Jason E. Fort
Valley of the Shadow of Death
"I love you Lord
And I lift my voice
To worship you, O my soul,
Take Joy my King
In what you hear;
Let it be a sweet, sweet sound
In your ear."
Odd what images words can bring to mind, don't you think? This morning, it was this place that I've actually seen in person, as we got out at an overlook on the side of a winding road in Israel, back when I was a freshman in college. I remember it like it was yesterday; I got off the tour bus and walked along the overlook, and stared down into this canyon, where the valley below was shrouded on one side by a large, dark shadow. I wish I still had the photo I took from the overlook; perhaps one day I will find it again. But I overheard my wife singing as she got ready this morning, and she sang these words. Knowing what many of us know about King David, he was a writer of Psalms, and singer in King Saul's court. Of course, Psalm 23:4 stands out most of all for me:
"4 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 used all of Psalm 23 in one of my novels, when I wanted one of my characters to give comfort to a child who struggled with fear. If you read the books in the Bible regarding the life of King David, especially before he was king, you would probably assume he had plenty of reasons to have fear. And part of King David's story has him on the run from King Saul, hiding in the canyons outside today's modern day Jerusalem. When I heard my wife's singing, I imagined King David, staring up at the walls of this canyon as he stood in the valley. I can imagine how ominous the shadow of the canyon walls may have seemed as he also thought about King Saul wanting him dead. And I can imagine David praying to God, then perhaps hoping a song like this would please the Lord.
Perhaps the writer of the hymn envisioned something else; maybe David actually singing something like this to King Saul himself. But the Valley of the Shadow of Death, as it is often referred from the King James version of Psalms, is a theme that I think can represent any of the darkness we encounter in this world. What if you or I were ever on the run? What if you ever felt like the walls were closing in, and you would do anything to please the Lord, if you knew He would protect you? That is how my weird mind works sometimes, just from hearing the words to a song to God. I just felt like sharing this morning.
Perhaps you feel like the walls are closing in on you today. If so, I encourage you to read Psalm 23 several times. Sing in your heart, to the Lord; sing out loud if you like. Praise the Lord, seek His kingdom, and His righteousness.
Then who knows? You may just find that you'll want to live in God's House forever.
My two cents - God bless anyone who cares to read this message, and I pray you will be well.