Pastor Debra Isenbletter
Christian Assembly, Springfield, Missouri
The Valley of the Shadow of Death (Ps. 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.” There are several comforting thoughts associated with this valley, one is that we “walk through” the valley, we don’t stay there, and when we walk through this valley, we don’t walk alone. David said, “for thou art with me,” the Lord walks with each child of God that walks through this valley. The other comforting thought is that in this valley death is only a shadow, it has no substance, no reality, we may see the shadow but that is all and a shadow can’t hurt us.
There may be times when we walk through this valley and yet we don’t die, we come through the valley, as with a long illness. Hezekiah “sick unto death.” (II Kings 20:1) The Lord told Hezekiah to set his house in order, “for thou shalt die” and Hezekiah cried unto the Lord and wept before the Lord and the Lord said, “I have seen thy tears: behold, I will heal thee…And I will add unto thy days fifteen years; (II Kings 20:5-6). There was a healing for Hezekiah, he walked through this valley. Paul walked through the valley of the shadow of death when he was stoned at Lystra. “And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. Howbeit, as the disciples stood round about him, he rose up, and came into the city.” (Acts 14:19-20).
Jesus brought Lazarus through this valley of death when He brought him up from the grave to show that one day death would only be a shadow with no substance. Jesus is the One who has walked through this valley for us and now He walks through this valley with us and it has no power to hurt us. It is because He willingly went into this valley and died for us and in our place, that death has no power, it is only a shadow. At Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lieth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:25-26). The child of God who believes this sees only the shadow of death! This is part of the rod and staff that comfort us as we walk through the valley.
The message of the gospel is, “He is risen.” There may come a time when we walk through this valley and see the shadow of death but we know it is only a shadow, it has no power over us, and it cannot hurt us. Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death.” (John 8:51). What did He mean? One of the meanings for “see” is “one who looks at a thing with interest and for a purpose.” Kenneth Wuest says, “A Christian as he is dying will not look at death with interest, he will have his eyes on Jesus.” How can we do that? It is because going through this valley we see the victory of resurrection and Jesus has already passed through this valley for us and will always go with us. We see a risen Savior! Here is the basis for our victory, we don’t see death – we see Christ – we see Life! When we believe this then we see that “Death is shallowed up in victory.” (I Cor. 15:54)