Troxel

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PSALM 23

PART EIGHT

THE VALLEY
OF THE SHADOW
OF DEATH

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”
PSALM 23:4

Throughout this Psalm we read of Him leading us to places of quiet waters and green pastures, in paths of righteousness and yet in the midst of all this we read here of walking “through the valley of the shadow of death…”! How can these things be? Is He not our Shepherd? Is He not in charge and in control of all the things going on around us? We are so struck with the contrast and the suddenness of this verse that we rarely embrace its context within this Psalm. We often hear it quoted because we see all around us God’s precious people walking in, enduring and experiencing this valley that is to them the very dark and real “shadow of death”. How difficult it is to relate this to the purposes of God, to relate this to “Our Shepherd” in whom we are to place our absolute trust. We question, we struggle and we wrestle with the “whys” and the “purposes” of such suffering and often in these experiences we know silence and a seeming sense of aloneness. It is here that we must draw upon HIS character and discover that the “Valley of the shadow of death” is really an extension of the “paths of righteousness” and that HE who loves us most is not deterred in His purpose to MAKE us sons of God by causing us to walk in the same paths that HIS only begotten Son walked. HE walked in them to “become” the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10); we walk in them to “attain” the reality of HIS life and salvation!

“…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection,
and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead”
PHILIPPIANS 3:10

The “power of HIS resurrection” is the life that springs forth from identification with HIM in HIS death. May God work in us the growing realization that the “valley of the shadow of death” is the door way into the knowing of HIM and the power of HIS resurrection! It is the means by which we experience the greatest depth of fellowship with and in HIM! The life of the true Christian is one filled with contrast and contradiction; strength OUT of weakness, beauty FOR ashes, the oil of Joy FOR mourning, light shining OUT of darkness, victory OUT of seeming defeat, love IN the midst of hatred, forgiveness IN the face atrocity and hate, and resurrection life OUT of death! Who is sufficient for all these things? ONLY JESUS the RISEN CHRIST! It is HIS life in us that gives us hope for the dawn. It is HIS life that is the resurrection life and as we walk in the “paths of righteousness” we are found walking in the way of the discovery that HE is in fact “our hope of Glory”.

The “valley of the shadow of death” is the way by which we come to know and trust in HIM in all things. Such knowledge is not learned quickly, it is not learned by sermons and teachings, it can only be known in personal identification with HIM as we WALK with HIM who is “the WAY, the Truth and THE LIFE”.

We (if we have “tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come”) are all pilgrims and fellow heirs of this life and this walk and as such we must discover the need for greater depths of fellowship and relationship than what we see around us today. For if we are truly in fellowship with HIM it must be revealed in fellowship with those who are walking in this way! “If we walk in the light in the light AS HE is in the light we HAVE fellowship one with another”. The verity of one is revealed in the reality of the other.

Brian Troxel

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