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HOW HIGH ARE YOUR VALLEYS?

Adrian Rogers

Psalm 23:4

 

Turn please to Psalm 23. I know that you are familiar

with this wonderful Psalm. And do you know that one of

the great dangers is that we may be so familiar with

the 23rd Psalm that we miss some of the beauties?

 

One time a botanist was out on his hands and his knees

with a magnifying glass looking down at a little

flower in a pasture. And a big, old brawn shepherd

came and stood behind. And at first the botanist was

not aware that the shepherd was there. And the

shepherd had a smile on his face. To him it was

ludicrous. Here was a man on his hands and knees with

a magnifying glass looking at one little flower. And

when the botanist finally recognized the presence of

this shepherd and he felt a little silly himself, at

first, but then he said to the shepherd, "Here you

come and take a look." And the shepherd kneeled down

and took the magnifying glass himself and looked at

that exquisitely beautiful little heather bell, the

little flower there, and after he did, the tears

popped in his eyes and started to course down his

cheeks. And the botanist said, "Why are you crying?"

"Oh," he said, "I knew they were there, but," he said,

"I just think of how many I trampled under my feet

without really looking at them." I wonder if we don't

do that to some of the more familiar passages in the

Bible. I wonder if we don't need somehow to take God's

magnifying glass and look a little more closely.

 

I had thought when I first started that I would preach

on the entire Psalm, and then I said, "No, I'm going

to narrow it down to one and we'll just take the

magnifying glass and look at the one verse. But I want

us to at least share the whole Psalm together to get

the one verse in its proper setting.

 

It begins this way, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall

not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.

He leadeth me beside the still water. He restoreth my

soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for

his name's sake. 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 for me in the presence of mine

enemies. Thou annointest my head with oil. My cup

runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow

me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the

house of the Lord forever."

 

You know mankind has had some magnificent and amazing

ideas that have changed the course of history.

Copernicus set in a cathedral one day and it had a

chandelier, similar to our chandelier, only it was on

a longer pendulum. And he was watching the chandelier

and seemed to sway ever so slightly. He was like some

of you. He wasn't paying attention to the sermon. He

was just watching and thinking and his mind was off

somewhere else. And he got to thinking, he said,

"There is some force, there is something causing the

pull, the sway, there is some attraction." And he came

up with the idea that this world indeed is not the

center of our universe, but that the sun is the center

of the solar system and that the earth revolves around

the sun. And all the ideas of astronomy and science

and so forth were changed by this great idea that

Copernicus had.

 

Again, there was a man, a brilliant man at the close

of the dark ages. He was in a shop watching a scribe

transcribe laboriously a manuscript a letter at a

time. So exacting and so carefully was he doing it.

And this man said, "You know if I could take little

blocks of wood and carve little letters and make them

where I could turn them around and move then, why,

then these men wouldn't have to do all of this

laborious work. His name was Gutenberg. And he

invented the printing press. And that brought in the

Renaissance that helped to bring in the Industrial

Revolution. And so many things were changed and life

will never again be the same because of this great

concept of moveable type.

 

Again there was another man, he sat in his rocking

chair smoking a pipe and thought. With his white

whiskers there he sat and thought and stroked his

whiskers. And finally he came up with an idea. His

name was Albert Einstein. The idea, the thought was

that of relativity. And some other things that you

know they say that only 12 people on earth understand

the theory of relativity. I'm not so sure of that

because I don't know the other 11. It's just such a

concept, a thought. With that theory and the idea of

the theory of relativity we move into the atomic age

and we've split the atom. We've come into something

that whether we agree with it or not, or whether you

are in favor of it or not, you're going to have to

admit that this idea was so great, so lofty, that it

literally changed the scope of history, dramatically

did.

 

But I want to tell you dear friend, I don't believe

that any of them ever had a greater idea, or concept

or a revelation a shepherd boy who said on a lonely

Judean hill, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not

want." You talk about a thought that can radically

transform your life and radically change this world,

it is that thought, "The Lord is my shepherd." I

believe that the 23rd Psalm ought to be one of the 7

wonders of the world. Have you ever thought about what

a magnificent Psalm it is? Think about the scope and

the reach of it. It's sweet to a little child. And yet

it is perplexing to a scholar. It is quoted at

funerals and it is quoted at weddings. It is quoted in

the nursery school and it is quoted on the battle

field, the 23rd Psalm.

 

I want us to look at just one verse in that 23rd

Psalm, the fourth verse that's going to be the key

verse for what we have to say this morning. Look at

it, verse 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." There

are three words in that verse that I want you to

underscore and all three of them start with the letter

"T". And I call it three tremendous t's. And

incidentally, the title for my message this morn is

this, "How High are Your Valleys?" How high are your

valleys because we all go through the valleys. I want

to tell you dear friend, you can go through some

mighty high valleys if you know the Lord. One man

said, "I'm happier now when I am sad than I was glad

when I was glad before I found the Lord Jesus Christ."

Even our valleys can be lofty valleys.

 

I want us to think on verse four now, let's look at

it. "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."

Underscore the word, "though". Yea, though. Then

underscore the word "through" then underscore the word

"thou" and you will have it. Though, through and thou.

Three tremendous words beginning with the letter "T".

 

The first one tells us of a dark possibility. "Yea

THOUGH I walk through the valley of the shadow of

death..." Friend, it is absolutely possible that this

afternoon that you may start into that valley,

sometimes unexpectedly. The next phone call, the next

letter, the next corner we turn can plunge us into a

dark valley.

 

Now the valley of the shadow of death was a literal

valley in Palestine. And David was very familiar with

it for David was a shepherd boy. And there at the Mt.

of Olives, a spring breaks out and causes a little

river. It has been flowing through the centuries and

this little river flows down toward the dead sea, down

into that valley area, and as it flows it has cut and

cut and cut a chasm until that chasm has become in

some places 1500 feet deep, but it is very narrow. In

some places it may be only 15 or 20 feet wide and it

is a very dangerous valley because of its narrowness

and because of its deepness, there are very great

grotesque shadows coming out of there. And in that

valley are all kinds of animals and so forth. Used to

be, bears would be there. Lions would be there. Hyenas

would be there, jackals would be there, sometimes

robbers and thieves would lurk there, sometimes

scorpions and other things. And the shepherds called

it the valley of the shadow of death.

 

It was a very common occurrence for the shepherd to

have to lead their sheep through this valley, because

in the winter time in Palestine it can get quite cold.

I've seen it snow. But if you go down to the Jericho

valley, it's like a summer health resort. And it's

very warm there in Jericho and so in the winter time

the sheep would graze there in Jericho and yet when

the spring would come and the green hills would start

to blossom with beautiful flowers would come on those

green hills. Grass that you couldn't even tell was

there just turns a beautiful bright mint green. And

it's time there for the shepherds to lead their sheep

from the winter grazing grounds up into the mountain

tops and up into the hills. And they have to lead them

through this dark valley, the valley of the shadow of

death and that's what David is talking about,

literally, but he's using it symbolically to teach us

a wonderful, wonderful lesson and that is the

possibility that any child of God can have a dark

valley.

 

Don't you think for one little moment, sir, just

because you are a Christian that you can't have any

trouble. I want you to jot in your Bible this verse

now, Psalm 34, verse 19, "Many are the afflictions of

the righteous." Did you hear that? Not of the unsaved,

not of the ungodly. "Many are the afflictions of the

righteous." Because you are saved does not mean that

you'll not have any dark valleys. I thank God for the

other side of that verse though that says, "But the

Lord delivered him out of them all." Hallelujah for

that.

 

Let me give you another verse to jot down there in the

margin. I Peter chapter 5 and verse 10, "But the God

of all grace who hath called us into his eternal glory

by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while,

make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you."

Notice that. It speaks of the grace of God. It speaks

of the glory of God. But it also speaks of the grief

of God. "after you have suffered a while," not if you

have suffered, but just after you have suffered.

 

Somebody has said that God only had one son without

sin, but he's not had any son without sorrow. Sooner

or later a hush will come to your home. I don't want

to be morbid about it. I'm not trying to be morbid

because dear friend, my message this morning is not a

morbid message. But I would be less than honest if I

were to tell you this morning that if you become a

Christian that from there on there's going to be

nothing but joy and light and sweetness and roses and

that you're going to move through life in an ever

ascending scale of health and success and happy family

life and prosperity and a serene old age and a

glorious exit into heaven. That's the way we all like

to live. But I tell you there are plenty of people who

love God just as much as you do and more than many of

us who have gone through some dark valleys.

 

And David was one of them. And there's a though there.

"Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of

death..." But friend, you know as well as I know that

you can't have a valley unless you have mountains. And

you know that this Psalm 23 is perched between two

other Psalms. Psalm 22 tells of the crucifixion of the

Lord Jesus Christ. Psalm 22 is written as though

someone were seated at the foot of the cross. And it

describes graphically the crucifixion of the Lord

Jesus Christ. And therefore it is a mountain Psalm. It

tells us of mount Calvary, mount Moriah where the Lord

Jesus died. And then look if you will please in Psalm

23 or excuse me Psalm 24 and that speaks of the

coronation of the Lord Jesus Christ when he is going

to be lifted up in glory. Listen how it ends, "Who is

this king of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the

Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads o ye gates

and lift them up ye everlasting doors and the king of

glory shall come in. Who is this king of glory? The

Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory. Selah."

 

And so you see in Psalm 22 you have the crucifixion of

our Lord, Mount Calvary. And then Psalm 24 you have

the coronation of our Lord, Mount Zion. And Psalm 23

is the valley in between. This trilogy of Psalms is in

a distinct order. You have first of all the Savior's

cross, then the shepherd's crook, and then the

Sovereign's crown. All of them are right there

together. And Psalm 23 is the valley between the blood

drenched slopes of Mount Calvary and the sunlit peaks

of Mount Glory and Mount Zion. And thank God dear

friend, for every valley, there must be a mountain.

And you need to remember that when you are in the

valley, you couldn't be in the valley were it not for

these mountains.

 

And oh I want you to think on that. I just want you to

think on that. I want to tell you something else. The

Bible speaks of the valley of the shadow of death. And

for every shadow there must be a light. You can't have

a shadow unless you have a light. Christ said, "I am

the light of the world." He is the light even through

the dark valley. It is Christ. A shadow may frighten

you, but a shadow cannot really harm you. A lot of us

have been frightened by our own shadow so many times

and shadows of others, but thank God, death is but a

shadow if you know the Lord Jesus Christ. And if you

keep your face toward the light, the shadow will fall

behind you. You won't even see it at all.

 

I would to God that I could plant this in your heart

this morning. You will pass through that valley, but

you can't have a valley without mountains and you

cannot have shadows without light. And never forget

it, never, never, never forget it. There is a though.

You are going to pass through that valley. And I know

today. I know as surely as I'm standing here, I'm

speaking to many of you who have passed through dark

valleys or will indeed pass through them, or may today

be in the middle of them.

 

But now I want you to notice something else. I want

you to notice not only the dark possibility, though,

but I want you to notice secondly, the determined

purpose, through. Through. "Yea, though I walk through

the valley." God doesn't just lead us into the valley

and leave us there, He always brings us through.

Remember again Psalm 34, verse 19, "Many are the

afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth

him out of them all." Friend, He brings you in only to

bring you out. And God is going to bring you through.

 

Those of us who fly on airplanes I think perhaps would

change this from the figure of a shepherd to his sheep

to a pilot and an airplane and his passengers. You

know, have you ever gotten on an airplane when it is

turbulent and cloudy and you just wonder if they can

ever even take off in that soup. And finally they get

clearance and down the runway that thing goes and it

gathers speed and it lifts off and gets up in that

cloud and bumpy air. And those clouds are gathering

and it is bouncing this way and that way and you get

thinking about that airplane poison. You know, one

drop and it will kill you. And you just, you're just

riding there.

 

I had a pastor friend who was sitting on an airplane

with a lady. And she was very nervous, she was crying.

And it was rough. And he turned to her, he tried to

comfort her and she said, "Do you mean to tell me

you're not afraid in all of this." He said, "Well

lady, before I got on this thing I committed my life

into the hands of my heavenly Father." And then he

said, "I will have to admit that I have reminded him

about it several times since we've been up here."

 

I think all of us can identity with that, but you

know, that airplane goes on as it gains altitudes and

it's almost like a miracle every time it happens.

Bang! It just bursts through those clouds. And there

is the most dazzling blue sky and the most golden and

warm sunlight. And it dawns on me, that sun has been

shining the whole time. It is a lesson that is ever

fresh. You know we come through a day like we had

yesterday and the day before. You know it's cloudy and

overcast and we say the sun is not shining today.

That's just a lie isn't it? We know the sun is shining

if you think about it. It's always shining. And God is

always there. Dear friend one of these days He'll

bring you through and you'll come out of those clouds.

And you can say the Lord is my shepherd, or the Lord

is my pilot. But I want you to know that we're coming

through.

 

David knew what it was. I believe he wrote Psalm 23

when he was an old man, but I believe he learned the

lesson when he was a young man. But David had been

through the valley of suffering as Saul persecuted

him, but he came through. He had been through the

valley of slander when others lied on him. But he came

through. He'd been through the valley of sin when he

committed adultery with Bathsheba and repentance and

that agony. But thank God he came through. And he

wrote Psalm 51. He'd been through the valley of sorrow

and he'd seen his little baby die and he'd seen his

son Absalom that he loved, "Absalom, O Absalom, my son

Absalom, would to God that I'd died for thee." But he

came through. He came through. He knew what it was to

go into dark valleys. But he came through. And so will

you. So will you.

 

"Weeping endures for the night, but joy cometh in the

morning." I want to tell you if you love our God and

if you will trust Him He'll turn every hurt into a

hallelujah and He'll turn every Calvary into an

Easter. And He'll take every tear and change it into a

pearl and make it a diadem for you to wear. God's plan

my dear friend, is to bring you through. You're going

through. You're going through. It is his plan and

purpose. "Yea though I walk through the valley of the

shadow of death I will fear no evil."

 

Now the third and final thing I want you to notice.

Not only the dark possibility, and not only the

determined purpose, but I want you to notice the

delightful promise, "Thou art with me." David never

left his sheep alone. He always went through the

valley with them. How much more is that heavenly

shepherd who said, "I will never leave thee, nor

forsake thee."

 

Now friend, do you think God is close now? Do you

think God is close in a worship service? He is. He is.

Thank God for that. Do you think God is close in your

devotionals? He is. Do you think God is close in the

good times? He is. But God will never be closer to you

than when you are in a dark valley. He is especially

nigh unto those who are in trouble. That's what the

Bible teaches. He is especially near.

 

Do you know how the Psalm starts? "The Lord is my

shepherd." And he is talking about the Lord. But now

notice in the dark valley, do you notice how the tense

changes? "Thou art with me.'" He is not talking about

the Lord now, he is talking to the Lord. You know

right now you could get in this service and we'd be

talking about Him, you go in the dark valley, you'll

be talking to You know, and, it's so different. When a

man talks about his wife he may call her the little

lady. But when he gets with her he better not call her

that. If he talks to her, and with her, and there is

that "I" "Though" relationship. Oh how near the Lord

is, how near the Lord is. Here is that promise, that

delightful promise. "Thou art with me."

 

Let me give you another verse. Jot it down in your

margin. Isaiah chapter 43 and verse 2, "When thou

passeth through the waters I will be with you." Not if

you pass, when you pass through the water I will be

with you. "And through the rivers," not into, but

"through the river, they shall not overflow thee."

"When thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be

burned neither shall the flame kindle upon thee." And

this delightful promise vanishes all fear.

 

Do you know what David says? David says, "The Lord is

my shepherd and yea though I walk through the valley

of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou

art with me." I will not fear. God has not given us

the spirit of fear, but love and power and of a sound

mind. Over and over in the Bible 365 times, one time

for every day in the year God has said, "Fear thou

not," or its equivalent. I will fear no evil. His

presence vanishes fear. Why should we be afraid if He

is there? If God be for us who can be against us?

Ladies and gentlemen, it is better in a dark valley

with Jesus than it is on a sunlit mountain without

him. Better to be in a dark valley with Jesus than on

a sunlit mountain without him. "Thou art with me." Oh

what more could we want than his presence.

 

Not only does his presence vanish fear, but it

provides protection. You notice it says, "Thy rod and

thy staff they comfort me." The rod and the staff were

different. The rod was a club about so long. The

shepherd would make it from a gnarled root on one end

that he would make like a bulbous club, then he would

lengthen it on out and smooth it on out until he had a

handle grip. He could use that thing as a man of war.

It was to protect the sheep. And there was plenty to

protect the sheep from. Do you remember when David

said, "I slew a lion and I slew a bear." Why did he do

that? To protect his flock. And listen, David was a

strong, swarthy young man and he had this rod and he

knew what it was to use it as a club. That is to take

care of his sheep.

 

You say, "Well, my goodness, it is just a sheep. What

man would risk his life for a sheep? I mean after all

he's a human, that's just a dumb animal!" A shepherd

had a sacred honor to keep his sheep. A sacred honor,

it meant something. It may not mean much to you, you

say, "Only an animal." But not to a shepherd boy in

David's time. David risked his life. "A lion and a

bear." And he took that club and he went into battle

to protect that sheep. And then David applied that to

himself. He said, "Oh, how much more is God going to

take care of me." The mighty rod of God, the power of

God. We're kept by the power of God. Why should I

fear? His presence vanishes fear. His presence

protects me from mine enemies.

 

And then he said, "Thy rod and thy staff." The staff

was different. The staff was a long instrument that

had a crook at the end. We call it the shepherd's

crook. He would take some sapling and he would smooth

it out and take all the bumps out of it. And then he

would put the end in boiling water and soak it there

and bend it and soak it and bend it until he had a

crook in the end of it just like he wanted it. It was

just big enough to fit around a sheep's neck if it

were a grown sheep, or around the chest of a lamb if

it were a small lamb. And with that he would guide the

flock. Just a touch. He never used the rod on the

flock, just the staff. Then when the sheep would fall

into some crevice he'd reach down and lift it out.

When it would fall in the fire he would lift him out,

when it would be in the quicksand and in the mud. You

remember that Psalm, Psalm chapter 40, it said, "He

hath lifted me up out of a miry pit." He's talking

about the same thing. David is thinking of himself as

a sheep and as the Lord lifts him and keeps him. You

see, dear friend, he keeps his own. Do you know one of

my favorite verses in all of the Bible? John 10:28,

and 29, "My sheep hear my voice and I know them and

they follow me and I give unto them eternal life and

they shall never perish." Isn't that great? His sheep.

 

You see, his presence vanishes fear. His presence

protects us from the enemy. His presence gives

security. "Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me."

And oh, so you see, there are three tremendous "T'S".

"Yea, though," there is a dark possibility. And yet

there is a definite purpose, "Through." And there is a

delightful promise, "Thou art with me."

 

This past week I went to Washington D. C. to the

international prayer breakfast. And there at the

national prayer breakfast were congressmen and our

president. And we had prayer together. And I went over

to a friend of mine, Senator Jesse Helms, I think one

of the great senators in Washington from North

Carolina. He's a southern Baptist. He's born again. He

loves our Lord. And Senator Jesse Helms has a bill

that wants to help the freedom to have prayer in

public schools, not some state enforced religion, not

that, but to allow people to go back to the principles

upon which this government was founded and the ideals

that made us the great nation and to allow us to have

voluntary prayer in our schools. I am helping him in

that thing and glad to be one of the supporters of

that thing and helping him. We were talking about this

particular thing and then we started sharing about the

things of the Lord. Senator Jesse Helms told me a

story that so moved my heart I want to share it with

you.

 

It's a story concerning Alexander Solzenitzen. Do you

know who Alexander Solzenitzen is. If you don't now

you ought to know. He is one of the leading thinkers

and literary artists of all times. He's alive now in

our age. He's a Russian dissident. He was a Russian

citizen, but he believed in God and he believed

against a godless communist philosophy and so forth.

And because of that they put this brilliant,

scintillating, gifted, articulate man in a dungeon,

they put him in a prison camp. And he was telling

Senator Jesse Helms about it. And he said Senator,

"You've never known real repression." And he says, "I

pray God that you never will." And he says, "I want to

tell you what happened to me." And he told that he was

put in that prison camp and that he was shut aside,

shut away from all communication from the outside

world. No newspapers, no radio, no television, no

books, no pencils, no paper and no conversation.

Completely shut off. Not knowing what on earth was

going on in the world. Hard, physical, manual labor

day after day after day. That kind of existence.

 

Alexander Solzenitzen said, "I came to the place where

I decided I would take my own life." But then he said,

"I thought of my faith in God. I though of the

teaching of the Bible," and he said, "I knew that I

could not do that. But life was intolerable." He said,

"I did not know what I was going to do." And then he

said, "This thought came into my mind," he said, "I

know what I'll do. I will try to escape, knowing that

it is impossible. But I will break and run and then he

said they will shoot me in the back and I won't have

to take my life, they will take it." And of course

that was twisted thinking and later on he knew that

was twisted thinking. But the man was in that sort of

a situation where even his normal logic was somewhat

perverted.

 

So he came out on this particular day and made up his

mind this was the day. The guards had been very

brutal. The prisoners were sitting under a tree given

just a few moments of respite and rest. Sitting under

a tree, they were not allowed to murmur one word to

another. Alexander Solzenitzen made up his mind and he

said, "This is the time." And he put his hand on

ground, ready to push up, ready to spring, ready to

run and just at that moment a fellow prisoner came and

stood before him and looked into his eyes, they

couldn't speak a word. And Solzenitzen said, "Love and

peace were in that man's eyes and his eyes met mine

and we stood there and he looked into my eyes knowing

he could not say a word. But kindness and compassion

and peace flowed from his face. And then he took a

stick as though he were just making a mark in the

ground. It would mean nothing to the guards, but with

that stick he drew a cross." Solzenitzen said, "I

looked down and God spoke to my heart and God said,

'Solzenitzen, I am with you in the valley.'" He said,

"Little did I know that in 3 days I would be in

Geneva, Switzerland a free man."

 

All over the world people were talking about

Solzenitzen and what had happened to him and people

were pressuring the Russian government and people were

praying for him and-finally because of this pressure

this man was set free, 3 days, and he was in

Switzerland. But there he was right on the verge of

saying, "It's all over. I can't take it any longer."

 

And I believe today that I am speaking to some people

who are saying, "I can't take it any longer. I've had

all I can I take. I don't think that I can go on." I

would to God that he would give me the ability to hold

up the cross before you. And I would to God that He

would give me the power to tell you that yea though I

walk through the valley of the shadow of death you

should fear no evil that he is with you and he is

going to bring you through. And it may be sooner than

you realize. But he will, he will. "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." Let us pray.