PSALM 23 – # 04 – The CRISIS the Journey PRODUCES
Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and staff comfort me – Psalm 23:4.
The first clause presents us with some obvious conclusions:
- We are NOT valley dwellers. In the valley we are in transit;
- It is a valley of shadows NOT substance;
- We need to keep walking.
Our Good Shepherd Himself and all alone passed through the VALLEY OF DEATH. We have a view of that passage in Psalm 22, which is the PSALM OF THE CROSS and obviously the prelude to this Psalm 23 which is the PSALM of the SHEPHERD and SHEEP. It has been that Psalms 22 to 24 form a:
- Psalm 22 – THE SAVIOUR’S CROSS;
- Psalm 23 – THE SHEPHERD’S CROOK (STAFF); and
- Psalm 24 – THE SOVEREIGN’S CROWN.
Only Christ the Good Shepherd walked into and through the Valley of Death and as a result of that victorious passage through we, His true followers, have lost all fear of death. For us the Valley is a mere shadow, because the Shepherd has removed the substance:
I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be your plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction – Hosea 13:14.
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory – 1st Corinthians 15:55.
The Psalmist assures us of two reasons why we need “fear no evil” in the valley of the shadow of death. Firstly because of the presence of The Shepherd – “you are with me”; and secondly because of what THE SHEPHERD holds in His Hand – “your rod and staff comfort me”. The Shepherd holds a rod with which to drive off the enemy and a staff with which to protect the sheep from its own folly in tending to wander and go astray. The staff will be hooked around the neck of the sheep to pull it back onto the right path.
Taking the full Psalm in context and realising that The Shepherd remains with and continues to lead the sheep as they together pass into and through the valley there are salient lessons to be learned in respect of this CRISIS.
- There was nothing wrong with the COMMENCEMENT OF THE JOURNEY. The sheep bleated out his faith confession, which was true each day – THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD; and
- There was nothing wrong with the COURSE OF THE JOURNEY. The Shepherd led the sheep in paths which were right and which restored his soul; so
- The CRISIS was not caused by some intrusion by an enemy. It was simply par of the COURSE. The Shepherd leads the sheep into and through the valley.
Here are truths, which are sadly so often overlooked in respect of the journey and circumstances of the Christian as he follows his Lord. It is something that the so called positive faith confession people fail to grasp.
I recall an occasion when I was preaching in Perth when I made reference to my then aging father who has since, at the age of 87 gone to be with his Lord. After the service I was approached by a man who accused me of lacking faith, because I had suggested that my dad’s sickness was part of God’s plan. He said that my father should be like Jacob who, “Tucked his feet up in bed and died.” The implication of the man’s approach to me was obvious – the patriarch Jacob, he implied, did not suffer sickness and died healthy and well. However the Bible states otherwise.
In Genesis 48 we read of Jacob’s sickness though we are not told what it was. Clearly it was sufficiently serious for his son Joseph to take action. The subsequent passage of scripture makes it clear that it was terminal. I suggest that you read the entire section of scripture – Genesis chapters 48 to 49:
Genesis 48 verse 1 – It came to pass after these things, that one told Joseph, ‘Behold, your father is sick: and he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim …. Verse 21 Israel said to Joseph, ‘Behold, I die’ ….”.
In the purpose and plan of God Jacob’s sickness led to the remarkable prophetic blessings of his two grandsons and later of his own twelve sons, whom we refer to as The Tribes of Israel. It was Jacob’s sickness that led to his death.
Genesis 49 verse 33 – When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people.
To suggest, as did the man who accosted me following my preaching in Perth, that Jacob simply died without any physical contributing factors, simply reveals a gross ignorance of the Word and Will of God. Like so much that emanates from the Word of Faith and the Prosperity Teaching circles it shows a superficial reading and understanding of the Bible.
Of course THE CRISIS is not always sickness and I honestly believe that our Good Shepherd is well able to deliver us from all sickness in His will and for His glory. On our CWM You Tube channel is a message I brought many years ago entitled By Whose Stripes we are Healed which I believe does not refer principally to physical healing but it includes it – go to: Healing in the Atonement. I trust the message will prove a blessing to you.
My point is that sickness is not always an intruder as a consequence of sin or failure on our part, though it can be sometimes. This Psalm points to the fact that it may simply be par of the course. If as a “sheep of His pasture” the chief Shepherd leads us into the Crisis there must be a reason.
On the website to which I referred in an earlier blog in this series there is listed a number of “100 year old photographs which depict the life of shepherds in ancient Palestine”. Some of these show the Ain Farah region just north east of Jerusalem which is claimed to be the region where King David as a shepherd boy tended his sheep. According to the website the so called Wadi Fara is “a deep cleft nine miles north east of Jerusalem which becomes deeper and narrower as it runs through the almost perpetual twilight of the valley of the shadow of death down to the plain of Jericho….Until 1926, only hermits and shepherds frequented the valley, which was the haunt of coneys (rabbits) and porcupines.” The photographs are available for purchase from the website – http://www.shepherdsinisrael.com/
On that website there is this observation:
“If night overtakes the shepherd before he reaches the fold (which he usually does by sunset) he uses his staff as a sounding rod, striking the ground with it as he goes along, producing a ringing sound for which the tired sheep listen; for by it, they can follow in the path picked out for them by their shepherd.”
It is by this means that the sheep are finally led through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, because the crisis is not the end of the journey. There is a CLIMAX to follow, but the point is there will be a CRISIS (may be more than one) in the Journey of the Sheep as we follow the Shepherd, simply because the method of God involves a crisis. As Dr. G. Campbell Morgan , who has been rightly called ”The Prince of Preachers”, writes in his masterpiece, The Crises of the Christ, which in my opinion should occupy pride of place in every preacher’s library:
“In all the works of God there is to be discovered an unvarying method of process and crisis. The process is slow and difficult to watch in its progress. The crisis is sudden and flames with a light, which, flashing back upon the process, explains it; and forward, indicates a new line of action, which after all is the continuity of that which has preceded it.” 
For those with eyes to see the light flashing from a crisis shines both backwards and forwards and it illuminates the path in both directions. Have you ever questioned God in the journey? You are in good company. Our Lord questioned from the Cross – “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” – Psalm 22:1. If you read and understand that Psalm of the Cross, which we will look at in another series of blogs, you will see that the Crisis that Christ faced is exactly this light shining backwards and forwards. In reality it explains the mystery of His birth, life and work but more than that it sheds light on His prophetic future. As I say we will look at that later. Suffice it for the present to apply the truth to our own journey for in both of these Psalms (#22 & #23) we see not only the Shepherd but also the sheep. We are the “sheep of His pasture” following the Good Shepherd.
It is part of God’s purpose and plan for our lives that we experience crises for two very good reasons. Firstly so that the reality of the temporary nature of “the valley of the shadow” becomes increasingly known to us – one man remarked – “I am pleased that the Bible so often says, ‘It came to pass. It means that it didn’t come to stay’. The second and more basic reason is so that we can detect the Hand of the Shepherd in leading us into and through the trying circumstances of life. In saying that I do not mean to imply that everything that occurs to us is ordered by God. If that were the case then God should be blamed for everything, which is a foolish position to take. No, some things are the result of our own folly and rebellion and in those cases, in hindsight we can see how God arranges a means of rescue so that ultimately we can acknowledge with Paul, the apostle that “All things work togther fpor GOOD to those who please God and are called according to His purpose” – Romans 8:28.
All the Way my Saviour Leads – by Fanny Crosby (1820-1915).
In the Sankey hymnal (page 320) is the following comment:
Fanny Crosby had been the recipient of a very unexpected temporal blessing, and while seated in her quiet room, meditating on the goodness of God to her and all his ways, this hymn flashed into her mind. It was written out and given to Robert Lowry, who wrote the fine tune which has given it wings, and carried it into millions of homes and hearts. Sankey, p. 320
All the way my Saviour leads me;
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heav’nly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well;
For I know, whate’er befall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
All the way my Saviour leads me,
Cheers each winding path I tread;
Gives me grace for every trial,
Feeds me with the living bread.
Though my weary steps may falter,
And my soul athirst may be,
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see;
Gushing from the rock before me,
Lo! A spring of joy I see.
All the way my Saviour leads me
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way;
This my song through endless ages—
Jesus led me all the way.
NEXT – PSALM 23 #05 – THE CLIMAX THE JOURNEY REACHES
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 The Crises of the Christ Pub. Pickering & Inglis – 1935, 47 & 56 – page 11