Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Valley of the Shadow

It is appointed unto men once to die. But before we meet that appointment we may on numerous occasions walk through valleys where death casts its foreboding shadow. King David, after he had served his nation 40 years, became sick and died. Many times before death his eyes caught a view of the shadow death cast.

Psalm 23:4 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.

Death due to unintended consequences
David was made to mourn deaths of those from outside his inner circles -- death that had resulted from his actions and decisions. What misery of mind to acknowledge the unintended consequences to the priest Abiathar, "I knew it that day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, that he would surely tell Saul: I have occasioned the death of all the persons of thy father's house (1 Samuel 22:22)." Uzzah's death before the ark at first angered David. Then he realized his complicity in the matter by not transporting the ark properly (Cf. 2 Samuel 6:8; 1 Chron. 15:2). 

The death of friends and family
The hurt of the death of friends and family is a profoundly deep wound not soon healed. The Bible tells the tale of several such gut-wrenching moments in David's life. The death of his close friend and confidant Jonathan touched him profoundly -- "How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle! O Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places. I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan." The loss of his sons, a baby, Amnon -- especially Absalom  -- was a special burden. "And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" The mournful song of regret pours forth from his tongue in deep anguish.

The imminent death of one's self
From shepherd to soldier to king, David had not a few run-ins with the shadow of death. Out in the wilds herding and defending his father's sheep, he neared the paw of the lion and the bear, and was delivered. 1 Samuel 17:37 "David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine." As a youth in the shadow of a giant who had been a soldier from his youth, David stared into death's shadow and was again delivered. David as soldier in Saul's army conquered the foe time and again. As a fugitive from Saul's regime, as a kingly leader of his armies, as an Absalomic exile from his own throne, and as a scofflaw of the 7th and 8th commandments, David knew the meaning of imminent death and saw the long shadow of its approach, only to see God turn it aside. 1 Samuel 20:3 "And David sware moreover, and said, Thy father certainly knoweth that I have found grace in thine eyes; and he saith, Let not Jonathan know this, lest he be grieved: but truly as the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, there is but a step between me and death."

Yes, it is appointed unto men once to die. As far as we know, at any given moment, there is but one step between us and death. But if God be with us, there is no cause to fear. Death is the door by which we exit this world and enter the next. 

Psalm 56:11 In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain!

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