Psalm 23:4               The Valley of the Shadow of Death                   1/10/2010      ßà   

 

#1.       Psalm 23

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2.       The Shadow of Death (Psalm 23:4, Luke 1:79, Gen 8:21, Eph 2:1-3)

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3.       Dead in Trespasses and Sins (Eph 2:1-8, Matt 12:36)

 

 

 

 

 

 

#4.       But Not For Everyone (Eph 2:8, John 14:7)

 

 

 

 

 

 

#5.       Conclusion (Eph 2:8, Psalm 23:4, Heb 13:5-6)

 

 

 

 

Please open the Bibles you find in the pews in front of you to Psalm 23, Psalm 23:1 (2X). You also find in your bulletin a sheet of paper that contains an outline of this meditation, but it is mostly empty. It is purposely left empty for notes that you might take when you hear something surprising, or to write down a question that you want to ask me later. Tell me what you like to read, and I will tell you what you are inside. Tell me what Scripture touches you most, and I will understand your heart. It is good to try to understand someone’s heart, for we must try to communicate with one another at the heart-level. Today I would like to take you to a lovely Psalm, which is perhaps the most well known Psalm of the Bible. But this Psalm is perhaps the least understood in its depths. This Psalm speaks of the deepest and surest faith of the man of God.

#1.       Psalm 23

This Psalm is often called The Shepherd’s Psalm, which is a misnomer, for it is not the shepherd, but the sheep who are speaking here in this Psalm. Let us read this here in your Bibles, Psalm 23:1-6,

Ps 23:1-6, (A Psalm of David.) The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 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.

After stating in verses 1, 2, and 3 that the LORD is watching over him, and caring for him, and be his protector, and be his defender, and makes all things work together for the good of His saint, this saint of the Lord uttered a phrase that jumps out of the page, and catches our attention. He said in verse 4,

Psalm 23:4, “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.”

Today I would like us to focus just on this one verse, Psalm 23:4. There is enough material here to fill our minds. And therefore the title of this Meditation is, “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” (2X). This sounds like a very somber and dark subject matter, but actually there is a great deal of joy and comfort in this. We have come here together to celebrate, yes to celebrate the going home of Gysbarta, also known as Betty Chompff. She went home this past Sunday morning at 10:30 AM to meet her Savior in person. Betty has been bound to walkers and wheelchairs for the past 20 years or so, because the side effects of all the prescription drugs she was taking caused her to have what is called Parkinsonism, which is not actually the disease of Parkinson, but symptoms like Parkinson’s. But after 9 months of uterine cancer the Lord took her home. And we are here to praise God who took her home. We read here in Psalm 23:4 something similar to the faith that Betty had in the last year before she died.

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.”

#2.       The Shadow of Death (Psalm 23:4, Luke 1:79, Gen 8:21, Eph 2:1-3)

What is this “shadow of death”? What does God mean by that expression? Let us find this out by comparing this with another verse containing the same expression “the shadow of death”. Put a sticker here in Psalm 23 and please turn in the New Testament, to the Gospel According to Luke, Luke 1:79 (2X). Six months before the birth of Jesus, at the birth of John the Baptist his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Ghost and prophesied concerning the ministry of his child John, and praised God for bringing deliverance to His people by sending the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Then Zechariah said in Luke 1:79, “To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Now consider this verse carefully. Who is God speaking about? For whom did God send the Lord Jesus and John the Baptist into this world? God sent them to all those who are going to be saved by the cross of Christ. God sent them to everyone in the world who will be saved, for the teachings of John and of the Lord Jesus Christ is the Gospel that is able to change our souls, and then we will be new persons in the kingdom of Christ. Then who are those “that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death”? The answer is: We were those people before we heard of God’s salvation through the cross of Christ. We were sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. And what was the purpose for Christ’s coming? Luke 1:79 says, “To give light to us”, and “to guide our feet in the way of peace”. What peace is God talking about? This world has not known peace ever since its beginning, for God says in Gen 8:21 that “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth”. And thus the peace that God provides through the preaching of the Gospel is peace with God. And thus, we who “sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” are living in this world. It is this world that is called “the valley of the shadow of death”. What does God say in Psalm 23:4? “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death” which means that while I walk through this world, this world is unto me like a valley of the shadow of death. Not only do I have to face death one day, for my own physical death is hanging as a shadow over me, but I am surrounded by people who are in various stages of death. For example, please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Eph 2:1 (2X). You find Ephesians in the New Testament. After the narrative Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John you find Acts of the Apostles, then the letters of the Apostle Paul beginning with Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Then Galatians and Ephesians. To whom was this letter written? In Eph 1:1 we read, “To the Saints which are at Ephesus”. These saints are the saved people at the church at Ephesus. And to these saints God wrote in Eph 2:1-3

Eph 2:1 ¶  And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Eph 2:2  Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Eph 2:3  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

#3.       Dead in Trespasses and Sins (Eph 2:1-8, Matt 12:36)

God says in Eph 2:1, “You, who were dead in trespasses and sins, has God made alive.” And if God says this of the saints at Ephesus, then He certainly said it of me also. I too was dead in trespasses and sins in times past. What does it mean that I was dead? It means that in God’s eyes I was spiritually dead and totally unprofitable. It means that in God’s eyes I was a stinking corpse, and I was about to be cast into Hell so that God does not have to endure any more the stench of sin and death. When Adam sinned by eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he died spiritually, and from that point forward all his posterity came into the world dead in trespasses and sins. That is the first reason why this earth is called the Valley of the Shadow of Death. We all were born dead to God, and we all were on the way to Hell. Notice that the end of Eph 2:3 says, “we all were by nature the children of wrath even as others.” We all were by nature under the wrath of God. But then God made the Ephesian saints alive, for we read in Eph 2:1, “You who were quickened”, which means “You who were made alive.” And God made Betty and me alive also. How do we know that? At a certain point in time God gave us faith.

Does God make every human being alive? Absolutely not! Adolph Hitler who started the second world war and who died by killing himself and Eva Braun, died unsaved. He was never made alive to God. But almost everyone believes that he is going to be resurrected, and will stand for trial before God and will have to endure a penalty that will be far worse than all his sins together. For God is a righteous Judge, meaning a just judge, who will demand an account of every sin, even a sin as small as an idle word (Matt 12:36). Nobody gets away with anything. And so, it has always puzzled me that most people believe that God is a righteous judge, and that in the life hereafter He will punish the sins people have committed in this life. And even though most people believe that there is a life hereafter, and most people believe that there will be a judgment for sins in the life hereafter, yet most people make no preparation for the life hereafter. But God, who is full of mercy, has given us the way to eternal life with Him here in the Bible, and yet the Bible is an unread Book in most households, even though God gave us the warning not to die like Adolph Hitler. God says in Eph 2:4-8,

Eph 2:4-7  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: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Eph 2:8  For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:

And so, what is the way to eternal life? Let me just focus on the last verse. God says in Eph 2:8, “For by grace are ye saved.” What does that mean? The definition of grace is “Unmerited Favor.” And what is the unmerited favor that God gives us? It is faith! And that faith is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, for it is a gift that is not earned or deserved. And so, what is the faith that God gives us? It is the faith that the Lord Jesus Christ died for us on the cross to take away all our sins.

#4.       But Not For Everyone (Eph 2:8, John 14:7)

Did Christ do this for every human being on this earth? Absolutely not! From the actions of Adolph Hitler we can conclude that he did not receive faith as a gift from God, and since he died as an unsaved man we can conclude that Christ never paid for the sins of Adolph Hitler. There are people who believe that Christ suffered and died for every human being, but that is an impossibility, for then Hell would be filled with people for whom the Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died, and that would make Christ a very incompetent Savior who failed more often than he was successful. No, we do not want to lower Christ to our level. Moreover, the Lord Jesus said in John 14:7, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” This means that many nations who lived and died before Christ came into the world about 2000 years ago, lived in a Christless universe, and thus there is no salvation possible for them. But when God gives us faith we will know it, and our entire life is changed. We become new creatures in His sight, for we will love Him more than we will love our fellow man. We will love Him and search to be obedient to His Word all the time, not because we have to, but because we want to. And so, here is a characteristic of some-one who has been saved

: This person has an unquenchable desire to read and study the Bible, for he or she loves the Lord, and loves to do anything that is pleasing to the Lord. This is what I observed in Betty for many years, and this is why I firmly believe that God saved her. It was also a blessing that God took her almost painlessly. Generally, the fear of death includes the fear of the pain of dying. But for the past two months Hospice made it possible that she did not suffer needlessly. However, I am not speaking to Betty today. Betty died, and she is now in glory. But I am speaking to you, the living. You are here today to honor the burial of Betty, but more importantly you are here to honor the Lord Jesus Christ who paid for her sins the payment that a righteous God requires, for the righteousness of God requires that every sin must be paid. If we have to pay for our own sins, it takes us an eternity in Hell to make a full payment But Christ was able to do it for us on the cross in less than 24 hours. But we do not want to take Him for granted. We want to love Him and serve Him for the rest of our life. This is our commitment. Our confidence is not in what we have done, but in what Christ has done for us.

#5.       Conclusion (Eph 2:8, Psalm 23:4, Heb 13:5-6)

Let us now hear the conclusion of the matter. What have we learned so far? We have learned that the Valley of the Shadow of Death refers to this earth, and that all men are by nature subject to the spiritual death that God imposed on Adam when he sinned. The death of our body is only a natural consequence of the condition that we were by nature dead in trespasses and sins. But for those who ignore God, and who take Christ for granted, a more fearful second death is in store, which is the death of being cast into Hell forever. But God, who is rich in mercy, provided an escape through faith in the cross of Christ. And so, let us return now to Psalm 23:4. Please turn again to the Prophecy of the Psalms, Psalm 23:4 (2X). If God indeed has saved us by His grace, and has given us faith, like we read in Eph 2:8, then Christ is with us and we are in Him, and then we can sing with David in Psalm 23:4,

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.”

Thou God art with me, and therefore I fear no evil, for thou art always with me. Therefore we can boldly say with the writer of Hebrews in Heb 13:5-6,

Heb 13:5-6  For he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

AMEN.           Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.