There is audio from Grace Assembly Church services.
Wednesday, June 2, 2021
There is audio from Grace Assembly Church services.
MYSTERY OF GODLINESS
Part 1 of 2
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” I Timothy 3:16
The word “Mystery” tells us of that which can be called a “sacred secret” of truth which had been previously hidden, and which must now be divinely revealed. “Great” expresses how important, weighty, of high degree and mighty this mystery is. Thus he says that this sacred secret is “undeniably, unquestionably, great beyond successful contradiction; confessedly great.” Paul calls this and one other mystery great. Eph. 5:32.
“Godliness,” is that which is of God, by God, pertains to God, according to or in harmony with, and thus like God. Who knows what God is like? How can we know? “To whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto him…to whom shall I be equal saith the Holy One?” Isa. 40:18,25.
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth: for in these things I delight saith the Lord” Jer. 9:24. Is He not revealed through our Lord Jesus Christ? Oh yes, we know it is true, we have found it so. Consider Jesus’ words in Mt. 11:27 or Lk. 10:22.
Our beloved apostle Paul here names six weighty, important features of factors in unfolding this mystery for our understanding, which originates and consummates in Jesus Christ. We, in considering, can see that they embody, and are exemplified in Christ, and thus somewhat in His people, those “in Him.”
“Manifest in the flesh:” God chose many different ways to reveal Himself to humanity in the Old Testament (Heb. 1:1). In the word translated “manifest” we get the thought to uncover, lay bare, reveal, thus made visible in human form.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” Jn. 1:1,14. Read also verses 15-18. The glory of God’s holiness was seen through the Law, but the glory of His grace and truth shines forth in the face of Jesus Christ.
In Romans 8:3 we read that He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin in the flesh. In Philippians 2:7-8, we understand that He was found in fashion as a men, to humble Himself and become obedient to the death of the cross. What a mystery! How could the creator of all things be tabernacled in a human body? Mary was told by the heavenly messenger, how this would begin - Lk. 1:35 (26-28).
“Justified in the Spirit:” Some translations read “vindicated,” He was declared or proven righteous. Pilate was caused to say repeatedly, “I find no fault in him.” The centurion said, “Truly, this was a just man, the Son of God.” But the people beholding the crucifixion said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he be the Christ the chosen of God.” One of the men crucified beside Jesus said, “This man hath done nothing amiss (wrong).” “Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,…He trusted in God; let him deliver him if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” Mt. 27:41,43. In Jesus’ temptation Satan had questioned our dear Lord’s
Sonship, but Jesus answered him with the Word, “It is written.”
Thank God, that the Father Himself answered all these foolish accusations in no uncertain terms. It was wonderful the way He spoke from heaven when Jesus was baptized. As Jesus ascended out of the water, the heavens were opened unto Him, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like as a dove and the Father from heaven is heard commending Him, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” Mt. 3:17.
Later when Jesus had taken Peter, James, and John up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them, “behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” Mt. 17:5.
These are assuring statements. However, when God raised His Son from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Father made the ultimate declaration of His pleasure and satisfaction in Him.
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the Spirit” I Pet. 3:18.
God’s promise concerning Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” Rom. 1:3-4. We also read that Jesus was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification Rom. 4:25. Read also Rom. 8:11.
“Seen of angels:” Jesus was made visible to messengers both angelic and human, heavenly and of the earth. When the angel of the Lord brought the message to the shepherds of Jesus’ birth, he suddenly was accompanied by a multitude of heavenly host witnessing His birth.
Jesus was seen and borne witness to by a messenger of the heavenly variety after His resurrection. An angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and rolled back the stone and sat upon it. Then he told the women that came to the tomb, “Fear not: for I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come see the place where the Lord lay…go…tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead…He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you” Mt. 28:1-7.
It was so important that our Lord be seen of witnesses after his resurrection, especially earthly messengers. Consider Acts 1:3 and 10:39-43. Oh, yes, he gave many infallible proofs, for forth days, before He ascended unto heaven. The apostle Paul innumerates many of the resurrection messengers, and then mentions himself. Steven while being stoned to death said “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” We see Jesus today by eyes of faith, crowned with glory and honor. Soon, praise God, we will see Him face to face.
“Preached unto the Gentiles:” “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” I Cor. 2:21. We do well to be mindful that the Gospel preached was not a set of by-laws, a system of do’s and do not’s, for formal creed, but the person of Jesus Christ.
Well praise God, what an offer, we Gentiles received opportunity to partake in this mystery of Godliness. When the Jews rejected the gospel, Paul and Barnabas boldly told them, “lo, we turn to the Gentiles Acts 13:46. When they returned from their missionary journey they reported what God had done with them, “and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. Let us read Eph. 3:8 and rejoice!
To be continued
Anita Clark – Pastor
“Know therefore that the LORD thy God, He is God, the Faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.” Deuteronomy 7:9
The first thing we want to establish is that our God is a FAITHFUL GOD. Isaiah 49:7 declares “The LORD that is faithful...shall choose thee.” He chose Israel to be His own peculiar treasure and He has chosen us, all who believe, to be His own beloved people. God’s very nature is LOVE (I John 4:8). Because of His great and marvelous love, He will always be faithful to those who believe in Him and love Him.
I Corinthians 1:9, states, “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Also, in I Corinthians 10:13, we read about the essence of God’s wonderful enduring faithfulness. The Amplified Bible, which gives the meanings of the Greek words in the original text, puts it this way, “For no temptation - no trial regarded as enticing to sin [no matter how it comes or where it leads] - has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man - that is no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear, But God is faithful [to His Word and the His compassionate nature], and He can be trusted not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out - the means of escape to a landing place - that you may be capable and strong and powerful patiently to bear up under it.”
II Thessalonians 3:3 tells us, “But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.” From these Scriptures and many others, and in His dealings with us by experience, we are completely persuaded of God’s complete faithfulness to us.
The other side of the coin, we might say, is OUR FAITHFULNESS to God. We can only be faithful by yielding to Him, and by letting the life of Christ dominate our being. This comes about by, “letting the Word of Christ dwell in you richly,” as Colossians 3:16 says. The word “dwell” in some places means “to occupy a house, reside, remain, or inhabit.” When we believe in Christ a change takes place. We become a new person, as the Bible states, “a new creature” - II Cor. 5:17. As He dwells in us - we become more like Him. He is Faithful - we become Faithful! As we yield to Christ and His work in our lives, we take on the characteristics of Jesus Christ and our Father God. Colossians 1:27, declares “Christ in you the hope of glory.”
One of my favorite verses is Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” In Galatians 5:22-23, The fruit of the Spirit is recorded. These traits are from the new life of Christ in us. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance against such there is no law. The Amplified Version records that the word “faith” here speaks of “faithfulness.” Of course we know that the life of Christ in us manifests “faith” but also, “faithfulness.” The Holy Spirit within us produces these traits as we yield our will to the Lord. Faithfulness will come forth in our lives as we walk with God and grow, becoming spiritually mature.
In the New Testament the word “Faithfulness” means “trustworthy, sure and true.” Some of the ways it is manifested in our lives is that others see this trait in us, we can be trusted because we are faithful. We learn to be faithful following God’s Word in spiritual things and natural things. One of those things the Word teaches us to do is to recognize that we as a member of the body of Christ we need to obey the Word in coming together to worship and minister to each other. As the Apostle Paul particularly teaches in his writings that each member of the body or church has a gift to serve and edify other members of the group, So, if we are to be faithful to obey the Lord and the Word of God, we will faithfully fulfill whatever calling God has given particularly to us individually for the edification of other members of the body of believers. God has not called us to be alone, but has a wondrous plan to use us to help others grow up into Christ in all things. LET US BE FAITHFUL BY GOD’S GRACE AND STRENGTH!
WE SEE JESUS
Pastor Floyd H. Crook
(Sermon given at Pentecostal Grace Camp Meeting in Topeka, Kansas, 1982)
“THEREFORE we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip….Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet….But now we see not yet all things put under him. BUT WE SEE JESUS, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste DEATH FOR EVERY MAN.” Hebrews 2:1,8b,9.
WE SEE JESUS! This is the all important thing in the life of every individual. Some saw Jesus with their natural eyes. Many places where the Bible speaks of seeing Jesus, it speaks in the figurative sense, and means “to have discernment, to acknowledge Jesus,” which means Savior.
On one occasion a little fellow who heard that Jesus was to pass by a certain way, being a short person, realized he would not be able to see above the crowd, so He climbed up into a sycamore tree. It seems that Jesus saw him first. Others were around him, but He looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to-day I must abide at thy house.” Luke 19:5.
Another time certain disciples came to Philip and said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” When Jesus and the disciples were on the mount of trans-figuration, where Moses and Elijah talked with Him, (and after a period of time went off of the scene), we read this wonderful statement: “... they saw no man any more, save Jesus only...” The law and the prophets were fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ, We need to see Jesus today; although there may be people all around us. It is amazing, as we read the Word of God, how from beginning to end, WE SEE JESUS. He is the one that is set forth.
JESUS THE ROCK OF AGES
We are told of the wanderings of the children of Israel in the wilderness, of their complaining and idolatry; yet there was a spiritual ROCK that followed them and that Rock was CHRIST. He is the Rock of Ages. Jesus is pictured in the Word farther back than our minds can fathom. He was in the beginning. Our reasoning minds would tell us there was a beginning, but there was not, as far as God is concerned. He WAS and IS the ETERNAL ONE; the self-existent One.
There was a beginning, as far as this earth is concerned, “and without Him was not any thing made that was made.” We were taught in school that man began with a little crystal cell and finally developed into a man. How can any one be so dense as to believe this? History has been kept a long time, but there is no record that a man came from a monkey. (They act like it some times.) OUR SOURCE IS GOD!
THE PROMISE OF A REDEEMER
After Adam and Eve sinned, God promised a Redeemer, and various ones down through the ages, waited for the promised One to come. In God’s time, in due time, at exactly the right time, a little Babe was born in Bethlehem. We see Jesus, coming down here, in a body of flesh and blood. We can’t understand nor explain it. Jesus Christ, the Eternal One, who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, became a helpless, defenseless dependent Babe.
Now as man looked upon Him, He was just like any other Babe, but we have the record of a man to whom it was revealed that he should not see death, before he had seen the LORD’S Christ. When they took Jesus into the temple to circumcise Him, Simeon took Jesus in his arms and said, “Lord, now let thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: FOR MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THY SALVATION.’ Luke 2:29-30.
God’s salvation wrapped up in a little Babe - isn’t that a marvelous statement? He was to be a light to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel. This can be said of no other one!
He had no sooner been born until the ruler got a little shaky, and thought he would play a trick on the wise men from the east. He thought he had a sure plan to get rid of this One who was supposed to be the King. God went before Him, and took Him from the reach of the ruler that would have destroyed Him. As far as history is concerned, we have no record of Him for several years, then He appeared before some of those “smart fellows.” He was hearing and asking them questions. They were amazed at the wisdom with which He spoke. He was wisdom personified! He is made to us, “wisdom and righteousness, and sancti-fication, and redemption.” Cor. 1 :30.
So all through His earthly life, men tried to take His life. On one occasion when His life was threatened, we have this statement, “His hour had not yet come.” You see there was an appointed time, not only for Him to come into the world, but when He should die. in spite of all of the threats of men, He fulfilled the ministry God gave Him to do.
To be continued
Daniel 8 continued
As we continue with verse 12, remember the reference to the “pleasant land” in V. 9 is the land of Israel. “The host of heaven” (V. 10) refers to the people of Israel and the “stars” speak of the religious leaders, their luminaries. So these end time events are how the “little horn” will effect Israel. Verse 11 gives the reason the little horn is allowed to take away the daily sacrifice and the sanctuary cast down, it is a judgment of the Jews. They will be wholly given over into the hands of this godless little horn (the false prophet) for a specified time. Everything in this chapter 8 stamps it of a religious character. While the little horn of chapter 7 is a Gentile king of the political world (the Antichrist).
The false prophet could be a Jew, (he comes up out of the earth - Rev. 13:11) a religious man, cosmopolitan in nature, as if for all men Jews and Gentiles. Verses 13 & 14 answer the question of how long the desecration will continue (2300 days or 6 years 4 months and 20 days). In verses 15-19, Daniel seeks to know the truth concerning the vision. The angel draws near and speaks, “understand, O son of man.” Daniel is given an open ear and an understanding heart. The vision shall be at “the time of the end,” “the last, end” and “at the time appointed the end shall be” (Vs. 17 & 19). And we shall read in V. 26, the vision is yet for “many days.”
Vs. 20-22, the vision is interpreted. And in Vs. 23 the little horn is called, “a king of fierce countenance” which becomes powerful in the south, the east, and in the pleasant land (V. 9). The north and western portions are not mentioned, so he must come from one of these sections of the empire (Greece or Asia Minor). Antiochus Epiphanes came from Syria, a country of Asia Minor. He was a fore runner, a picture of the false prophet of the last days, yet to be manifested.
V. 24, his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power – Satan empowers him. Craft shall prosper in his hand, he shall magnify himself and by peace destroy many V. 25. We read of both in Revelation chapter 13; the little horn of Daniel 7 (the Antichrist a political man) who gains power and will put him-self up as God, for he is raised from the dead by Satan. The little horn of chapter 8 (the false prophet comes from the quite, steady, established religious world). These two will work hand in glove together energized by Satan. They will influence the world nationally and religiously. The world will obey one and worship the other. It takes 2 men to counterfeit Christ in these two offices. In Christ’s first advent He was Messiah, the Prophet. In His second advent, He will be Messiah, the King.
We read in II Thess. 2:3-4, Satan gives the Antichrist his power and place of authority. And in II Thess. 2:8-10 Satan gives the false prophet power to do signs and lying wonders. V. 7 tells us that the mystery of iniquity doth already work. Just think the spirit of anti-Christ at work in the world all this time - I Jn. 4:1-4. It is the world system of rebellion against God.
II Thessalonians tells us there is some force that hinders the spirit of iniquity, it is the mystery of Godliness – II Thess. 2:6-7. God’s people are a part of the mystery of Godliness which hinders. When the mystery of Godliness is taken out of the way (the rapture of the full over comers), the mystery of iniquity will have its day. People who reject Christ, the truth, they will radially accept what the false prophet says.
The Prince of princes (V. 25) is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ. The world awaits His return to the earth, and when He comes the King of fierce countenance “shall be broken without hand” without the aid of a human hand. “Whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming” – II Thess. 2:8. Read also Rev. 19:11-13,15-16,19-20.
V. 26 – The vision is true. The first and partial fulfillment was in Antiochus, but there will be the final and perfect fulfillment yet future. Daniel is to shut up the vision, preserve it.
Daniel fainted and was sick for certain days to know the sufferings of his own people, but he went about and faithfully fulfilled his daily duties in the corrupt Babylonian court (V. 27). One day soon when the Jews are so persecuted, they will remember their prophet Daniel whom they have ignored for the most part. They will remember that he wrote of the last days and they will turn to his writing and search them out They will want to understand what he has written.
Next issue: Daniel is informed of the seventy weeks.
Debra Isenbletter, Pastor Springfield, Missouri
Jonah 2:3: “For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.” In this verse we see Jonah Overcome and Overwhelmed and at the same time we see Grace in the midst of Judgment.
Jonah is Overcome when he says: “For thou hast cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas.” He acknowledges the Lord: “For thou;” He acknowledges the Lord’s power: “hast cast;” He acknowledges his weakness: “me.” He cannot resist, he can only submit. Jonah does not blame the sailors, He knows who is responsible. It is the Lord. He knows that it is because of his relationship with the Lord and his responsibility to the Lord. Though the sailors did this, and Jonah had told them to do this, God had allowed them to do this. God is responsible. This is his acceptance, the beginning of his lesson and growth. Jonah sees “thou” and he sees “me,” Jonah has a relationship with God. But Jonah needs to let go of “me” of self, he needs to see only the Lord. Jonah says: “For thou hast cast me in…” Yes, Jonah was cast in but he was not cast out. He was cast “in” a place of suffering, it was a place of confinement, but it was also a place of preservation. That is God’s grace and mercy in the midst of judgment. And this also becomes a place of instruction because Jonah will learn about himself, learn about his God and lay hold of the promises that he knew in the scriptures that now will become a reality through his experience. That is what often happens in our own lives. Personal experience teaches us the real power of the scriptures. Jonah will learn to be like Job in his experience. “Then Job arose and … worshiped … And said … the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21-22).
Jonah has been cast “into the deep” and that word “into” hints that there is also an “out of.” Here we see God’s justice balanced with God’s mercy. The word “deep” is from a root meaning “an abyss.” It is a deep place, a dark place, a bottomless place. Jonah cannot see the end of the experience he is in. He looks around and there is only darkness and despair and the only light there will be the light he finds in the scriptures that he remembers and the promises he embraces.
Jonah has been cast “in the midst of the seas.” The “midst” speaks of “the heart, the interior.” It is like the center of a tornado, the eye of the storm, a place of quiet. The storm still surrounds but there is a break, a pause. It can be translated “the inner man” or “the mind, the heart, the soul.” It can also speak of that part of us that cannot be touched by outside circumstances. It is the place Jonah is brought to so that he can examine himself and hear the Lord speak to him. The word “seas” comes from “to roar” (as a noisy surf breaking on the rocks).” It is plural, speaking of many and can speak of the Gentile nations which are violent and in turmoil because they are the wicked and are never at rest. “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest …” (Isa.57:20). This is the place the Jews have been cast into through judgment and it is the place where they will learn to see their Deliverer, their Messiah.
This is an impossible place and yet it is a place filled with possibilities. The Lord put him in this place. The Lord can remove him from this place. This is also a double enclosure, it is a place within a place. It is a place (the deep) within another place (the seas). It is a double hiding place that is found in Christ, in God. “For ye are dead and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col.3:3). It is a place found by faith, discovered through the Promises of God and Jonah will find that place. It is a place of preservation and a place of revelation.
Jonah is overwhelmed: “and all the floods compassed me about: “all thy billows and thy waves passed over me.” I have broken this verse into two topics: The Means of Judgment (floods, billows, waves) and the Measure of Judgment (compassed, passed over). He has been overcome, and finds brief refuge. Now as he looks back at what has happened, he is overwhelmed but through it he will learn to overcome and not be overcome. Every experience we go through are lessons that teach us how to overcome, and at different times we will be overwhelmed, but we learn to overcome on that day, until the next day, until the day we are finally delivered. Like Jonah, we are first overcome, then overwhelmed, then we overcome.
The Means of Judgment: “and all the floods … all thy billows and thy waves.” The word “all” shows full judgment. Jonah experienced all these things. The word “thy” shows the source, shows the Judge. Jonah acknowledged that his God was responsible and he accepted God’s judgment. The words “floods, billows and waves” show the degrees of judgment. These are three different types of water, three levels of turmoil and turbulence. They picture different levels of suffering but they are all under God’s control. He chooses whatever means He needs to bring us to that place of overcoming.
The Measure of Judgment; “compassed me about … passed me over.” Jonah said he was “compassed about,” that he was “surrounded on every side,” that he was “enclosed.” He was compassed but he was not crushed. He was enclosed by God’s Mercy and Grace. He was surrounded on every side by God’s Promises. Jonah said all those judgments “passed over me.” They “overtook” me. They “passed through” me. They “carried me over, brought me over, conducted me over.” Jonah lets them pass over him, he lets them pass by, he surrenders to them. He lets them overtake him, knowing he cannot outrun them. He will pass through them, they are temporary trials. He will let them carry and conduct him to a closer revelation and fellowship with God. This is a description of God’s judgment balanced with God’s mercy. Nothing could touch him but what his God allowed. He was surrounded on every side and enclosed. He could not get out but nothing could get in. He was preserved and protected while he was disciplined. This reminds me of Paul’s sufferings and persecution when Paul said: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed…” (2Co.4:8-9).
Jonah had to experience all these things to learn from them. He learns his weakness and there finds his strength. “…for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2Co.12:12). He is brought low so that he can be lifted up. “…know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound” (Phil.4:12). Jonah looks backs to the Psalms and cries out from the Word. This is where he finds his strength. He remembers David’s Psalms (Psa.18:4; Psa.69:2; Psa.69:14). The remembers the Teaching Psalms (Maschil Psalms). (Psa.42:7; Psa.88:6). In those Psalms we have descriptions of the same experience Jonah is going through. He draws on these scriptures and finds comfort and hope. His cry is the cry of the suffering Savior. It is the cry of the suffering Saint (both Old Testament and New Testament). It is the cry of the suffering Remnant (past, present and future). His cry shows the power of the Word of God in our lives.
By Vicky Moots
Psalm 23:4a: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”. Notice first of all that David says, “I walk through the valley.” He does not stay in the valley, and neither do we have to, but we must walk through it. The children of Israel had to walk through the wilderness to get to the promised land of Canaan. God had a purpose in doing that. He wanted them to learn to trust Him for all their needs and to strengthen them for the battles that He knew would lie ahead of them. There were giants in the land of Canaan that would need to be overcome through faith in God’s power, not in themselves. The wilderness, due to its lack of water and food supply, would teach them to trust God. They were, in fact, like sheep being led by their shepherd through the wilderness. He provided them food and water miraculously for forty years. There were no green pastures in the wilderness, but they had to be led through the wilderness in order to reach the green pastures of Canaan. However, they were not always willing to be led and often rebelled against the Lord.
It was only an eleven-day journey from Egypt to Canaan, but it took them forty years because of their unbelief (Num. 14). Those who had faith made it through because God promised them that they would. We go through valleys for a reason. Don’t pray to be taken out of your trial, or your wilderness experience. Pray for the Lord to teach you through it what He wants you to learn so you won’t have to go through it again. Valleys and trials are not permanent, even though they may seem like it at the time. They serve a purpose, and we must stay in them until that purpose in our lives is completed.
Paul tells us in II Cor. 4:17 that the trials are only temporary. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” He was saying that the reward, the glory, was eternal, but not the trial. Paul’s afflictions and trials were not exactly what I would call “light” or “but for a moment” and neither are ours. Paul was beaten and left for dead, he was imprisoned, he was shipwrecked, and there were many other times when he barely escaped with his life. He could only refer to his trials as “light” and “momentary” when he compared them to eternity and to the rewards that he would receive in Heaven. He looked beyond his suffering to God’s eternal purpose for his life. We must be willing to do the same. Our Shepherd must take us through some dark valleys at times in order to reach greener pastures on the other side. Valley experiences increase our faith and cause us to grow spiritually, for we learn to draw closer to our Shepherd during those uncertain and dark times.
Paul encourages us in Rom. 8:28. He said, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Paul learned this by experience in his own life. He didn’t say, “I’m pretty sure that if you stick with it, everything is going to work out for the best, so just hang in there.” No! He said, “I know!” There was no doubt in his mind for it had already been proven to him by God, He had first-hand evidence. God will also use our trials to work His purpose in our lives, if we will let Him.
The valley in this Psalm is called “the valley of death;” it is only a shadow. A shadow requires light in order to be produced. A shadow is a guarantee that the sun is shining on the other side. It is evidence that the light exists. Just like faith, it is the evidence of things not seen. We do not like shadows because we cannot see clearly when we are in them. But if we could see clearly, we would not need faith. We do not need to fear shadows or to fear death if we know the Shepherd. Jesus, the light of the world, conquered death when He went to the cross. Now, it is only a shadow and no longer has a sting. The Good Shepherd laid down His life and tasted death for all His sheep that we may follow Him through our valley and be victorious. He leads us through many valleys in our lifetime where death may seem eminent, or even preferable, but we are not expected to walk through them alone, and they are not without a purpose.
God never wastes our pain or tears. David tells us in Psalm 56:8 that our tears are so precious to God that He keeps them in His special bottle. Even Jesus wept when He was sorrowful after the death of His friend Lazarus. We also are instructed to weep with them that weep. In Isa. 38:5 we see that God comforted Hezekiah with these words when he was faced with death: “…I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears...”. We can continue to walk through our valleys, through our tears, by faith, knowing that our Shepherd is with us and will never leave us or forsake us.
Psalm 23:4b: “I will fear no evil for thou art with me.” It is normal to fear a dark, gloomy place if you are alone and don’t know what lies ahead of you because you can’t see it. But the fear is gone if you can hold the hand of someone you trust, someone who knows the way because He has been there before is able to protect you from harm.
The word “evil” means “something harmful or bad” and would refer to anything that has the potential to hurt or harm you in any way. It is not just referring to sinful things. A shepherd’s duty is to protect the sheep from danger, from predators, snakes, poisonous weeds or anything else that could harm them.
As Christians, we do not need to fear Satan, the evil one, because our Shepherd defeated him at the cross of Calvary, but he does try to put fear in our minds. Sometimes circumstances that are unexpected that happen in our lives, affecting us or our family members, that can darken our pathway and have the potential to cause us to fear.
For me, personally, I experienced this situation when I was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer 2 1/2 years ago. At that point I did not know what lay ahead of me. I knew the cancer would take my life if it was not treated and that it might not even respond to treatment. I also knew that the treatment itself, which included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, also had the potential to harm me and cause side effects. But this verse showed me that I did not need to fear that evil thing in my dark valley, because the Lord, my Shepherd, promised to be with me all the way. I did not need to fear the cancer, or the treatment or death.
God encouraged Joshua after Moses dies, in Josh. 1:9 “…Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” He has also promised to be with us, and He will lead us all the way through our valley to the other side. We are promised again by the Lord in Isa. 41:10: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”
If you find yourself crippled by fear, it may be because you are not fully trusting in the Shepherd to never leave you or that you do not understand how much He loves you. His love for you is not based on any merit of your own. He will not stop loving you even if you happen to stray or stumble. A shepherd will carry a lamb that is unable to walk on his shoulders until it is able to walk again. Our Shepherd’s love is even greater than that.
We are told in I John 4:18 that “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear…”. Allow His love to be perfected, or fulfilled, in you by accepting it completely without questioning it. The apostle Paul assured us in Rom. 8:35-39 that nothing (no person, no power, no thing, no circumstance) is able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus (not even death). Jesus loved you enough to die for you. There can be no greater love than that. His love cannot fail even when you do. It is a love that is eternal, a love that you can trust. Let His love cast out your fear, for His love is perfect.
Paul prayed a prayer for us in Eph. 3:17-19: “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge…”. How can we know something that passes knowledge? His love is so great that our minds cannot comprehend it. We have to experience it personally in order to know it. We experience it during the dark times when we need it the most, especially during the times He has to carry us on His shoulders.
We find out how deep His love is when He reaches down to us after we have fallen, or when we are in the depths of depression. We find out how high it will go when we are lifted up with pride and He has to bring us back down. We find out the breadth of His love when we experience how far He will go to bring us back after we have strayed. What about the length of His love? It is eternal and never runs out or wears out. We learn His love as we experience it in our lives, with our hearts.
We are safe in the Shepherd’s care, no matter how dark the valley. We have no need to fear, for He will always be with us. “I will fear no evil for thou are with me.”
To be continued