From the Valley of the Shadow of Death to We are the Champions - Purity 771
Purity 771 06/30/2022 Purity 771 Podcast
Today’s photo of a green pathway to a distant lake of blue comes to us from a friend’s recent trip to Thirteenth Lake in the Adirondack region of Upstate New York. I love the way the pathway is a mix of sunlight and shadows under a canopy of trees and how it offers the promise of something good at the end of the tunnel.
Well, It’s Thursday again and as is my custom I share a photo of a pathway to encourage my friends to keep going or to step onto the path of Christian Discipleship by making drawing close to God each day in Bible study, prayer, and by living according to His word, to the best of your abilities. I say “to the best of your abilities” to indicate that a life of faith is not about perfection and that no matter where you are in your life as a Christian, God is right there with you and that He is encouraging you to keep going because when you walk and talk with Him on a continuous basis there is always more to see and experience along the way as we draw closer to Him and the purposes He has for us.
I was going to say as “He draws you towards something good”, because after all He does work all things together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose, but just as this pathway has various portions that are in light and in shadows, I don’t want to set up the expectation that “good things” or “good times” are always to be found on the path when we walk with God.
23:4 (NKJV) says
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…
to reflect the truth that things won’t always be sunny in the metaphorical “Philadelphia”, the city of brotherly love of Christianity.
The “valley of the shadow of death” could be used to describe a metaphorical period of darkness in one’s life as we could face various trials like disease, relationship turmoil, financial difficulties, or the difficulties of overcoming sin. But that “valley of the shadow” of death could also describe times of “literal death” as in suffering through a period of grief as we prepare for the death of a loved one who is suffering or after the loved one has departed. This dark phrase can also describe periods of mortal danger as Christians may be called to walk through a period of persecution where people will literally try to take their lives. And finally, the valley of the shadow of death could be used to describe walking through or fighting through a war zone.
I never want to be accused of painting too bright a picture of Christianity because our faith does not insulate us from pain, suffering, persecution, or danger. Just because we are Christians, it doesn’t mean there won’t be “shadows” in our journey down the path of Christian discipleship.
But no matter how dark the day is , when we are in Christ and we shape our lives to be lived according to God’s word and are spent in His presence, there is always the light of hope to encourage us and to guide us. There is light at the end of the tunnel and there is a good deal of light along the way, if we walk and talk with God.
In speaking of the valley of the shadow of death, the psalmist goes on to say:
4 … I will fear no evil;
And why is that exactly?
Psalm 23:4 (NKJV)
For You are with me;
In the Lord’s presence there is always light. In His presence, we can find the courage to not fear evil and to endure and persevere through all the various trials of life, and when we walk through life’s, joys and, difficulties with the Lord we learn to be patient and seek His wisdom as we go.
Psalm 23:4 (NKJV) concludes by saying:
4 Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
Bible scholars have described the Lord’s “rod” and “staff” as His guidance and His protection, as shepherds would use a rod to drive or correct their sheep’s direction and the staff would be used to pull a sheep out of trouble. When we walk with the Lord, no matter how dep the shadows may be, we are comforted by His constant guidance and protection.
So when I talk about walking on the path of Christian Discipleship, I’m not talking about some magical tour of sun shiny days that will be free of trials or pain, but as I have received the continuous comfort of the Father’s presence, guidance, and protection in my journey down this narrow road, I can assure you that although I took the path least traveled through this post Christian landscape, it has made all the difference.
So keep walking and talking with God. Others may hate for it or not understand what has happened to you but Your Heavenly Father will guide, protect, and comfort you through the shadows and lead you in the way of His light.
Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
Psalm 62:1 (NLT2)
1 I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from him.
Today’s Bible verse advises us where our victory come from. It comes from God and quietly waiting before Him.
We are the champions, my friends….
I am a Queen fan. I’m certainly not a supporter of Freddy Mercury’s lifestyle choices and as I watched Bohemian Rhapsody, the Oscar award winning film based on a portion of his life, I was pained by how such a talented artist could be plagued by the sins of the flesh and the pride of life and how the freedom of fortune and fame doesn’t lead us to truth.
But that song, We are the Champions, by Queen, is simply iconic of the thrill of victory and it transcends, time because it beautifully describes the human struggle and the joy of overcoming.
I’m not as huge a sports fan as I used to be but I am a Indianapolis Colts fan. When I was in high school and seeking to form my identity by the things I was “in to”, I didn’t really have a favorite a football team and resisted just going with the New York Teams because I was from New York State nor did I want to be a fan of a team just because my friends or family liked a team. In deciding a favorite football team, I wanted it to be “my team”.
I had been partial to the Houston Oilers because of their limited success in the 70’s but as history can testify their Super Bowl dreams were never fulfilled and the small amount of criticism I received for being their fan when they missed their chance and began to fade into mediocrity caused me to disavow any loyalties to the Oilers. I was a young man without a team and as these things matter to young men, or at least they did at the time in my circles, I felt I had to pick somebody!
It was 1986 and I saw a story on Inside the NFL about the Indianapolis Colts and how they were so bad that there was a possibility that they would have a winless season but in the last 3 weeks of the season the lowly Colts turned things around and won their last three games. Being someone who didn’t have many friends, I could relate to another “loser” and when I saw that the Colts defied the odds, fought back, and won those last three “meaningless” games. That was enough for me. The Colts were my team from that moment forth and I declared myself to be a fan of theirs with absolutely no expectations of future success.
For someone who wasn’t much of a fan of sports, it was the perfect choice. The Colts’ games were rarely seen on T.V. in my local market so I just would follow them in the newspapers and if they lost I didn’t have to see it.
And the Colts did go on to have varying levels of success at times because of players like Eric Dickerson and Jim Harbaugh but they never made it to the Super Bowl and would have moments of greatness and success followed by seasons of struggle.
But then in 1998 the Colts drafted Peyton Manning and even though the Colts were 3-13, again, in his rookie season, they had increasing success until finally in the 2006 Season, Peyton Manning led the Colts to the franchise’s first Super Bowl victory since 1971, the first and only one in my life time.
So, you can be sure that “We are the Champions” was playing at my place, on repeat, back on February 6, 2007, on the evening of my team’s victory. After choosing the Colts and waiting 21 years, my team had won!
As great as all that is, I share it not to point to Peyton Manning, the Colts, or even myself.
I know now that God is sovereign. That means He is in control of shaping world history, that includes sports history. So that year, the Lord allowed the Colts to win. And even though I was a man with highly questionable faith at the time, I prayed for my teams success and the Lord was gracious enough to grant my and many other Colts fam’s request that day.
All victory comes from God. All of it. Every outcome has His sovereign hands moving or allowing things to come into play. Ever see a “miraculous play”, I think we all have. That was God as much as it was the skill of the players. Why do some balls get dropped? Why do some get plucked out of the air with one hand, off of helmets, off of feet, to be caught? Gravity? Karma? Not, God’s sovereign will makes the miraculous possible. He brings the victory in all things.
But don’t curse God if your team is a loser okay?
Because God offers all of mankind a place on His championship team. Through faith in Jesus Christ God seeks to “draft you” to be a part of a franchise that will enjoy the victory that will make a Super Bowl victory seem like a Tee-Ball exhibition scrimmage. God freely offers all men the ability to know what victory really means. God seeks to make peace with us and rewards us with the victory over sin and death when we place our faith in Him.
With these twin victories, over sin and death, God assures us of a good end and new beginning. We are secure in His love and promised eternity in His presence for the ever after but we are also given the power to win a victory over besetting sins and the negative ministates, like fear, anger, depression, and anxiety, that come from a life separated from Him. Through God gives us the victory and the new identity of a champion.
When we receive the new life that Christ gives to us we can overcome impossible odds to accomplish what we never thought we could: a life defined by peace, love, joy, goodness, faithfulness, kindness, gentleness, patience and self-control.
So become a part of God’s winning team by making Christ your Lord & savior. And then quietly wait on Him to lead and guide you in the way you should go because His way is a victory tour that never ends.
The Lord has a plan and purpose for your life. He gives you the victory the minute you come to Him and you are set on a path to experience more triumphs when you walk with Him.
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from Clinton E. Arnold’s “Powers of Darkness”
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Clinton Arnold’s books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.
The Influence of the Powers on Society: Pagan Religion
Jewish writers ascribed the rise of all non-Jewish religions to the inspiration of evil powers. In discussing the influence of the powers on the rise of civilization after the flood, the book of Jubilees, a second-century B.C. writing, refers to the beginnings of idolatry. The inhabitants of Ur of the Chaldees “made for themselves molten images, and everyone worshiped the icon which they made for themselves as a molten image. And they began making graven images and polluted likenesses. And cruel spirits assisted them and led them astray so that they might commit sin and pollution. And the prince, Mastema, acted forcefully to do all of this” (Jubilees 11:4–5). Likewise, the apocalyptic book of 1 Enoch speaks of the demonic root of idolatry: “The spirits of the angels … have defiled the people and will lead them into error so that they will offer sacrifices to the demons as unto gods, until the great day of judgment in which they shall be judged till they are finished” (1 Enoch 19:1).
Although the Old Testament is not as explicit about the involvement of the evil powers in the origins of idolatry, it does affirm that sacrificing to idols is tantamount to sacrificing to demons (Deut 32:16–17). Such a sentiment is also known in the New Testament (Rev 9:20). Most important is the fact that this perspective about demonic involvement in pagan religion characterized the apostle Paul’s belief, which he in turn passed on to the Corinthian church (1 Cor 10:19–21).
Many streams of Judaism also believed occultic practices were the work of the devil and his powers. According to 1 Enoch, the fallen angels taught people magic, incantations, alchemy and astrology (1 Enoch 7–8; see also Jubilees 11:1–8).
The Influence of the Powers on Society: Warfare and the State
Even civil unrest among the nations and their hostility toward Israel is attributed to the devious work of the evil powers. The book of Jubilees ascribes a murderous tendency in people to the influence of the forces of Mastema, an evil angel corresponding to Satan: “And [Mastema] sent out other spirits to those who were set under his hand to practice all error and sin and all transgression, to destroy, to cause to perish and to pour out blood upon the earth” (11:5). All the weaponry of warfare was also inspired by fallen angels: “And Azaz’el taught the people the art of making swords and knives, and shields, and breastplates” (1 Enoch 8:1).
Egypt’s hostility to Israel, and especially to Moses, is interpreted by the book of Jubilees as stemming from the supernatural opposition of the evil Mastema. It was actually Mastema who used the Egyptian Pharaoh in an attempt to kill Moses; it was also Mastema who enabled the Egyptian magicians to perform the great wonders in opposition to Moses; furthermore, it was Mastema who exerted his evil-inspiring influence on the Egyptians to pursue Israel into the sea (Jubilees 48).
As we have already seen, the Jewish community, which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, gives a similar prominence to the demonic in their understanding of society. According to the Qumran War Scroll (1QM), it is Satan and his powers who are behind the Roman usurpers: “All those [who are ready] for battle shall march out and shall pitch their camp before the king of the Kittim [Romans] and before all the host of Satan gathered about him for the Day [of Revenge] by the Sword of God” (1QM 15.2–3).
The demonic, therefore, had a major role in a popular Jewish understanding of society during the time leading up to the New Testament period. Any early Jewish theory of social justice would have given a prominent place to the spiritual and supernatural dimension of life. In the eyes of the writer of the book of Jubilees, justice and freedom from oppression would have been impossible to obtain for Israel without addressing the powerful demonic hostility of Mastema. The people of Israel were freed from their formidable conditions because Yahweh worked through his servant Moses to redeem them as part of his larger plan for his people. The Qumran community was anticipating the direct intervention of “the mighty hand of God” to deal an everlasting blow to “Satan and all the host of his kingdom.”
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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship
 Clinton E. Arnold, Powers of Darkness: Principalities & Powers in Paul’s Letters (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic: An Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 1992), 69–71.