Just this week we learned that terrorists have destroyed the World Trade Center in New York City. Airplanes have been hi-jacked. The president of the United States has been kept '"under wraps" so he may be kept safe.
Literally thousands of people have been brutally killed by this terrible, unexpected attack against the United States.
While I am writing these words, people are giving blood to emergency needs, endeavoring to make plans for business, vacation, hunting, even emergencies, in light of the major mix-up in the lives of most (if not all) of the people of the United States.
In Psalm 23, the writer speaks of two matters that are unusually significant for us today: 1) the "valley of the shadow" and 2) the "Shepherd." Let's take a brief look at both.
n The Valley of the Shadow
In the world of the shepherd and his sheep, this phrase -- "the valley of the shadow of death" -- identified a narrow, often dark, defile through which the shepherd had to lead his sheep whenever he took them either up on the mountain for good grazing, or back down off the mountain to return to the safety of the sheepfold at night. Often wild animals would take advantage of this dangerous area to attack and kill the sheep for their own purposes.
Our nation walks in such a situation at this present time. Our older generation has been reminded of a "day that shall long live in infamy" when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. This time, for the first time in our nation's history, such an attack has been made on the land of the contiguous 48 states.
The valley is dark. The future is unknown. We look to our president and national leaders for guidance, protection and assurance for the future.
However, at the same time, some those reading these words are going through their own dark valley. You may have lost your job, health, child or marriage. The future looks bleak indeed. Is there hope? Is there a way through the dark valley?
Yes! There is hope! There is reason to anticipate that life can be good. There is a way to go through the dark valley. There is the Shepherd.
n The Shepherd
There would be no need for a shepherd if there were no valleys or dangers to be faced. But since "all we (people) like sheep have gone astray," we are in genuine need of a shepherd.
We elect, anoint and appoint shepherds. We select one, then we ignore his leadership, then we find fault with him for his inadequacy. Ultimately, we discover that the shepherd we truly need for the circumstances and situations of our lives is the one written about, by the Psalmist, 3,000 years ago -- the lord.
King David's keys to personal peace in the middle of crisis include the following:
* Acknowledging "the Lord" as "my (personal) Shepherd";
* Following his directives and leadership: "He makes me lie down," "He leads me"; and
* Relaxing in the confidence of his protection: "I will fear no evil. Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me."
At a time when our nation is facing profoundly disturbing stress, or in a time of personal distress, just what is the nature of your relationship with this Shepherd? At your house of worship, I trust you will be encouraged to rely more on him.
Charles G. Thornton is the associate pastor of Peninsula Grace Brethren Church, 44175 Kalifornsky Beach Road, in Soldotna. Sunday Worship is at 8:30 and 11 a.m. Bible classes are at 9:45 a.m.
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