Through the valley of the shadow of death

I keep coming back to Psalm 23. I just can’t get away from it. I keep praying it over people, when I talk to them about deep hurts, life in general and life as a disciple of Jesus in general. It has become the blue print for how I see the life of a disciple. It’s got such richness to it that it can speak to a child who learn it in Sunday school and impresses her grand parents when she proudly recites it, and it can speak to grown ups who have known God intimately for decades. There is such a richness in the simple words of that beautiful Psalm which I believe aside from John 3:16 and maybe 1. Corinthians chapter 13 about love, may be the best known part of the whole Bible.

I learned it as a kid as well, but these last months God keeps bringing me back to this rich Psalm and keeps unpacking the many layers of it. We did a whole teaching week in Nigeria about the life of Christ in us based on the six verses of the 23rd Psalm. Today I was thinking of it as I was listening to and singing along with Matt Redman’s beautiful worship song “You Never Let Go“. Matt Redman mentions the valley of the shadow of death, and I enjoy singing this song which is one of the in spite of-songs that I enjoy as opposed to the happy, clappy and at times slightly unrealistic because of-songs that so many people produce these years.

The valley of the shadow of death is the place where David turns the language in the Psalm from the impersonal “he” to the personal “You”. In that valley it’s only David and Jesus. And it’s only me and Jesus. The valley of the shadow of death is the place where we come to the end of our own rope and accept that we cannot create life and live abundantly in our own resources. It’s a place where no person can go with you. Only Jesus can go with you, and he does. His rod and his staff protect and comfort you. He knows what he is doing when he brings you into that valley. He knows you need to learn dependence, because your tendency – like any other human being – is to be a sheep who goes astray in your own direction thinking that you have it under control and you need to be in charge (Isaiah 53:6). In that valley you die to your independent will that promises you life and control, but only brings you mediocrity and counterfeit life. And in that place you are faced with the choice of brokenness or bitterness, and if you choose brokenness, you emerge from this valley as a new and life-filled child of God!

Here is the song You Never Let Go:

Blessings, Torben

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