On a recent trip to Israel, I had the privilege of walking where Jesus walked. Our group also explored sites and locations of important places and events in the Old Testament. After spending a couple of days in the Jordan River Valley, we headed west toward Jerusalem. We read through the Psalms of Assent as we followed the path Israelite pilgrims took on their yearly visit to the Temple. On the way, we stopped at the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
This valley was one of the main routes travelers took to Jerusalem. It’s a deep canyon of rock, and because it is deep, it is dark. While we were there, a Bedouin shepherd watched over his sheep frolicking on a nearby hillside; their baa’s echoing across the canyon. A sixth century monastery was built right into the canyon walls, at the site where it is believed Elijah was fed by ravens. The Valley of the Shadow of Death is so named because travelers were at risk from the thieves and bandits hiding in the shadowy darkness, looking for people to rob. Wild animals lurked in the shadows as well. It was this road that Jesus referred to in the parable about the Good Samaritan.
The Valleys of Life
The phrase, “valley of the shadow of death,” also occurs in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (v.4). Psalm 23 is a psalm of confidence in God’s care for his people. Just as a shepherd meets the needs of his sheep, the Lord provides for us...
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