Peace in the Valley

Bible Book: Psalms  23 : 4
Subject: Problems; Shepherd, The Great; Shepherd, The Chief; Valleys

Peace in the Valley

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Psalm 23:4

We turn today to the most familiar and perhaps favorite Psalm of most Christians, Psalm 23. But I want us to focus on just one verse and a very valuable lesson we can learn from its contents. Look at Psalm 23:4. Here we read:

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."

I want us to think today about the valleys of life and the Shepherd who will go with us through those valleys. If we turn to Him, we can be assured that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He walks with us on the mountaintops and in every valley.

One must admit that life is filled with valley experiences. I have often heard people say, "Well, you know, there are always two mountains for every valley." Frankly, that is not very encouraging. When you are in a valley experience, it doesn't encourage you much to look up and see people on two mountaintops nearby enjoying life while you trudge along the rocky bottom-land. Also, when you are in a valley, it usually means you just fell or slid off a mountain yourself. Tumbling down into a valley from a mountaintop is not very enjoyable. Furthermore, to get out of the valley requires a rather laborious climb up the other side. To put it quite bluntly, there is not much that is appealing about going through life in a dark, rocky, deep, and cold valley. Climbing out can seem almost impossible.

My dad was from Roanoke, Virginia. We often went to visit there when I was a child. Some of my relatives lived in the urban areas of Roanoke, but some of them also lived out around the mountains that surround the city. Once when we were visiting in the area, we went out to the base of a large mountain where some relatives lived. A cousin and I went out to play while the adults sat around and talked about things that seemed of great interest to them. We kids could never understand how they could talk so long and enjoy it so much. So we went out to play in a stream that ran behind their house, a stream that came directly off the mountain above. The water was clear and cold, even in the summertime. You could brush back any leaves or water spiders, dip your hands down into the water and drink some of the most fresh, clear, cold water anywhere in the world. While down by the stream, we decided to hike up the mountain. We chose a trail and started our ascent. We had probably gone 300 yards when the going got tough. We had to hold on to trees and shrubs just to keep our balance. Our feet were sliding out from underneath us as we tried to move upward. We sat down to rest and heaved a few heavy breaths of clear mountain air. I don't know which one spoke first, but I think it was I who asked, "Why did we decide to do this?" The answer was that we wanted to get on top of the mountain where we could see far off in the distance. I replied, "You know, I kinda liked the view we had down below." My cousin agreed quickly and we slid back down the hill leaving the rest of the climb to bears or mountain lions, or to whatever else might want to try such a hike.

To get out of a valley is not as easy as it looks. For that matter, life sometimes keeps us in the valley a lot longer than we think is right, especially when we would be fully willing to make the climb if given the chance. But the valley need not be a place of defeat. There is One who will not leave us to stumble along through the valley alone. He is the Shepherd of the Valley. In fact, what I want to do today is point out several valleys in the Bible and remind all of us that Jesus Christ is the Great Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, the Good Shepherd when His sheep are going through the valleys of life.

Today we are going to look at 5 valleys mentioned in the Bible. Each of them has a characteristic that mirrors life. It will help us to see that the Shepherd is with us in these valleys.

I. The Valley Of Siddim - The Valley Of Sin

First, lets think about the Valley of Siddim. This is a place near the Dead Sea and it is one of the lowest places on the planet. It could well be described as, "The Valley of Sin."

This valley is a place where asphalt pits were located. It is the region that is believed to be the location of ancient Sodom and Gomorrah. It is a place identified with the miry clay of sin. Armies often tried to chase enemies into this region knowing that they would get stuck in the tar pits and be easy targets for defeat.  That is exactly what Satan seeks to do to all of us. He wants to chase us into the tar pits of sin.

Billy Sunday once said, "The reason sin flourishes is that we treat it like a cream puff instead of a rattlesnake." Sadly, many of us don't fall into the valley, we walk into it willingly. We chose to sin, even though we have been warned of the danger. We don't fall off the cliff, we simply walk right over the edge.

Once we are in the valley of sin, we can feel as though we are forever trapped in the miry clay that seeks to hold us there. But there is One who can lift us out of the muck and mire of our sin. Look at one of the familiar pictures of sin as presented in the Bible: Psalm 40:1-2:

"I waited patiently for the LORD;

He turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit,,

Out of the mud and mire;

He set my feet on a rock

And gave me a firm place to stand."

The Valley of Siddim is a picture of the miry clay of sin, and so many of God's children have ended up there:

Abraham sinned!

David sinned!

Simon Peter sinned!

In fact, we have all sinned, even after our redemption! I thank God for His forgiveness. He is the God of the second chance.

One of my great joys in the ministry has been to watch the Lord lift people up who have ended up in the Valley of Siddim. They have become trapped in the miry clay of sin, but along comes Jesus! He is the Good Samaritan. He does not leave us in the ditch. He lifts us up, He pours in the healing balm of the Holy Spirit, He pays the price in His own blood, restores us to our place of service in His name and grants us His peace and presence.

Jesus is watching from the porch for the Prodigal to come home. He is not the one keeping us in the valley of sin. He didn't put us there and does not wish for us to remain there.

Look at Micah 7:18-20, "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. You will be true to Jacob, and show mercy to Abraham, as you pledged an oath to our fathers in days long ago." Hallelujah, what a Savior!

A visitor at a fishing dock asked an old fisherman who was sitting there, "If I were to fall into this water, would I drown?" The fisherman had a good answer. "Naw," he said, "fallin' into the water don't drown anybody. It's staying under it that does." You can escape sin, because Christ is the Shepherd in the Valley of Sin. Turn to Him and He will lift you out!

Is there someone here today who needs to be lifted out of the valley of sin? Call to Him, because can be sure He is already calling to you. If you are lost on the mountain, like a sheep that has wandered away, He will come and get you. If you are lost in cracks of life, like a coin that has slipped into the carpet fibers, he will get a broom or vacuum and pull you out. If you have wandered away, be sure He is waiting for you to come home. He is the Savior for those in the valley of sin.

II. The Valley Of Elah - The Valley Of Problems

Another valley that we all must face in life is the Valley of Elah, or the Valley of Giants. You might well call this the Valley of Problems that seem too big to handle. You recall, I am sure, that the Valley of Elah is the place where David met Goliath. It was a place of giants, a place of battles. Yet, God was there with David.

All of us at times must deal with the Valley of Problems, the place where we face what seems to occupy insurmountable difficulties. Some of us fail to know how to deal with the problems of life. We have changed the hymn "Count Your Many Blessings," to one which says, "Count Your Many Problems."

"Count your many problems, name them one by one;

Think that victory never, ever will be won;

Cite your many troubles, count them o'er and o'er,

All your disappointments and frustrations will soar."

Two boys were overheard talking in the yard. One said, "Life is just full of problems. For example, my parents were so excited when I learned to walk. Then, they seemed even more excited when I learned to talk." The other boy asked what was wrong with that. The first boy continued, "Well, I learned to walk and learned to talk and soon as I did, they told me to sit down and shut up!" Yes, life is full of problems and they start very early in life. But wise is the young person or adult who learns that there is a Shepherd for the valleys of life, especially the valley of problems.

When I think of the valley of problems, I think of the Apostle Paul. He seemed to go from one difficulty to another. He was simply preaching God's Word and trying to help people come to a knowledge of the Savior, but he was shipwrecked, falsely arrested, beaten, hounded, hated, stoned, bitten by a snake, lied about by others, and constantly under stress; yet, he was used of God as no other. Some of his letters, that are so important to the New Testament, would not have been written if it were not for his prison experiences. Instead of cursing the problems, we need to rediscover the Shepherd of the valleys in which we must trod. 

III. The Valley Of Achor - The Valley Of Chastisement

Achor is where Achan was punished for taking from Jericho that which belonged only to the Lord. Sometimes God has to take us to Achor and chastise us. We read that God chastens those He loves, and some of us probably feel very unloved when we are in the midst of chastisement.

God's correction is a very necessary part of maturing as believers. Just as a child must be corrected and disciplined in order to grow up knowing how to handle responsibility, the Christian must be willing to accept chastisement as a means of growth and development.

Be assured that God does not chastise us to hurt us, but rather He does so to help you. He does not chastise us to destroy us, but He does so to deliver you. He does not chastise us to burden us, but He corrects us to bless us. God is present in the valley of chastisement.

Hebrews 12:5-6 reads, "And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: 'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone He accepts as a son.'"

Are you going through chastisement at this point in your life. Admit you need for the Lord to correct you. Be humble under the might hand of God and He will raise you up.

IV. The Valley Of Kidron - The Valley Of Tears

A cemetery is located just below the Eastern Gate, just outside the walls of Jerusalem in the Valley of Kidron. Samson, Saul, James and many others are buried there. Many tears were shed there. Suffering and sorrow are a part of this life, but there is One who will go with us through those valleys. Life is filled with tears, and many of them drop from our eyes in the cemeteries of this world. This world is, in fact, one great whirling orb of death. Longfellow penned,

"Art is long and time is fleeting,

And our hearts though stout and brave,

Still like muffled drums are beating,

Funeral dirges to the grave".

Each thump of our hearts is like a funeral drum beatingour way toward a cemetery. The most stout heart is simply a louder drum in the march toward the grave.

A woman was brought home from the hospital but her eight-year old daughter was unaware that she had a terminal disease. One day she overheard the doctor telling her father that he was afraid that his wife would die before the last leaves fall from the autumn trees. The next day the father went looking for his daughter who has not at the table at mealtime. He found her in the yard. She was picking up leaves and trying to sew them back unto the low hanging limbs of the trees.

You and I can't cheat death by staying in this world, but we can cheat death when we come to the valley of death. When Christ is your companion, you never really die. He just walks you over the Jordan to the other side.

Some years ago a preaching conference was held in South Carolina. I was privileged to hear the recording of a message preached at that conference. The preacher who delivered that messaged had been asked at the last minute to fill in for another preacher who had been scheduled to preach but had an emergency come up that prohibited him from being present. The visiting preacher spoke from Psalm 23. He closed speaking about verse 4. He told the audience that he had a dream just a couple nights before this conference. He related the contents of that dream to the audience. He dreamed he saw people in dark clothing going down to a river with heavy packages on their backs. They walked directly into the river and disappeared underneath. But, then, when they came up on the other side, they were in white robes. They were hugging and laughing. They marched off toward the rising sun coming up over a hill. He then told them that God had impressed him that the scene he saw in the dream was death. The river was the chilly Jordan. The weights on the backs of the people were the burdens of this life. When he saw them come out on the other side, he was observing the joy of our new life after death. We will wear a shiny robe of white purchased by our Lord one day. The weights of life will leave us. We will be with others who are there. He went on to say that he had always thought of heaven in a happy way, but never so realistically as he did after that dream. He told the audience that he would no doubt soon be going over. He felt the Lord had let him see the joy awaiting him. He left the platform as shouts of hallelujah and applause filled the air. He sat down, but before anyone else could stand to say another word, he slumped over on the floor. He was gone! He died right after that message. He had crossed the Jordan. Oh, thank God that we do not go down into the valley of death alone.

Yes, but there is one who will go with us through the valley of Tears and the valley of death. That One is the Chief Shepherd, the Good Shepherd - the risen Lord - Jesus Himself!

V. The Valley Of Eschol - The Valley Of Decision

The Hebrews came to the Valley of Eschol after leaving Egypt. They camped there to spy out the Promised Land. Twelve spies went into Canaan to look over the situation. They came back with conflicting reports. Ten of the spies saw the dangers, and only two of the spies saw the blessings. They had to make a decision. God was with them, but they decided wrongly. There is something so very tragic in this story. Their mistake meant forty years of wandering around in a desert rather than enjoying the victory of Canaan. Except for Joshua and Caleb, all the adults who were part of that decision died without setting foot in the Land of Promise. Decisions are important. We must be careful when deciding what we are going to do and not do. We must be sure we are consulting God when we make decisions. He is present in the Valley of Decision and will lead us aright if we will but seek Him.

Conclusion

Joel 3:14 speaks of multitudes who are in the Valley of Decision. This refers to the judgment of the Lord upon the wicked. In essence, this refers to the judgment based upon the wrong decision. But the mere sound of the words is haunting. "Multitudes, multitudes in the Valley of Decision." Someone is here today in the Valley of Decision. You are being called to the Lord for salvation. What will you do? Your judgment shall rest upon that decision. Oh, come to the Lord. Decide for the Lord.

Then, there are others in numerous valleys. The Lord will not allow you to walk through those valleys alone. "You are with me," the Psalmist wrote, "even when I am in the valley of the shadow of death." Perhaps you need to recommit your life to the Shepherd who is with you and for you in every valley.

Whether you need to come to the Shepherd for salvation, or you need to come to Him for comfort and renewal, you can come now. He is here. He is waiting. Let us respond.