The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Ps. 23:1-6)
“The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (2. Tim 2:11-13)
Grace and peace to you from God Our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
We all know what life is like, right? Sure, there are good things. Sometimes more and sometimes less. There are good times, times full of joy, and there are times full of sorrow, when life may seem dark and gloomy.
Author of 23rd psalm, which we just heard read, knew it very well. That’s why he speaks about walking through the valley of the shadow of death. It is not a nice picture. Neither are our lives, too often.
Psalmist knew what life is like, that’s why he speaks about his enemies. So often it seems that we are in the valley of the shadow of death, surrounded by our enemies. Sometimes people are or act as our enemies.
Sometimes even those who are the closest. Instead of love and care we receive, you know what … Sometimes circumstances seem to be all against us. We hope for good, we dream great dreams, but life goes on and nothing happens. Sometimes our character, desires and weaknesses are our enemies.
Sometimes our enemy is death. It comes and takes everything we have. It takes our loved ones, and finally it takes our lives. And there is nothing we can do. The valley of the shadow of the death… What a fitting description of our lives.
It is not a surprise that people begin to wonder: “Is there God at all? And if there is, what kind of God is He?” Have you ever wondered about it? Especially when life throws at you the next hit, and the next. Is there God, and where is He?
You may have heard the name of Albert Einstein. Perhaps the most famous scientist of all times. One of his professors had tasted this bitterness of life and was angry at God. He asked his students. “If God is the Creator, then He has created everything, right?” Students agreed. “But then He has also created evil, since evil exits, and it means that He Himself is evil.” Students were silent.
Then one of them stood up and asked: “Professor, does cold exist?” “Of course, haven’t you ever been cold?” “No professor, according to the laws of physics, there is no such a thing as cold, there is only the absence of heat. You can measure heat, you can’t measure cold.”
“Professor, does darkness exist?” “But, of course, it does.” “No, professor, in fact there is no such a thing as darkness. What we call darkness, is simply the absence of light.”
“Professor, does evil exist?” … “Yes, we just talked about it.” … “No professor, it is simply the absence of God. Evil is not like faith, or love that exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God’s love present in his heart.”
Our lives… we may experience cold, and darkness, and emptiness, and despair. We all know it. There can be moments when it seems that there is no God. At least we can’t see His presence, or His blessings in our lives.
Have you though, that when this happens, may be it is us, who have turned our back to Him? May be we don’t see Him because we are looking into opposite direction? For He is there. He is right here.
Right next to you, right next to you each of you every day and every minute. Faithfully waiting and hoping that you may turn around and see Him. It may seem dark, for we don’t see His face.
It may seem lonely, for we don’t realize that He is right hear. It may seem empty, for we do not allow Him to fill us with joy. It may seem meaningless, for we don’t allow Him to give us hope, and joy, and peace.
What happens when we turn to Him? The most wonderful thing. We see our Father in heaven, waiting for us. We see Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who gave up His life so that you could live, we see Him with arms extended, ready to embrace you.
“No, not me”, you may think. You, yes, you! Whoever you are, whatever your life has been like up to this moment, whatever you have done, of whatever you have left undone, He knows you and He is waiting for you. He wants you to have what only He could give. His presence, the most precious gift in the world.
Psalmist knew this God. Yes, psalmist was real about the struggles of this life. And he wasn’t spared from them. No one is. We live in this broken world. In this world where death comes to rob us as it just did with Malcolm and his family.
The psalmist knew God as He is. And it gave Him hope and peace and joy, even in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death. It gave him peace that surpasses all human understanding. Divine peace. Heavenly peace.
He could say the words: “He [My God] restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness. I will fear no evil, for you are with me. [So close!] Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and [when this life is over] I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
This is what God the Father has prepared for each of you. And He is waiting for you. Patiently, faithfully. As loving Father waits for His prodigal sons and daughters. Ready to embrace then as soon as they turn to Him.
If you are baptized in God’s name, then you have died with Him. It means that you will live with Him. In His Kingdom. Yes, but what if we have been faithless? What if we have been looking away from Him and lived as if He doesn’t exist?
It may be true. But as we read, even if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. If you are baptized, if He has made you His child, if He has promised to be with you here, and to have you with Him, when this life is over, He will keep His promises.
This is our hope. This is where our peace and comfort comes. This is what our God is like. As you turn to Him, no one can snatch you from His hand. Turn to Him and you will “dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Amen.