NO FEAR #5 in Series on Psalm 23

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me;” (Psalm 23:4a).

Have you noticed the bumper and window sticker on cars and trucks, “No Fear?” Recently I asked a guy who had one what it meant. He didn’t know what it meant or how it got started. He just liked it. I suspect that it may be someone’s idea of being “macho” and “self-sufficient.” Some of those same guys in a foxhole, a hurricane or facing heart surgery might have second thoughts. If it is based on self-confidence, it is arrogant to say, “I’m not afraid of anything.”

When David said, “I will fear no evil”, he was not expressing self-confidence. He went on to say, “for Thou art with me” It was utter confidence in his Lord’s care and protection like a good shepherd’s care for his sheep.

There is actually a Valley of the Shadow of Death. The road between Jerusalem and Jericho goes through part of it. It is a deep dark valley with caves along the way. Thieves  and wild animals were known to be in those caves and it was very dangerous. Some Bible commentators think Jesus was speaking of that valley when He said, “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed leaving him half dead” (Luke 10:30). This could have been  
the valley David was speaking of. The picture above was taken of such a valley near Jericho. Shepherds took their sheep through such valleys on their way to grassy plains.

 There are two kinds of fear in the Bible; one is a reverential fear of God. Solomon says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). It is a good kind of fear that includes trust and obedience. It is taking God’s side against evil and believing in God’s ultimate victory.

The other kind of fear is a fear of death or evil. David was referring to this kind of fear when he said, “I will fear no evil.” John was referring to this kind of fear when he said, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment” (I John 4:18).

Sheep without a shepherd are terrified, and well they should be. They have virtually no self-defense if attacked by a wolf or a lion. They can’t run fast, and even if they escape the wild animals, most of them cannot see well and will fall in a deep ravine or over a cliff.

My friend, if you have not received Jesus as your shepherd, you cannot say, “I will fear no evil…” You ought to be afraid. As an unforgiven sinner, you are headed for hell. You are helpless against the devil. Peter warns, “…the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8). Jesus is your only hope. He came to “…release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:15).

Are you afraid to die? If you are not a Christian, you should be. Hell is hot and judgment certain. But God loves you. He sent His only Son, Jesus, to save you. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus gave His life on the cross for your sins. He came “…that He might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8b).

When you realize you are a sinner and believe in Jesus Christ enough to receive Him as your Savior, He comes into your life, forgives your sin and becomes your shepherd. Not only does He save you from your sin; He promises, “…I will never leave you, nor forsake you. So we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).

So, if you put your trust in Jesus, you can say, “NO FEAR!” He will guide you and protect you in this world and be your defense attorney at the judgment. Amen!

Following Jesus As Our Shepherd

  • #4 in series on Psalm 23

 “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3b).

David confidently says of the Lord, “He leads me…” Does He lead you? Here are some guidelines for following Jesus as your Shepherd:

 BY FAITH IN THE LORD. David began this Psalm with “The Lord is My Shepherd…” God will not lead those who do not have a faith commitment to Him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him for he who cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him.” Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the Lord and your thoughts will be established.” This means you spend time in prayer, asking the Lord to guide you

 BY OUR SHEPHERD’S EXAMPLE.  David says, “He leadeth me…” Cowboys drive cows and horses, but a skilled shepherd leads his sheep. Jesus, speaking of Himself says, “He goes before them, and the sheep follow Him; for they know His voice” (John 10:4). Jesus has gone before us, setting a perfect example. “…He has done all things well…” (Mark 7:37). He went before us through His cross and resurrection. He opened heaven for us, ascending to the right hand of God. Charles Sheldon’s classic, In His Steps, challenges us to ask, “What would Jesus do?” in following Him.

BY HIS WORD. “…IN PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS…” The Bible is our standard for righteous paths. You don’t have to pray about robbing banks, telling lies, or sex outside of marriage. The Bible has already said, “Don’t!” Even things that are not mentioned in the Bible are dealt with in principle. Read the Bible and follow it.

 BY SEEKING GODLY COUNSELORS.  Solomon says, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).  After prayer and Bible study, talk to Godly counselors. Start with your parents if they are still available. No one on earth cares for you more than your parents; even if you are grown. They still have more experience than you. Their counsel is especially helpful if they are living Godly lives; however, even if they aren’t Christians, they care and can share what they have learned. Talk to your pastor, your bible class teacher, a Godly elder or deacon, or other Godly relatives and friends, particularly those who are older than you and have struggled with the issues you are wrestling with.

BY HIS NAME.  “For His name’s sake.” When we walk in right paths, our Lord’s name is glorified. Jesus said, “And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).  He also says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6b). We usually interpret this for salvation but it is equally true in prayer. Jesus is our access in prayer to the Father. This is far more than closing our prayer “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” His name includes His cross and resurrection. It should mean we are one with Him like a wife signing her husband’s name to a check.

BY HIS PEACE. This Psalm reflects God’s peace throughout. Paul said, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts….” (Colossians 3:15).  Finally, write down the various options and ask which will glorify our Lord’s name most. When you walk in God’s will, you will have God’s peace. When you stray from God’s paths, you will have heaviness. Prayerfully make that decision, writing it down in pencil. Sleep on it. If you have God’s peace about it in the morning, go with it. If you have heaviness, go through the prayer steps again. Let Him lead you in those “…paths of righteousness…” They are paths of safety, fruitfulness and happiness. Amen!

Restoration from Depression

#3 in Series on Psalm 23

“He restoreth my soul” (Psalm 23:3a).
Has depression invaded your life? Some hurt, failure, or sorrow you have been unable to successfully deal with? Depression usually results from a wrong response to trouble, though it may be caused by chemical imbalance. Regardless of the cause, there’s hope. Don’t give up. David says the Lord as his shepherd restored his soul. God can also restore your life even in the midst of trouble.

The Hebrew word translated “restoreth” was used by shepherds  for turning a “cast” sheep right side up. A “cast” sheep was on its back, unable to get up without help. It would vainly kick the air and bleat desperately for a while and then give up.

Growing up on the farm, my brother and I kept sheep. Dad said, “If you find a cast sheep, get it on its feet as soon as you can.” He explained that a cast sheep left overnight would not survive. The sheep would either die while cast, or lose it’s will to live and refuse to eat or drink if righted too late.

David makes a human application to “restoring cast sheep” in Psalm 42:5, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God…”

He knew that he was sometimes “cast down” like those pitiful sheep. Just as he as a faithful shepherd had been able to restore his cast sheep to their feet, the Lord, his shepherd, restored him to his feet when he was cast down in discouragement. Like sheep, our soul can be “cast down.”
Sometimes you may feel turned upside down, unable to get on your feet again. The Lord wants to shepherd you by lifting you out of the mire of depression and restoring joy and hope to your soul.
Depression can even happen to great Christians like Martin Luther, the leader of the reformation. On one occasion when he was in a period of deep depression, his wife, Katie, dressed in her black funeral apparel and came in where he was. He was startled and asked her who died. “God,” she replied. “The way you are acting, I am sure your God must have died.” Her act and words brought Luther to his senses. He saw his depression as a faithless reflection on the providential care of God and as such it was sin. He confessed his sin, prayed for a fresh supply of God’s grace and was soon back in good spirits again.

What can you do to recover from depression? Here are some suggestions:
(1) See your doctor to rule out any physical causes,
(2) Get sufficient food, water, exercise and rest,
(3) Count your blessings and praise God for them,
(4) Read the Bible, e.g. Psalms and the Gospel of John,
(5) Meditate on the cross & resurrection of Jesus for you,
(6) Ask God’s forgiveness for known sin, especially for your wrong response to trouble,
(7) Forgive those who hurt you (without an apology),
(8) Seek the fellowship of other Christians,
(9) Listen to good Christian music,
(10) Do something for someone else in need,
(11) Ask God to help you do what you ought to do, whether you want to or not. Right actions bring right emotions,
(12) Finally, believe and affirm, “Jesus is my shepherd. He restores my soul.” With God’s help, you can pull out of depression. Amen!