Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I am a lover of words. Were I to answer the familiar “What book on a desert island?” question, my answer would of course be the Word of God. If I’m granted 21 books, my answer would be the Bible plus the 20 volumes of the 2nd edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (I don’t much care for the newer iteration.)
The word shadow is an informative word in the Bible. An important word. This is why we have titled this blog journey regarding Susan’s medical condition, The Shadow of His Ways.
I could go on for pages about this but I will limit myself to two entries. Here is the first: Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
I want to quickly make a point, lest you think, given the journey before us, I am being morbid and talking about death.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The valley of the shadow of death, is not about death
. . . it’s about the shadow of death.
This is a poetic way of saying it’s about how we experience the realities of being stretched, purified, matured. Candidly, it’s about the chief tools used by the Father to transform us into the image of His dear Son.
There is little doubt the identity of the valley David has in mind when he writes, the valley of the shadow. It is the Kidron Valley, situated between the city of Jerusalem on the west, and the Mount of Olives on the east.
The Kidron is low, and long, and severely pitched. Due to its location, it is in shadow virtually all the day. The high, steep rise to Jerusalem on one side and the even higher rise to the Mount of Olives on the other guarantee this.
The Kidron Valley plays a memorable – and dark – role in the history of Israel. It was through the Kidron that David fled when King Saul was trying to kill him.
It was through the Kidron that David again fled, this time while king, when his own son was determined to murder him and take the throne.
It was the Kidron that our Lord had to cross to get to the Garden of Gethsemane on that fateful night when, burdened beyond comprehension, He sought audience with the Father over what lay before Him.
It was that same Kidron He crossed again when, deep into the night, he was arrested and taken before the religious powers, to endure the most illicit trial in the history of that or any other nation.
You may have already had to cross the Kidron a time or two in your own life.
If not, you will.
I want to share with you three observations about the Kidron, but before I do, a reminder. As I said above, the valley of the shadow of death is not about dying.
Rather, it is about a journey our Good Shepherd takes us on to deepen our walk with Him.
To use a different metaphor, God is out to make a beautiful tapestry out of the lives of His children.
For beauty, for contrast, for richness – there are dark threads the Weaver needs.
They are found in the valley of the shadow.
And now to the observations:
The valley of the shadow is a place of darkness.
This is how it got its name. It is bathed in shadow . . . and shadow is dark.
Sheep, having poor eyesight by nature, aren’t fond of the dark. The same is true for God’s sheep. We don’t like darkness. It scares us.
Most of us will take even the illusion of light over the reality of darkness.
Our loving Shepherd takes us into the valley of the shadow for a specific duration and a specific purpose known only to Him.
Our charge is to trust Him in the darkness.
The valley of the shadow is a place of distress.
When you’re in a spiritual Kidron, you know very little.
You don’t have the illusion of knowing how things will “play out” and you never know the outcome ahead of time.
All of this can lead to the distress we know as anxiety, if we are not careful. After all, sheep are . . . well . . . sheepish creatures.
To overcome the pull of distress that a journey through the valley of the shadow brings, it is imperative that we stay close to the Shepherd.
And it is important for us to hold mightily to His great promise that His peace is with us, if we will but wrap our arms around that great truth.
The valley of the shadow is a place of danger.
The actual Kidron Valley was filled with adversaries, both human and animal. It was a natural setting in which to be robbed, assaulted.
Poisonous vipers homed in that barren, rocky terrain. It was a hunting ground for that natural enemy of sheep – the wolf.
The valley of the shadow is a dangerous place.
The valley of the shadow can be a destructive place.
A child of God cannot lose his or her soul . . . but many have lost their way and their walk while in the valley of the shadow.
Bitterness, anger, an erosion of faith – these and more have been the response of many of God’s sheep as they were called on to follow the Shepherd into the valley of the shadow.
(I ask your prayers for Susan and me, that this will not be our response to the journey. It is neither our desire not our intent to allow this to happen.)
The valley of the shadow doesn’t have to be, but it can be most dangerous.
Well, as it turns out, there’s a part two to this blog. But that will have to wait for another time. I’ll see you then.