To be declared to be in good health is for a short span of time encouraging and as a rule considered to be good news.
We say “for a short span of time” because ulcers develop with an undesirable speed. Heart attacks fell men who were pronounced only a few days ago to be in perfect health. Cardiograms indicate that no heart attack has taken place in the past but are no indication that one will not occur in the very near future. They reveal that at the moment the heart is performing its work in a regular manner, but give no promise for the future. Cancer often grows with phenomenal speed and makes itself known in such a sudden and terrifying way. We can be healthy today and feel in good spirits, only to be felled tomorrow with a little invisible virus that had been lurking in our bodies unknown and unnoticed while we felt good and expected no incapacitating distress. As the world says it, “Here today. Gone tomorrow.”
Clinics have their value. Periodic examinations are not to be dismissed as worthless. X-ray and blood tests are not just so much foolishness. Our bodies are a precious possession; and it is our calling to take as good care of them as we possibly can. Medicines and remedies are not to be rejected as mere carnal, material, worldly matters. Hezekiah was advised by no one less than God’s prophet to take a cluster of figs and place it upon his boil. Jesus condemned no one who came crying for relief from physical miseries and afflictions. Jesus called not one of them carnal and worldly-minded. The psalmist declares, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15.
And yet, our whole life is spent in the valley where the shadow of death is cast. David tells us that in his shepherd’s Psalm. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” If, therefore, it is not one distress that we experience, it is another. “The days of our years are threescore and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” Psalm 90:10. For, indeed, we are in the valley where the shadow of death is cast. We see that shadow every day. We cannot fail to know that death is near because of that shadow. We are, not on the mountain top where the sunlight strikes us in all its beauty and with the force of its light. We are not on the plain where the sun high in the heavens warms us and we can bask in its sunlight. We are in the valley, and the sun is behind the mountain peak of our sin and guilt before God.
Our sins rise up against us prevailing day by day. A huge mass of evil is between us and our God. To that mass the whole human race is adding every moment of every day! And the wages of sin is death! O, we are still alive. We are born into this world and have physical, natural life for a brief span of years. We eat and drink and are somewhat merry. We plan and hope and build and dream. And, it seems sometimes as though we have built for eternity and that our dreams are coming true. Although a new deal had to be replaced with a new frontier, we are ready to speak of a great society and dare to dream that somehow, someway we can get rid of that miserable shadow without removing the mountain. But every morning that we awaken, there it is, because the mountain is still there. And no human effort can remove that mountain. Literally with our huge earth-moving equipment we seem to be able to remove mountains, but this mountain of the load of our guilt and sin we can only build higher and higher without any hope of removing one pebble from it. It reaches up to the very heavens, and therefore the sun is never seen above it. Since man was driven out of paradise the human race has not seen that sun but only the shadow of death. And it may very well be called Death Valley, for all born in it also die in it.
It makes little difference then, whether one is told that one has ulcers or not, a bad heart or a normal heart, hardening of the arteries or not, a good set of lungs and kidneys or diseased organs. We say “little difference” because there is a difference but it lasts for such a little while before the death represented by that shadow is upon us. We may seem to have escaped its clutches for the moment only to be overwhelmed by it from an entirely unexpected quarter.
What shall we say of all these things?
Shall we take a gloomy and pessimistic attitude? Shall we become careless and even wreckless, since we cannot escape this enemy anyway? Shall we live in fear and terror counting our days in some morbid despair and hopeless anxiety? Shall we go to the one extreme and eat, drink and be merry to get out of this life as much as we can yet; or shall we sit down and wait for that death in some gloomy satisfaction that it is coming soon?
Neither one. Not as children of God. Both of these are wicked. All of these are carnal and acts of unbelief. We shall fear; but it shall be the fear of the Lord and not the fear of death. Listen to the Psalmist, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. . . .” Surely then he does not fear that death. He is not afraid that death is going to rob him of all that which is precious and valuable. He is not even afraid that death will take life away from him. He finds comfort in the valley and tranquility for his soul. Pain, agony, woe and distress may come over his body. Yea, these things are going to be his lot sooner or later. That shadow will not let him forget that! But his soul is tranquil. His thoughts are undisturbed. By faith he sees the light and is sure of dwelling forever in the light. For he adds, “. . .for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” He speaks of comfort. He reveals a tranquil soul while yet in the valley where the shadow of death is cast.
In His fear, we fear no evil.
It makes a world of difference whether we fear God or whether we do not fear Him. It makes all the difference between fear of evil and tranquility of soul, peace of mind, and confidence that we shall one day be in the light. It makes all the difference in the world because that man who fears the Lord has been made to be different by the Lord Whom he fears. The believer has been made by God to be of a different world, to be born with a life from above, to be a peculiar people, a stranger among those who know only the valley, and from this valley enter into the abyss! God is with the man who fears Him. God is IN the man who fears Him. David’s confidence in Death Valley is that God is with him in covenant fellowship and communion.
He is with us today in our human nature. He came to be one of us. For thirty-three and a half years He tabernacled among us in our flesh. With our guilt He went to the cross, and for us He went into hell and the grave. He arose for our justification and now is seated at God’s right hand in our behalf. And He is there also in our glorified human nature. He is still the Son of Man. “In all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:17. But it also behooves Him still to be one of us and to be at God’s right hand in our glorified human nature. He did not leave the human race at His resurrection and ascension. He raised the human nature to, a level never achieved or enjoyed by man before that moment. He is with us today still as one of us, even though He has personally attained to higher glory in the human nature than we enjoy at the moment. And He is with His entire host of saints who have been called home out of the valley into the joys of heaven. Some have been lifted up out of Death Valley to dwell in the mansion of glory where the Light always shines and untold and indescribable bliss reigns.
By His Spirit He is with us who still walk through the valley. And by this Spirit He encourages us, blesses us, guides us and keeps us in the faith. “Lo, I am with you even unto the end, of the world” (Matthew 28:20) are the words of this merciful High priest the day He left our valley to ascend to the mountain of God’s glory. And He is with us even unto the end of the world in that Spirit Whom He received to send forth unto His Church.
But He is also with us every step of our earthly way in that He is not against us. His thoughts towards us are thoughts of peace. He does not purpose to destroy us but to lift us up out of that valley and to bring us into the glory He enjoys. The evil which we still experience is sent by Him as a good that works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. It is evil in that it hurts our flesh. It is evil in that it brings pain and tears, yea even that very death itself which the shadow in the valley predicts and portrays. But it is a good in His hand. It is as the evil-tasting medicine and painful bit of surgery that work for our good health and strength. He is with us when He sends these evils to use them for our good.
The whole world situation, the whole set-up in the world today, would look and does look so different through the eyes of faith. That mountain range of sin that causes the shadow of war, brutality, violence and death across the face of the whole earth today looks so different when it is viewed in His fear. Living in Death Valley they threaten to fake away all of our joy and peace. There simply is no hope. Since man was placed in that valley when he was cast out of paradise, we simply have not seen the Sun; and all our efforts to get rid of that shadow and to get out of the valley have ended in utter failure. Show me a man who has escaped death! And though we hear men boast of extending life and of his “hope” of conquering it entirely by his science and ingenuity, we will continue to kill ourselves on our highways; thieves and violent men will still go around killing. Yea, in the midst of man’s seemingly greatest achievements in “extending” life and of rescuing from the brink of death, the shadow of utter destruction of all life upon the face of this earth makes that shadow of death so much more real and pushes back that much farther any hope of escape. No, we shall not get out of the valley or escape the death it predicts. After all a shadow is caused by a reality. And death and the curse of God upon the human race and upon this entire world is an unchangeable as well as undeniable reality. You will have to remove the reality in order to get rid of the shadow.
Only in His fear can we and do we see over the mountain and out of the valley to the Light and a kingdom of life and joy. For the Sun is there. The very fact that there is a shadow not only means that there is the reality of death that casts this shadow, but it also means that there is The Sun oil the other side of that reality of death! In fear of death men would like to get rid of that Sun. But they never shall. Instead He shall destroy them with that death. But in His fear we see Him as being with us with those thoughts of peace, and we know His promise of life and joy on the other side of the mountain. You see, Christ is exalted to God’s right hand, high above us and above that death into which He went for us. And as the psalmist states, “As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him” Psalm 103:11. By faith—that is in His fear—we see Him high up in the heavens at God’s right hand, far above that mountain of sin, exalted above that last enemy, which is death. And as we at night see the moon in all its brilliance high above us shining with the light, of the sun which is behind the horizon, so in His fear we see Christ with us reflecting the light of God’s mercy and love in His precious covenant promises. And our souls are tranquil. Peace like a river floods our souls. All is well. We know the Light is there. We know He is there for us. Look at the moon tonight in reassurance that the sun is still with us. Look in His fear to the Son of God at God’s right hand and be tranquil in, the knowledge that God is with us in His love, mercy and grace. We will fear no evil. We will see the evil as that which works for our good.