Knowing The Shepherd (Parts 3 & 4)
The following is edited from a message given to women at the Heart-Cry for Revival Conference in April 2006 at The Cove, Asheville, North Carolina U.S.A.
In Parts 1 & 2 of "Knowing The Shepherd" (published in the December 2006 issue and available upon request) we looked at the first three verses of Psalm 23: "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want." I will have everything that I need, and I will choose to be content with what God supplies. Then we looked at how the Shepherd leads us: "He makes [us] lie down in green pastures. He leads [us] beside still waters [waters of rest]." We saw that we need to go back to these places over and over again as He leads us. "He restores [our souls]." Itís our Shepherd who does that for us. We saw that "He leads [us] in paths of righteousness [right paths] for His nameís sake." Often we come to a fork in the road. When we need wisdom He leads us in right paths. When we get to heaven and we can see from His perspective that which we see only a glimpse of now, we will say, "Lord, You did all things well. You led me in right paths for Your nameís sake."
As we come to verse 4 we are still in the context of verse 3: "He leads [us] in right paths for His nameís sake." Verse 4 says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with meÖ." I believe that David had more than death in mind when he penned his thoughts, and thatís why itís important that we realize that the literal translation here is "the valley of deep darkness." It may involve death, but I donít think death was the primary valley that David had in mind when he wrote this psalm.
The kind of valley one sees in Palestine is not some country scene of green rolling meadows between two hills. The valley to picture here would have been more likely a deep, dangerous ravine between cliffs. Itís a treacherous, dangerous place. Early in the year flocks would graze down in the lowlands. But in the summer, the sun would melt the snow in the mountains, and the shepherd would want to take his flock up to the higher places so they could have the green grass, the still waters, and the green meadows there. In order to get them from the lowlands up to the high places the shepherd had to take them through these ravines.
These ravines would be dark and gloomy, and it would be a hard place to see. One misstep and you could fall down a deep precipice to your death on the jagged rocks. There were serpents and wolves and hyenas lurking in these ravines, ready to attack the sheep. The ravines were dangerous places for sheep and they needed a shepherd. Thatís why we need a Shepherd when God leads us through "the valley of deep darkness."
John Bunyanís Valley of Deep Darkness
In the story of Pilgrimís Progress, Christian comes to the Valley of the Shadow of Death. He describes it as a lonely place where no one else can enter in to what you are experiencing. He said that the road that went through that valley was narrow and treacherous, a place of deep darkness, a terror, a demonic oppression. In the middle of this valley Christian came to the very mouth of hell. John Bunyan, who authored Pilgrimís Progress, tells us that Christian cried out to the Lord to deliver his soul: "Lord, help me! Deliver me!" Christian continued to pray in this manner for a long while. The deliverance was not immediate. John Bunyan, in his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, talks about some of his own experiences in the valley of deep darkness. It was a particularly dark time for John Bunyan and his family when he had that twelve-year imprisonment for Christís sake when he was in his 30ís and had four young children. Bunyan talked in his autobiography about times when he was tormented with thoughts of death. He was assaulted by wicked, satanic thoughts and thought he was going crazy. He was a godly, holy man, a pastor, a man who knew the Scripture and knew how to use the Word of God and how to pray. But he went through these times of deep darkness.
If Jesus, the Son of God Himself, endured forty days of being hungry and alone and tempted, assaulted by the evil one, do you think we should expect to walk from here to heaven without going through any valleys of deep darkness? We all have been there in greater to lesser degrees. As a younger believer, I used to look forward to the day when Iíd be a mature, seasoned believer and I wouldnít have these periods of doubt, distress, dysfunction and demonic oppression, but Iíve heard some older saints describe that it sometimes gets more intense as you get older. Why? I donít know, but I know it takes faith. God sometimes takes away the sense of Godís presence that we experienced when we were young believers, so that we can learn to trust Him when we canít see Him. Letís not forget that itís all preparation for heaven.
The valley of deep darkness is in the context of being led by the Shepherd. He leads me in right paths even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness. While it may be that we got to the valley of deep darkness because the Shepherd led us there, sometimes we end up there because we walked away from the Shepherd, and then itís our fault. The key then is repentance and brokenness. There are no shortcuts back.
But the valley of deep darkness is one of the right paths to which God sometimes leads His sheep. He has led me prior to this point and He has led me to this point and He will lead me through this point, and He will lead me to the next point. We want the Lord to take us from the lowlands up to the higher ground, but we donít want to go through the deep valleys, those dark difficult places that it takes to get from the lowlands to higher ground. But there are no shortcuts.
Itís easy to believe that God is with us when all is going well. But the fact is that God is also with us when all does not go well. In seasons of deep darkness, we have no sense of Godís presence. It takes faith to believe that God is there then. Places of deep darkness may be depression, health issues, rejection, loss of financial security, relational issues, marital issues, facing our own death or the death of a loved one. In this valley of deep darkness we have tormented thoughts or fears, unrelenting, unexplainable temptations. There may be times of intense loneliness when no one else can enter in and understand what we are experiencing. There may be times of confusion, unanswered questions, things we cannot figure out. Those seasons can be long and unrelenting. There can seem to be no letup, no relief in sight.
Jobís Valley of Deep Darkness
We read of Jobís experience in Job 23. Job says, "Oh that I knew where I might find HimÖ." (v. 3). The God he knew and trusted, the God he had loved and worshiped, the God he had served, "Where are You now in the midst of my deep darkness?" he wonders. Job says, "Behold, I go forward, but He is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive Him; on the left hand when He is working, I do not behold Him; He turns to the right hand, but I do not see Him" (vv. 8-9). Job is saying, "I look every direction, I look earnestly, but I cannot find Him."
"But," Job says in verse 10, "He knows the way that I takeÖ." Which is more important Ė that you know where God is or that God knows where you are? Given a choice, I want to make sure God knows where I am, and He does! He knows the way that I take because Heís the One whoís led me.
And, "When He has tried me, I shall come outÖ." If the verse ended there that would be promise good enough. I shall come out! But it is not just that I shall come out, but I will come out different than I went in: "ÖI shall come out as gold." All the impurities are burned off. Just the value of the life of Christ is left within us. "I shall come out as gold." So trust Him; He knows what Heís doing. His goal is to lead us to higher, greener pastures. Heís not going to leave us here.
"Even though I walk through the valley of deep darknessÖ" Remember you are walking through this valley. You say, "Heís left me here a long time." It seems that way and from an earthly perspective it may be a long time. But if we could have heavenís sense of eternity, we would realize that if the deep darkness in our valley lasts decades, in light of eternity itís just a moment. He led you there to take you through. Remembering this gives hope and perspective.
"I Will Fear No Evil"
David is saying, "As I walk through this valley of deep darkness, I will fear no evil. I will not be afraid." He is not saying there isnít evil. In this fallen world there is darkness and death. There are enemies and dangerous places. God may lead us into those. Ask some of our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world who are tortured for their faith, and there are many such around the world.
But we donít have to fear the evil and the pain and the suffering. We will not have to cower in fear before the evil because the One who is righteousness has overcome evil. The One who is light has overcome darkness. The One who is life has overcome death. He is the One who is with us! Our great Shepherd is with us so we will fear no evil. Any time Godís people throughout the Old and New Testaments had fears, which they did often, what was Godís solution? He says again and again, "Fear not, for I am with you" as He says in Isaiah 41:10.
The Shepherdís Nearness in the Valley
Up to this point David has been talking about his Shepherd. Now he starts talking to the Shepherd. "You are with me" (v. 4). Where does he start talking to the Shepherd? When he is in that valley of deep darkness, in the place of the greatest potential of danger, and threat and fear, he makes this statement of faith. David is saying in other words, "Lord, I am going to trust You even when I cannot see You. Even when everything around me seems to scream that You have left me alone and abandoned me, I will trust You are with me." Not I think God is with me, I hope God is with me, or "God, please be with me," but "God, You are with me in the midst of this valley of deep darkness."
God becomes more personal and seems nearer to us when we walk through the valley of deep darkness, through trouble and sorrow. When things are prosperous we talk about God, but when we come to that valley of deep darkness we talk to God. We hang on to Him, realizing that even if we canít hang on, Heís hanging on to us. Even if weíre faithless He remains faithful.
We have to counsel our hearts according to the truth over and over again. I tell myself, "This is the truth!" because everything else around me, including my emotions, is screaming the opposite. "The truth is that You are with me here and now!" There are times when God will lead you through the valley of deep darkness, but if you are a child of God you will never go through the valley of deep darkness alone. Your spouse, your children, your friends may leave you, your sanity may leave you Ė but your Shepherd will not leave you.
"Great is Thy faithfulnessÖThy own dear presence to cheer and to guideÖ." Where do you need that more than when you are in the valley of deep darkness? "Thus says the Lord, He who created youÖĎFear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume youí" (Isa. 43:1-2). Our Shepherd is a guide to lead us through the valley, to show us the way out. Heís a protector from the enemies who would want to attack us in the midst of that valley.
"Your Rod and Staff They Comfort Me"
"Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me" (v. 4). Itís interesting what God chooses to use to comfort us. Where do you look for comfort when youíre in the valley of deep darkness? We look to friends or family, or to entertainment, work, food, some to alcohol, a lot increasingly to pornography, some to sleep, some to the arms of a sympathetic man. We seek comfort; we seek relief from the pain. God doesnít want us to dull the pain or numb it; He wants us to run to Him and find a source of comfort that this world cannot offer.
"Your rod and Your staff they comfort me." That word comfort, "com" and "fort," comes from two words that mean "with strength" Ė to infuse us with His strength. One commentator on Psalm 23 says that it means "to help another who is choked with grief or fear to breathe freely, and to give his heart air." When you are choked with grief or fear, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, comes to us and helps us to breathe freely and He gives our hearts air to relieve the pressure.
A shepherdís rod and staff donít sound comforting at first, do they? The rod was the symbol of the shepherdís power. It was usually a large club used to defend the flock against wild beasts and robbers. If youíre one of the enemies, the club is menacing and you should be afraid of it, but for the sheep that club provided security. It was a means of protection; it was assurance that they would be protected from enemies and from danger. Then there is the staff. You have seen the picture of the shepherd with his staff that sometimes would have a bent or hooked end. That was used to restrain the sheep from wandering. If they did wander and perhaps fell into a hole, it was used to rescue them or to pull them out if they got caught in a thicket or a hole. It was used to prod and guide them. It, too, was used as a means of comfort and security and reassurance that the shepherd was keeping his sheep safe.
Godís Word a Means of Comfort
What are His rod and His staff? How does God comfort us in our afflictions? Number one is His Word Ė His Word read, preached, listened to, believed, memorized, sung and obeyed. "This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your promise gives me lifeÖWhen I think of Your rules from of old, I take comfort, O LordÖLet Your steadfast love comfort me according to Your promise to Your servant" (Psa. 119:50, 52, 76).
God also uses His people to bring us comfort, to provide accountability, encouragement, and words of exhortation, to pray for us, and to help us see the Lord. He can also use things we read. And God uses circumstances and adversity. He uses painful experiences to chasten us. Why? Itís a comfort that His goal is restoration, knowing that God is not going to leave us caught in that thicket or down in that hole.
The Apostle Paul knew how to find comfort from the Lord. A portion of 2 Corinthians chapter 1 is a familiar passage, but maybe God will use it to be a rod and a staff to encourage your heart. Paul says: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christís sufferingsÖ." Have you ever thought of suffering as something you could share abundantly with Christ? Itís a different perspective on suffering, isnít it? "For as we share abundantly in Christís sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfortÖwhich you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer" (vv. 3-6).
You get comfort from the God of all comfort when you patiently endure the sufferings. It is not when you worm your way out of them, not when you manipulate your way around them, not when you run from them, but when you let God comfort you in the midst of that dark valley.
Look at verses 8, 9 and 10: "For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again." O Lord, "Even though I walk through the valley of deep darkness, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."
"You Prepare a Table"
Then we come to Psalm 23:5: "You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." I tend to agree with those commentators who say that at this point the metaphor, or the word picture in the Psalm, changes from that of a shepherd with his sheep to that of a gracious host who welcomes us to His home. Charles Spurgeon had this to say about this verse: "You prepare a table just as a servant does when she unfolds the damask table cloth and displays the ornaments of the feast on an ordinary peaceful occasion. Nothing is hurried. There is no confusion, no disturbance. The enemy is at the door, and yet God prepares a table. The Christian sits down and eats as if everything were in perfect peace." He says, "Oh, the peace which Jehovah gives to His people even in the midst of the most trying circumstances." This is the verse that immediately follows the valley of deep darkness. We see that we have walked through the valley of deep darkness out onto the other side. That gives us hope.
I think of that passage in Psalm 66, beginning in verse 10: "You, O God, have tested us. You have tried us as silver is tried. You brought us into the net. You laid a crushing burden on our backs." You see the sovereignty of God here: "You let men ride over our heads."
Who has been in ministry for any length of time who hasnít felt some of these emotions? We went through fire and through water, the valley of deep darkness. Yet God has brought us out to a place of abundance. My sisters and brothers, lift up your eyes! By faith God is taking you there. By faith you can have a table and a place of abundance even while youíre still in the valley of deep darkness. Joseph named his sons words that mean, "You have made me fruitful in the land of my affliction." God brings us out to a place of abundance.
"In the Presence of My Enemies"
He prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies. This is not heaven yet. This is still life on this earth where there are real enemies: death, old age, sickness, certain people who set themselves against God, perhaps an unsaved mate, or a believing mate who is not walking with the Lord, the enemy of our souls, Satan, who seeks to devour us, our flesh, things in our past that haunt us. These are enemies. God prepares a table before us in the presence of our enemies.
We tend to focus on the enemies instead of focusing on what God is doing in the presence of those enemies. Picture it here: the enemies are looking on like animals with eyes that glow in the dark and make noises in the dark. They terrify and petrify, and theyíre circling the campfire. But we are at that table that God has prepared for us in the presence of those enemies. Those enemies cannot stop us from feasting. Those enemies see the reality of Godís provision, Godís protection and Godís presence in our lives. Sooner or later those enemies are going to bow and say that He is Lord. Your life as God provides and protects you in the presence of those enemies is a testimony to the power of God. Itís going to make believers out of some of those enemies.
The enemies of the world, the flesh, and the devil are always lurking this side of heaven. But we donít have to be overcome or overwhelmed or intimidated by them.
God will grant us abundance. He will supply our needs in the face of opposition and danger. We can enjoy His presence, His provision, His goodness, His fullness, His safety, His blessing in the presence of our enemies. You may have some names and faces that are coming to mind when Iím talking about those enemies, some real life circumstances and situations. Theyíre there. But in the presence of those enemies, in the presence of your own flesh that rises up against God, He prepares a place of abundance for you. Every enemy, every foe will be conquered and must bow to His lordship.
In the meantime you can feast at the table He has prepared for you. Make sure that you let Him prepare the table for you rather than trying to come up with your own feast, rather than trying to come up with your own happiness, your own fullness, your own satisfaction, your own fire. Let God prepare the feast for you.
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." Are you looking to your enemies or to your Host? He has conquered every enemy. Iím thankful the psalm squarely faces the reality of those enemies: death, darkness, evil. David doesnít pretend that those things donít exist. He had experienced those enemies. Heís not talking about an escape from my enemies, but triumph over my enemies. Yes, the valley of death exists, but I can walk through it and He will be with me. Yes, there is evil, but I donít have to fear it. Thereís no dread. I can have His comfort. Yes, there are enemies, but He hosts me in their presence while they look on. They are real, but He is more real. He doesnít remove me from the presence of my enemies, though that day is coming. It will be a day when there will be no more night, no more sin, no more sorrow, no more tears, no more death, no more enemies, and no more evil. But in the meantime we can feast with Him in the presence of our enemies.
"You Anoint My Head with Oil"
In Scripture oil is a picture of things like abundance, fullness, satisfaction, sufficiency, love, joy and gladness. "You anoint my head with oil." In the Old Testament and New Testament times in the Middle East a sign of hospitality was that you would anoint your guest with oil. It was a sign of being valued, esteemed, and welcomed as a guest. It is a picture of the ministry of the Holy Spirit throughout Scripture. We read about the anointing, the consecration of the priests and kings. Itís a picture of the empowering of the Holy Spirit, a symbol of gladness and joy in the Holy Spirit.
You anoint my head with oil, with joy, with the Spirit. This is something not to be applied just once, not to be received just at the point of conversion, the point where the Holy Spirit comes to indwell us, but a fresh anointing, fresh oil that God gives to His children who believe Him for it. Repeatedly I need that fresh filling, that fresh anointing, that fresh empowering of His Holy Spirit Ė every day, throughout the day, as each new opportunity presents itself, each new duty, each new challenge.
My staff know that when they ask, "How can we pray for you?" the thing I will most often say as Iím getting ready to come into a session like this, is "Pray for fresh oil." I cannot tell you how many times I have felt that I was out of oil. Iíve felt when I would come into a session like this that I have nothing left to give, and I fall on my face before the Lord, cry out to Him and say, "Lord, fresh oil!" Moms, you need fresh oil. Grandmothers, pastorsí wives, single women Ė you need fresh oil Ė in the work place, the church place, the home place, when youíre by yourself, when youíre with others Ė you need fresh oil! He anoints my head with oil.
"My Cup Overflows"
What a picture of Godís abundant, plenteous grace, a picture of an overflowing life. Thatís what God intends for us Ė not living on fumes, not on the dregs of Godís goodness in our lives, but fullness! "My cup overflows." Thatís what God intends for every believer in every season of life. Itís not natural. Itís supernatural. My cup runs low and I find the older I get and the greater the challenges, the lower my cup runs. But God specializes in taking empty cups, desperate, needy cups and filling them up to overflowing.
Some of us live a Christian life that is kind of scrimping, scraping, barely surviving, a poverty-stricken life. Psalm 23 says, "You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows." This is a picture of abundance, plenty. Paul said in Philippians 4:18 from a prison cell: "I am well supplied." He was saying that his cup overflows. "Whoever believes in MeÖ" Jesus said, "out of his heart will flow rivers of living water" (John 7:38). Thatís the kind of life I want to live. I donít have it in me and you donít have it in you, but the Holy Spirit has it in Him. Itís Jesusí life filling me, flowing through me.
That doesnít mean we are always happy. There are times of the valley of deep darkness. I have to believe that even in those times of torment, terror, night, evil and enemies, God can fill our cups. He can anoint our heads with oil. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places" (Eph. 1:3). What do I lack that I need? What blessing, what good thing has God not given me in Christ? Not a thing. I tend to be more focused naturally on my problems and the challenges than on my blessings.
I have a long-time friend who has recently gone to be with the Lord. She would say, "Iíve got more blessings than I do prayer requests." Thatís the kind of lady I want to be. But Iím not going to be that way when Iím 90 as she was, if Iím a whiner when Iím in my 40ís. "Iíve got more blessings than I do prayer requests." It doesnít mean we donít share our prayer requests. It doesnít mean we put on a facade, "Everythingís fine." We need to be real and honest with each other, but we need to share the challenges in light of the blessings. God is abundant in mercy. He abundantly pardons us. For overflowing sin, there is overflowing grace.
What about overflowing problems? Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 that for Christís sake he delighted in the afflictions and hardships he was called on to go through. God gives overflowing joy and grace to meet the need. As our problems overflow, so the comfort that is ours in Christ overflows. You have a lot of problems? God has more grace. You have much sin? God has more grace. You have a lot in your past? God has more grace. "My cup overflows."
No wonder the psalmist could say, "The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed I have a beautiful inheritanceÖ.You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Psa. 16:6, 11). In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 the Apostle Paul tells us that weíve been blessed abundantly so that we can overflow into othersí lives. My cup overflows so I can help your cup overflow. And your cup overflows so you can help my cup overflow. We become channels of Godís overflowing mercy and grace and blessing to others. We can be generous out of the abundance of what God has given to us.
So thereís a cycle in our lives: overflowing need leads to Godís overflowing grace, which leads to overflowing gratitude, which leads to overflowing generosity. God gives us overflowing grace so that we can be generous to others, so we can all be grateful to God. Itís a life of overflowing. That means thereís no room for complaining. Instead we have every reason for overflowing gratitude. There is no reason for a measured, stingy life. Instead thereís every reason for overflowing grace and gratitude. My cup overflows. Does yours? By faith it can. Itís His life.
"Goodness and Mercy Shall Follow MeÖ"
Then we come to verse 6: "SurelyÖ" Thereís a certainty here, an assurance about it, thereís confidence. "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me [some translations say Ďpursue meí] all the days of my life." Weíve read in this Psalm about evil. But we fear no evil because His goodness, which overcomes evil, and His mercy follow me all the days of my life. I picture Godís mercy and His goodness like two bodyguards following me all the days of my life. Those enemies may pursue me but Godís goodness and mercy pursue me. They follow me in contrast to those enemies that pursue me and intend to harm and destroy me. My past is covered by His goodness and His mercy, His covenant love, His faithful, covenant-keeping grace and mercy. My present is secure. I am cared for. My future is secure. I will always be cared for so thereís no need to worry, no need to fret, to stay awake at night, to obsess about the future. Godís mercy and goodness actively seek us out when weíre following Him.
Not only do Godís goodness and His mercy attend me, but as a child of God attended by Godís mercy and His goodness everywhere I go, Iím suppose to leave a trail of goodness and mercy behind to bless others. Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. So for those who are walking behind me, those who are following in my steps, thereís a trail of Godís goodness and mercy that have been going with me all of my days. What kind of trail are you leaving for your children, for younger women? Whatís the fragrance of your life thatís left behind when you leave the room? Is it a fragrance of worry or stress or anxiety or fear or whining or anger or bitterness or resentment? Or is it the fragrance of Godís mercy and goodness?
"In the House of the Lord Forever"
"[Godís] goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." To be in the house of the Lord is to be forever in the presence of the Lord. This is something that David had longed and lived for all of his life. "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple" (Psalm 27:4).
Evil, death and enemies are real here and now. The valley of deep darkness is real. But heaven is the greater, ultimate reality and itís what gives perspective to our lives here on earth. So whatever youíre facing now is not the final chapter. We have this eternal hope Ė "forever!" Always at home with God! "I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Christ makes life bearable. Christ is our life. He is our hope here and now. But we have more than just here and now to bank on. Our short, relatively miserable stay here on earth is preparing us for something far more wonderful than we can ever begin to comprehend. We need to learn to live now in the light of that eternal, ultimate reality.
The book of Revelation is the end of the story. All through the early chapters of Revelation there are wars and fighting; hell does battle with heaven, Satan does battle with God, and Satanís angels do battle with Godís angels. And at times God allows Satan to win Ė but not for long. Satan is cast out and he knows his days are numbered; he knows that he has been defeated at the cross of Christ and yet he continues to wage a battle. He knows that heís defeated, but he continues to try to defeat us and there are times when he is given permission to win temporarily over the servants of God.
But let us read the end of the story from Revelation 7:13-17: "Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, ĎWho are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?í I said to him, ĎSir, you know.í And he said to me, ĎThese are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. [Theyíve been through the valley of deep darkness, theyíve been through the enemies, theyíve been past the evil, theyíve been past the gaping jaws of the lion.] They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will shelter them with His presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.í" Thatís the ultimate reality.
And for now we hold to what we know: "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 nameís 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."
And Lord, our hearts say, "Amen." Let it be so. "Come quickly, Lord Jesus," but until then may you find us following.
Excerpted from Nancy Leigh
DeMossí four-part message. Used by permission of Revive Our Hearts, P.O. Box
2000, Niles, MI 49120. This four-part series is also available on DVD at
www.ReviveOurHearts.com. Revive Our Hearts is an outreach of Life Action