You must be willing to enter the valley before being seated at the table.
By Angela Errett
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. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Psalm 23: 4-5
Reading God’s Word is never dull. It is alive! You can read the same scripture a hundred times, and still, on the hundred and first time, you see something new. The words jump off the page, and your mind’s eye projects a vision of another dimension within the text.
One of the most quotable scriptures in the Bible is Psalm 23. People often use it at funerals because of the reference to death, but, when you take a closer look, the whole psalm is about life and how to achieve it the Kingdom way.
Let’s expand just on the fourth and fifth verse (see above). The following is by no means an exhaustive commentary. Moreover, as with anything I write, please don’t take my word for it…study the scriptures noted for your own knowledge.
“Yea, though I walk”
First, you have to walk. No one else can do it for you. God will lead when you fear Him–or in other words, revere Him–and have intimacy with Him. He is under a covenant with us to make His way known to all who fear Him. The word covenant is very powerful too (see Psalm 25). It means a promise, a bond, a pledge. In a kingdom, the king’s decree is just that, a promise that even the king is not allowed to trespass against it! Our King has an unbreakable commitment to those who worship Him, to lead and guide them, through the Holy Spirit to what His purpose is for them here on earth. Sometimes as Believers, we get so wrapped up in our own thoughts that we forget that God has promised that He will get us where we need to be if we are obedient to His voice.
“through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil”
Let’s start with the Word through. It means in and out of something. It is such a blessing to know that even though you may enter into a bad season, you will be equipped to come out of it! Just the same way, we should all be preparing ourselves constantly while we are in a good season, for the not-so-good to come back around. It is no surprise to anyone reading this that in our lives we all enter into good and bad seasons. Alternatively, in other words, from the valley to the mountain–the circle of life!
A valley is a narrow gorge between mountains. A study of the Hebrew word for valley, gahee, let’s us see a different picture of the definition. It reveals that a valley can represent a period of life where pride is lifted up which takes us back to the middle of a mess we are supposed to be over and instead of focusing on the past, we should be focusing on the promises of God. This process allows us the opportunity to rise up, or grow up, if we seek Him. It is not an easy task for any of us and can at times be exhausting, but when anyone tries to ascend a mountain, there are always risks, dangers, and a physical demand placed on the climber. It is no different in the spiritual realm where it can be even more so due to the knowledge that we have an adversary that tries to keep us from overcoming pride and allowing God to reign over our lives.
Shadow in Hebrew here is tsalmaveth, which can mean deep darkness or calamity. Here is the truth about the shadow over the valley, it may cover us at times, it may hover over us for a brief moment, grow darker and darker, or remain for days, however, the sun will always come back! The shadow of death is the adversary hovering over that narrow pass in the valley trying to keep you from even trying to climb the mountain. He will throw rocks, bring wind, storms, and all kinds of tribulations to keep you from understanding that what God said to Mankind when He created us, still holds true today! We are blessed by God to be fruitful and multiply the Kingdom!
Next is the critical word I. Again, you must make a quality decision to complete the next step and become acquainted with the process of overcoming the enemies definition of fear.
The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant.
Fear, as you’ve seen above, in the positive light, can be a verb (action) which means to revere, stand in awe of, and respect. We are to take action to overcome the fear of the enemy! Fear in the negative light invokes an unpleasant emotion which is caused by a person’s belief that something is dangerous or should be avoided. Fear has its place now in the physical realm to help us navigate situations that could be harmful to us, but when the fall of Man came, the enemy used that emotion to trick us into thinking he was someone to fear or revere instead of God. In other words, that he was more powerful and had more knowledge than God–Eve fell for the bait. She believed his words instead of God’s. She forgot that there was a grave consequence to not harkening to the voice of God and obeying Him.
“for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”
The psalmist next declares that God, Himself, is there beside us and is alluding to how a Shepherd remains with his flock. He walks alongside them keeping a watchful eye that none come to harm. Thy rod shows us that the Shepherd will have moments where He must correct the flock and get them back in line or maybe it is just one that has gone astray. As the saying goes, “He will leave the ninety-nine to find the one.”
The Shepherd’s staff here in Hebrew is mishan which means every kind of support. He supplies all the needs of the flock, leading them to water, food, and shelter, and will keep them on the intended path for their destination. It is their source of strength because without it they are easy prey and can be taken by the enemy. The flock relies on the Shepherd to use His staff to navigate and to protect them against predators. Without knowing the correct path to follow in the valley, and without any protection, how can they get to the higher, cooler area on the mountain without the Shepherd using it?
The rod and staff are a comfort. What? Yes, they are a comfort and here is how. Isn’t it comforting to know that you have a God that loves you so much that He watches continually for the enemy all the while holding protection in His hand? He is our vindicator. He has compassion and mercy waiting for us when we do stray from the narrow path. When we get off the road He has us on, calamity can strike, and we get stressed out, even exhausted. And sometimes, the Shepherd may take the flock down a treacherous road to build their strength. When correction comes to us either through the path or through our waywardness, we can repent and have comfort that we are back within the Shepherd’s flock and under His guiding rod and staff.
Now we come to the meat of the message. The previous commentary was an effort to explain the meaning behind the title of this article, “After the Valley.”
“Thou preparest a table before me”
God prepares and arranges the path we should follow and the best way to navigate it is by listening to His correction and direction through the Holy Spirit and His Word. He also sets the table for us. The word table here refers to the king’s table and means to spread out but also implies a meal will be consumed. Our King arranges the meal we are to consume so He must be intimately acquainted with us. We are to partake of the Bread of Life, and we will hunger and thirst no more. (John 6:35) When you come into the presence of the King, you will not be consuming a light milkshake or some banana pudding; it will be meat. Even the world knows this fact. Ever watch a movie about king Arthur? There are a plethora of stories that depict a king eating at his table. I don’t recall ever seeing one without at least some kind of a meat, cups of wine, and bread. It’s not food that you serve to a child. To be at the table, you must be willing to pass through the valley, withstand the tribulation, and rise to the top of the high place where the King resides. You don’t get there by hopping on a horse and charging up the mountain without any assistance. Doing so a person is in pride, denying the fact that they can’t reach the King’s palace without His help and permission.
What I am speaking of here has nothing to do with salvation. It is about attaining a Kingdom way of life. Salvation is a gift, period. We can do nothing but receive salvation; otherwise, we can say we had a part in it and pride would inevitably be present. The only step we have to take is to receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and believe He died for our sins; that’s it. A gift is given and the person can choose what to do with it once they have it. What I am expanding on here is that once you believe, you are responsible for what you choose to do afterward. You can choose to be saved from death and go no further, or, you can choose to follow His voice and take more ground for His Kingdom and to “be fruitful and multiply” it across the earth. The way is prepared, and the Holy Spirit will guide you to it, and through it, however, the path is narrow and few will find it.
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
“in the presence of mine enemies”
This part of Psalm 23 is one of my favorites. Our God, our almighty God, places the meal on the table, the proverbial kit-and-caboodle, right in front of the eyes of the enemy and declares you are His, and you will be well fed! Being at the table is a slap in the face of the advisory! When a believer expands their knowledge and makes a decision to pursue the narrow path through the valley of the shadow of death to seek the King who lives in the high place, the enemy has lost ground!
“thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”
Anoint in Hebrew is dashen, which means to grow fat or become prosperous. Head in Hebrew is rosh and means the beginning. It also can mean shake and figuratively here can refer to rank. Then you have the oil or shemen in Hebrew. Guess what it means…fatness or better yet fruitful land and valleys! For someone to be fruitful means, they have been acquired by the Kingdom!
God will put you on full display to your enemies and allow them to see just how big He is and just how abundantly you have received because of what He is able to do. He shows the adversary you are a joint heir with Christ.
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
All the things stolen by the enemy will be multiplied and returned to those who are at the table–physically and spiritually. The cup–you as the vessel–have withstood the enemy through the grace of God! You have made it through the wilderness, the valley, passed under the shadow, allowing the Shepherd to keep you on the narrow path, to correct you, and are taking real estate for the King. You are running over and drenched in His presence when you are at the table. He is the Father welcoming home His prodigal son, feasting on the fatted calf, and celebrating that the ground of his son’s heart has been returned to its rightful owner!
As we go through our lives and place God’s way, the narrow way, first place, we can claim more ground and heart’s for His Kingdom and in doing so the goodness and mercy of God is upon us. Psalm 23 closes with the most significant promise of all from the Lord, that we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Declare with me now:
I will give no high thought or reverence to what the enemy says or does. I will not give my attention to what is hovering over me and press forward through the narrow way. I will listen to His voice and obey. I will work as unto the Lord and allow Him to be my vindicator. I will be seated at the table and take ground for His Kingdom. I will see goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life, and I WILL dwell in the house of the Lord forever. AMEN.
“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
1 Samuel 15:22
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