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21 minuten leestijd

“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.”—Psalm 23:4.

WE know David from Holy Writ as the King of Israel. What was David in his youth? He was a shepherd. He took care of the flock of his father, Jesse; therefore he knew very well the life of a shepherd. He was also the composer of many psalms, and a prophet of the most High. When he spoke about the life of God’s people he used many examples from daily life. Take as an example Psalm 23, a well-known Psalm. Do you know that Psalm by your own experience? If we know Psalm 23, we have also experienced Psalm 22. There is close connection between Psalm 22 and Psalm 23. David also composed Psalm 22 and you know the contents of that beautiful Psalm. That Psalm speaks to us about the works of Christ, about His sufferings, about His loving kindness, and His work as Surety. When the Lord gives us light, he shows us Christ as the only redeemer for a guilty sinner. O, if the lord gives instruction then first we become acquainted with our lost state and then it pleases the Lord to give light. The Lord shows us that there is mercy for a sinner end what Christ did for His people. The Holy Spirit gives light about the work of Christ, and then Psalm 22 becomes so dear to our souls, But also the Lord gives us light and instruction about Psalm 23; then we begin to know for our own heart: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

It is a great blessing to have a God for our heart, to have a shepherd for our soul, to be one of the sheep of God’s flock. The Lord takes care of all His people and He leads His children thru this burdensome life. David experienced it for his own soul and he could say, “I shall not want.”

That is the experience for the heart when the Lord reveals Himself. He bestows mercy upon us and we can say with David: “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters,” There are times that a soul is brought out of the desert of our life and then the great Shepherd, we can say the good Shepherd, Christ Himself leads His children in green pastures where a soul may experience the mercy of the Lord. The good Shepherd brings His sheep to still waters where they are satisfied, where they may drink out of the source of God’s fullness, out of the fountain of life. It is experienced time and again : He restoreth my soul. Yes, it is necessary that we experience that the Lord comes again, that the Lord revives the hope, and that He gives us tokens for good. Then we may experience: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness, that is in the righteousness of Christ. The Holy Spirit shows us that we have no righteousness but that Christ has a perfect righteousness, and that we need the robe of righteousness. It is free sovereign grace from the beginning to the end, and it is experienced that it is His loving kindness, that it is His sovereignty, that it is His good pleasure that a soul may receive heavenly food, that a soul may come to green pastures, and that he may drink out of the streams which come from Lebanon.

Also what we read in the words of our text: Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, can happen very soon. It can be that at present we walk in a good way; but there comes a time of darkness, for all people. When does that hour come, that darkest hour in our life? When we are brought in the valley of the shadow of death! We are created to live with God, but we are born to die — and we see it every day that man goes to his long home. Children die, young people pass away; old men and women have to change time for eternity, and death is coming for everyone of us. We can say, “But I will not worry too much about death,” but death is coming — not only for the wicked people, not only for people who go to church; but death is also coming for God’s children. What is the cause that we have to die? Because we have sinned against God. we have rebelled against our benefactor, and the wages of sin is death. It can be that we can talk about conversion, that we can speak about the preciousness of Jesus, that we have the assurance that we are set at liberty, that we are an exercised soul; but all people have to die. O, we can speak so much about death when there is no need, but when we are on a sickbed, when we are in difficult conditions, then everything changes. What do we need? We need God’s presence. Also God’s people can tremble and shake when they think about death. It may be that you say, “Yes, but I am young!” But go to the cemetery and look at the writings on the stones and you will also find people who died in the strength of their life. Not all people will reach the age of 70 or 80 years. Many die in their childhood, in their manhood, in the strength of their life. It is not so easy to think about death. No, then many things come into our hearts, and sometimes there is fear in the soul. If the Lord gives a soul His sweet communion, if we may have fellowship with Christ, then it is not difficult to die. But spiritual life is not always present. To die is to meet God! That valley of death is coming, death is coming, and eternity is coming. Also God’s children have to die. It is true, death is no punishment for them anymore but a corridor to eternal life. Death is our enemy, and death is a king of terror. It is no wonder that our nature trembles. Only when the Lord gives His sustaining help can we meet death.

But what do we read? Here is a promise, here is a benefit for God’s children. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Why not? Because the Lord gives His children a guide. They are led by the best Shepherd. Who is that good Shepherd? That is Christ who is the Surety of God’s children. When we receive spiritual life Christ becomes our Shepherd, then He becomes our hope, and He will lead us through this life, through all difficulties. It is a very great blessing if we have a Shepherd, if we have a Surety for our soul; especially in the hour of affliction, in the darkest hour of our life when we have to meet God, when we go to eternity, when death comes to us. There is a people who are led by a Shepherd, by the hand of God. The Lord takes care of all His children. Christ is a good Shepherd, Christ is a strong Shepherd, Christ is the great redeemer for His people.

We speak about this Shepherd which is given to God’s Church. He is Prophet, Priest, and King. That has value, that has a rich meaning. Christ is a Shepherd of great value in the hour of death, in the valley of the shadow of death, because then a sheep can tremble. Take a sheep who is in the desert. Sometimes there are mountains and time and again there are rocks hanging over the paths. The Shepherd with his flock has to pass these dangerous places where little rocks are falling from the mountain. So it is with Christ and his people. That rock in the dangerous place hit the Shepherd when He was on earth. Then that rock came down and came upon the Shepherd and wounded Him when He was nailed on the cross of shame. He suffered bodily and spiritually, and he came in great soul’s agony. He did that for His people, for His sheep, and therefore He can lead His people through the valley of the shadow of death. Christ was also in the grave, He also gave up the ghost. He was the Son of God but He died on the cross of shame, and He has sanctified the grave for His sheep. 0, to commemorate that, to meditate upon it, that is a blessing for a soul.

Here we read: I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. That is experienced by God’s children who must pass through the valley of death. Then Christ becomes so important, so indispensible for a soul. Also, in the hour of death a soul receives instruction by the Spirit that Christ is Prophet. Why? So that a soul who has to pass the Jordan of Death may agree that he has to die, to be obedient to die. That is a blessing. O, many times God’s children do not agree with the Lord’s dealings. Take many people, sometimes there is a desire to stay on earth for the cause of the family, or to live a few days longer; and that can be understood, but to be obedient to die, that is grace. Take as an example Jacob. The Lord gave him instruction. He knew Christ as Prophet and was obedient to die. When he had ended his prophecy he laid his legs on the bed and he passed away in obedience to the will of God. That was the work of Christ. He knew Christ as his prophet.

What a blessing it is for a soul to know Christ in that valley of death as High Priest. Christ is the office bearer and He is also H gh Priest. If a soul thinks about his sins and backslidings after his conversion, O, then it can become so dark. The devil comes with his temptations and says: “You have sinned so much — you are my possession — you can not enter eternal bliss — you are as blsck as hell — your sins are not forgiven, and you can not meet God.” Then it becomes so dark for a soul but everything changes when we experience the presence of Jesus. You know the work of a High Priest. He makes intercession for his people. Christ entered the Holy of Holies and gave His Blood as a ransom for His people. He has prayed for His people as High Priest and has brought about an eternal salvation. Christ did that for His children, but it must be applied to our hearts. It may be that we have experienced that in our life, but when we are laying on our death bed then it must be renewed again. To experience “Thou art with me,” then a soul may experience that He is the only High Priest and that there is remission of sins by the precious blood of Jesus. Oh, to feel that Christ is our High Priest, to walk with Him, to look upon Him, to experience His work as High Priest; when that is applied to the soul then we experience, “I will fear no evil.”

But also to know Christ as King in the hour of death. Christ protects His children and rules His people, and He must be King in our soul every day. It is a special experience to know Christ as King in the valley of death. To experience that then we may see that He is the conqueror of death. He fought with death, He conquered death, and He rose again the third day and entered the Heavens of Glory as King. What do we need in the valley of the shadow of death? To see Christ as King who reveals Himself in His majesty, who gives us His comfort and His strength, who grants us a view upon Him as King, that He has conquered all the enemies of our soul. Then we can die. Then We can pass through that valley of the shadow of death and experience in our soul, “I will fear no evil: for thou art with me.”

There are times in the life of God’s people that they miss God, that they walk in darkness, that they experience that the Lord hides His face from them, that they do not feel and experience in their hearts the loving kindness of God. And still the Lord loves His people. The Lord loves His people from eternity, The Lord loves His people always. The Lord loves His children freely, but to feel it, to experience it, that is the blessing. It is so necessary that we feel God’s loving kindness, to feel that the Lord is with me, that we experience it. Sometimes we are living in great strife and then unexpectedly the Lord comes and we may experience in our disappointments, in our trials and great affliction that; the Lord is with us, that the Lord is for us, that the Lord is on our side; and that gives comfort. All God’s children can speak about it, about times of deliverance, but to experience it in the hour of death, in the hour of anxiety, in the hour of oppression, in the hour when we are laying there upon our death bed, O, it can be that we are surrounded by friends, but they can not help us. What is death? Some people die unconscious, but many people have many fears in their hearts. What is the greatest blessing? When the Lord is with us in that hour of darkness when we have to change time for eternity.

David knew that the Lord was his shepherd and had confort in God. He expected everything from God and he said: “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me. That is comforted by a perfect weapon. That Shepherd, the good Shepherd, was David’s Shepherd. Christ was his hope. He knew that Shepherd and that He was equipped with weapons. You read: Thy rod and thy staff. Is there a difference between a rod and a staff? Absolutely … The rod was a weapon which the shepherd always had with him because in the East in the time that David lived time and again there came wild beasts, to kill the sheep. David speaks about the lion which unexpectedly jumped in the midst of his flock, and about the bear which attacked his sheep. A good shepherd had a weapon which is called a club to defend the sheep against all the dangers, against the thieves and all the enemies of the sheep. Christ has a weapon — that is His sword — and Christ can conquer all his enemies. What are sheep? Can they defend themselves? No! So it is with God’s children. They are the sheep of the Lord. They can not defend themselves and therefore they need a good Shepherd. They look to the Shepherd to defend them. O, what a blessing if we may see spiritually that Christ has a weapon, that He is the great hero of faith, that He can defend us, that He can help us; that gives rest in our souls. To see Christ in His beauty is lovely, but to see Christ as King and to see Him as Hero, that is also experienced and gives a wonderful rest. Then we can trust ourselves in His hands, then we feel that we are safe under His care. It is all a gift of God to experience that for our own souls. We need an eye to see and an understanding to notice it.

You also read about a staff. You know, that was one of the things which a shepherd had to tend his flock. Most of the time that was not a cane, but a staff was used to help the sheep. It was the custom of the shepherd when the sheep went away to take a little stone and throw it at the sheep who was wandering away. To hit that sheep? No! Some people think so. It is the custom of a good shepherd to cast little stones before the head of his sheep, not upon the sheep, but in the front or sometimes on the side, that it would jump back to the right place, that it would leave the wrong path, or if there were dangers ahead that it would go back to the shepherd. So the Lord does with His children. He sends His people disappointments, He comes to them with darkness; but that is not a punishment, that is to their spiritual welfare. The Lord loves His people very much and He always takes care of His people, of all His sheep, the big ones and the lambs and He brings them home. When a soul may see that the good Shepherd has a rod to defend him and a staff to take care of him, that gives comfort, that gives a blessing to the heart. Then we may experience the goodness of the Lord, the mercy of the Lord ; and then we can go through dark ways, then we can pass through the valley of the shadow of death because it is experienced: Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. The Lord gives His people who are in darkness and who have to pass many difficult things, His care, His goodness, and His loving kindness. Oh, to look upon the Lamb of God and to experience the goodness of that great Shepherd, then we receive courage and go further on our burdensome path, and we can sing about the mercy and the care of Christ the good Shepherd who leads all His children through the valley of death and who will take them in eternal bliss.

David speaks about the valley of the shadow of death. We can speak about a time that we are before the valley of the shadow of death. We are not yet in the time that we die — we are here in the land of the living. We are in the time that we can receive grace, that we can receive a redeemer, that we can receive Christ as our Surety. Let us not forget what the Lord says in His Holy Word: Set thine house in order for thou shalt surely die. Our time on earth is a time of preparation; and there must happen a divine wonder in our life. We must be born again and therefore we need conversion, we need a Shepherd, we must become a sheep of Christ. Are you already a child of God? Are we already born again? The time is coming when we have to die. It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment. We can not die twice — and to die, that is to meet God ! The question comes to us, Can we die, can we meet God, do we have peace with God?

We can speak about a time that we are before the valley of the shadow of death, but there comes a time that we will pass through the valley of death. That is to die — and then we have to meet God. Are we prepared for that time? Can we speak about free sovereign grace? Are we saved already? Do we have a hope for eternity? if we have experienced that, when death comes the Lord will make everything well. That does not say that we will pass that valley of death without strife. It can be that the Lord gives us a great blessing, that He takes away all the fear of death, that He gives us a view upon what He has prepared for His people, that we may experience that it is a deliverance for us, that we are longing for eternity. That is given to God’s children time and again, but not to all. The Lord is also free in that. But behind that valley of death there is a future, that is our eternal future. where will we be in eternity? There is eternal bliss for David, for Peter, for Mary Magdalene, for Manasseh, for the apostles of Christ, and for all who are washed in the precious blood of Christ. They will be brought to the pastures of eternal bliss and to the living waters to be with God forever, and to experience the loving kindness and the goodness and the mercy of God to all eternity.

But if we are not a sheep of Christ’s flock, it will be awful for us! Then death will be terrible for us, then death will be the beginning of eternal misery for us, and the time of outer darkness. Then we will go to the place of eternal terror where the devil is and all his angels and all the wicked ones, to curse God for ever and ever and to be in the place of eternal lamentation. What is most important for us? That we are one of God’s children. There is a difference in God’s people. There are people who are spiritually lambs, and there are also those who can speak much about God’s goodness, about the working of the Spirit, about the work of Christ, about the preciousness of Jesus, and about the assurance of faith.

Do you know the custom of the shepherd when he goes with his flock to the pasture? The great sheep can walk, but sometimes the lambs can not make that trip. When they become tired, do you know what the shepherd does? He takes these little lambs which are three, four, or five days old, sometimes a little older, and puts them on his back and carries them on his shoulders. So he takes care of them, and so it is also spiritually, O, if we may know only that great Shepherd who takes care of all His people. Then we experience for our own soul : Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. Are we one of God’s flock, one of the sheep of Christ? We have to go through the valley of death, and we don’t know when. We have to go through difficulties, maybe this year, but if we have a Shepherd, If we have a King, if we have a God for our hearts, then we can make it. Then we have a guide, then we have the Lord as our protector; and also when we will enter that valley of death, that darkest hour of our life, the Lord can make that hour light. When He reveals Himself everything changes and we experienc that the Lord gives a living hope. Do we know that great Shepherd, do we know His care? Do we know His love, do we know His presence?

The Lord will take care of all His people, He will go after the wandering sheep. But people who drift away have to suffer for that many times, sometimes for years. The safest place is close to the great Shepherd. That we may ask and pray and sigh to God: 0. Lord, that I may not leave thee, that I may follow in Thy footsteps, that I may live close to Thee. The most blessed place is at the feet of Jesus.

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Bekijk de hele uitgave van maandag 1 april 1957

The Banner of Truth | 18 Pagina's


Bekijk de hele uitgave van maandag 1 april 1957

The Banner of Truth | 18 Pagina's

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