Friday, August 1, 2008

No Fear

I have decided that I will use the 23rd Psalm for my message at Crestview this Sunday. I am going to concentrate on verse 5 only.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.”

The symbolism is wonderful, but then everything about the 23rd Psalm is wonderful. It is why it is our favorite Psalm. But in studying for that one verse, I noticed something else.

In verse 4, David says that “Even 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.” Now, if you read the first three verses, you will notice that David is using the third person to describe his relationship with God. Then suddenly, in verse 4, it shifts to the first person. The Lord is my Shepherd…He leads me to still waters…He causes me to lie down…etc. Then in verse 4, he says, “for You are with me.” Why the shift? Simple. We have nothing to fear, not even death.

What are we afraid of? Death. Embarrassment. Crisis. Actually, a study done before 9/11 by Newsweek listed the third greatest fear of Americans as being the fear of public speaking. 4th was death. I can’t remember the first two; just that public speaking was higher than death. That has probably changed post 9/11. #1 Fear in America? A Muslim on an airplane.

The point is that we have nothing to fear. Why? Because He is with us. David got to this part about the shadow of death and realized that God is always with us and we have nothing to fear, so he switches the tense and is reassured that God never forsakes us or leaves us. “You are with me” emphasizes the relational character of Jesus. God doesn’t care about offering, or rituals, or sacrifice. (See Psalm 40:6) What He does desire…no, require…is a personal relationship with Jesus. And Jesus said, “Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” It’s Lo, by the way, not low, even though the valley is a low time.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death is a real place in the Kidron Valley. It is actually called the Valley of Shadows. (It sounds like something off Shock Theater. "Boris Karloff staring in The Valley of Shadows.") The valley is so deep and the crevasses so narrow, that the only time light gets to the bottom is during the midday, for about a half an hour while the sun is directly overhead.

But even here, in a place that some would refer to as “God forsaken”, David knew that God was there with him. What is the opposite of fear? Peace. What is peace? It is not the absence of trouble, fear, or worry. Peace is simply the presence of God. “You are with me.”


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