SHADOW AND LIGHT
One evening, I was standing outside my back patio, waiting for Brandi to potty, when I noticed that the light, streaming from the house, was casting an elongated and distorted shadow of me onto the lawn. My fur-baby quickly noticed and began barking as my shadow moved. Just then these words from Psalm 23 ran through my mind, "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" (Verse 4 KJV).
I have always loved Psalm 23, but the "shadow of death" puzzled me. The Psalmist did not say, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil..." What then was the meaning of the "shadow?"
What is a shadow? It is a dark area or distorted shape produced by a body or object coming between rays of light and a surface. Like my elongated and intimidating shadow that frightened Brandi, the enemy of our soul always looms larger and fiercer to create fear and dominance. As I watched her react to the shadowy image, the Lord spoke into my spirit, "I Am the Light that uncovers and shines on what is hidden in the dark."
The apostle John tells us, "God is light." There is no darkness in Him, for He is light itself (I John 1:5). All light comes from Him; light is the very nature and character of God. His light is always present to reflect and expose what is hidden in the dark. He uncovers deep things out of darkness and "brings the shadow of death to light" (Job 12:22 NKJV). For "nothing is hidden, except for the purpose of having it revealed, and nothing is secret, except for the purpose of having it come to light" (Mark 4:22 ISV).
Let us re-examine these words, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil..." The word, "through" is very important, because it means to move or travel from one side and out through the other side. We are given the assurance that God is with us as we pass through the "valley" and come out the other side.
A "valley" is a low area of land between hills or mountains, typically with a river or stream flowing through it. Though we may pass through the valleys (trials), God provides us with continual refreshing from His River of Living Water, which is His Holy Spirit.
God's presence is always with us, for His rod and staff comfort us. The rod is a symbol of discipline and correction and the staff represents the instrument used to bring stray sheep back to the fold. Jesus, the Great Shepherd, defends and disciplines His sheep with His rod. And when we, His sheep, wander or stray, He guides us back with His staff.
Having recently been so sick and in the hospital for a week, events were happening with the speed of falling dominos, and I felt as though God was ignoring my pleas for help. However, I was forgetting a basic truth. No matter what we go through, or how long we remain in a valley, we determine our length of stay in that valley of despair and fear by what we focus on. Are we focusing on the shadowy symptoms and circumstances, or do we have our minds firmly fixed on God's truths?
As we walk through the valley, God calls us to stop, bend down, and drink deeply of His living water, so that we may become renewed for the journey through the valley. It is there, by the sweet and refreshing living water, that He invites us to rest, spend time with Him, and listen for His council, as He encourages, teaches, corrects, guides, and directs.
Why does God allow us to pass through valleys? He does it to reveal areas of weakness in our armor. For His Word tells us, "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
We must be diligent in wearing the whole armor of God so that we are battle-ready, for we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers, and rulers of this dark world, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, we put on the full armor of God, so that when evil comes, we are able to stand our ground, with our waist buckled with truth, our breastplate of righteousness in place and our feet shod with the gospel of peace. Above all, we must take our shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.
The words "fiery darts" are from the Greek word belos. The Apostle Paul likened the fiery darts of our spiritual enemies with physical enemies who wrapped the tips of their arrows with fabric, soaked in flammable fluids, so they could burn hot and long. As a defense, Roman soldiers soaked their shields with water, so that when the fiery darts (arrows) were fired against the wet shields, the water extinguished the flames. Likewise, when our faith is Word-saturated, it becomes like a soldier's water-saturated shield; the fiery darts of the enemy are quickly extinguished.
We wear our helmet of salvation as we carry the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. The helmet was the soldier's final piece of armor put on, showing readiness for combat. Our assurance of salvation and God's promises that go with salvation give us faith to enter the battle. With armor firmly in place, we continually pray in the Spirit and for the Lord's people (Ephesians 6:10-18).
God's light is every present; consequently, we need not fear evil, for His light uncovers what is hidden in the dark. However, when He uncovers the hidden things, are we battle-ready, dressed in the full armor of God, and prepared to defend our ground? Rest assured that when the enemy is close, he is looking for a chink in our armor. Therefore, we must be equipped at all times to stand firm with our shield of faith in place and the Word of God ever ready on our lips.
Lord, thank you that as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You, the Light, will reveal the dangers, refresh my soul, and illuminate my steps. I have nothing to fear, for You protect, comfort, teach, correct, refresh, lead, and guide. Help me to faithfully and daily put on the full armor of God, so that I may stand boldly against the enemy. In Jesus name, amen.