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Whose Valley?

By William Berkheiser

Psalms 23

A Psalm of David.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

What is to become of us when it is the Shepherd's valley of the shadow of death?

In the Psalms 23 we see ourselves walking through darkness with the Shepherd as our guide. In C.S. Lewis' The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, as Aslan makes his way to the stone table he comes to a point where he does not allow Lucy and Susan to go any further. They are not permitted to make that last leg of the journey with him. It is a path which he must walk alone, into the heart of death and darkness. I say again, "What is to become of us when it is the Shepherd's valley of the shadow of death?"

Perhaps this is the place where our faith is most shaken. Those long hours before the dawn. That silence in which we so often live. You know the silence I speak of. That dead space between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Of course we will beg history (fooling ourselves that it in some way helps). We will say, "I know the rest of the story." But Peter, John and Mary did not have that. They are left with words. "On the third day I will rise again." "I will tear down this temple and in three days raise it up." They are left to contemplate possibility and promise. They are thrust into a crisis of faith.

As Jesus proceeded toward the cross He lamented over the abandonment He would experience by His disciples. Peter however insisted that he would not fail. It is here that Jesus informs him of his triple failure. Three times he would deny the Lord. Strikeout. Yet Jesus intercedes. Jesus said, "Peter, Satan has asked that he might sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith fail not. And when you have returned to me strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:31-32).

What is to become of us when it is the Shepherd's valley of the shadow of death?

Fear not. Christ has prayed for you. He has passed through the valley of the shadow of death for you. We need not fear any evil. Our salvation is not maintained by our fragile faith. But we are kept by the power of God. Our forgiveness is in His shed blood. In your crisis of faith, the long pause the deep breath, do not lose heart for hope flies on the wings of the dawn.

The chief shepherd has passed through the valley of the shadow of death. There is no valley so deep that the Son of God can not fathom. No mountain so high that the Son of Man can't climb. No darkness so grim that the Prince of the dawn can not illuminate. There is no sin God can't forgive, no person so lost that Christ can not find them. No bondage so great that the Deliverer can not burst asunder. The valley is the Lord's. The way is safe. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life. And you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Amen.

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