The Valley of Death

The Valley of Death

John Bramhall

Life has many valleys and canyons, each one with its darkness, danger and despair. Through them, the believer proves the faithfulness of the Good Shepherd, who dispels the darkness, delivers from the danger, and lifts the heart above the despair.

Yet ultimately, the last valley will be reached — the valley of death —if the Lord be not come. For some, it may be difficult to face, but not for others; but the comfort of the Scriptures can provide for the believer God’s sustaining grace in such an hour.

The Good Shepherd who has proven Himself to us in the valleys of life, will also prove Himself sufficient for the valley of death. What He has been, He still will be — “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Heb. 13:10).

In expressing the deep conviction of his soul in view of such an hour, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with he,” the sweet Psalmist of Israel revealed four precious facts to comfort us in the valley of death.

His Composure

The tranquility of his soul is indicated by the two words, “I walk.” There was no evidence of terror or panic as he faced the last dark valley; nothing but composure of mind as he entered the vale. A deliberate steadiness of mind is seen, suggesting that he would pass calmly on his way through, permitting nothing and no one to cause alarm. With equanimity he faced the vale, to walk with steady composure “through the valley of the shadow of death.” He would not run in terror, nor dart to and fro in panic. He would take the valley in his stride.

His Confidence

“I will walk through,” he wrote. He considered himself a “through passenger” with a non-stop journey before him — no doubts as to the certainty of reaching the desired haven. What blessed optimism and confidence he possessed!

The valley might have been dark; the mountains overshadowing on every side; the path rugged and steep, painful and sore. But the outcome was sure — “I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever!”

The end of the valley would bring him out of darkness into eternal light; out of pain into eternal balm; out of strife into eternal peace. Instead of a temporary pilgrimage on earth, he would then reach his eternal home with all its glory.

His Courage

“I will fear no evil.” There is nothing to fear, says the Psalmist. The former evils of life cannot touch him in this valley. They are left behind: the evils of sin, self, Satan, and the world.

His Companion

This is the greatest fact of all, giving eternal value to all the others: “Thou art with me!” Blessed Companion: “The Lord is my Shepherd,” and He who has crossed the valleys of life with me will also walk through the last one — the valley of death.

Loved ones cannot go with me; friends cannot accompany me; but I cannot go through without Him! The Great Shepherd of the sheep will be with me ever, bringing me into “the house of the Lord for ever.”

In the preceding verses of the Psalm, David speaks about the Shepherd; but here, in the valley of death, he speaks to the Shepherd. Who else would he rather have with him? He alone is the One to whom he can express his heart and rejoice that his Shepherd for life is also his Shepherd for death.

On a bleak day in January 1681, two Scotch lassies were to be hung for worshipping God in a way forbidden by law. As they emerged from their cell, they were told to walk across the yard to the gallows. One said to the other, “Come on, Bell. This is our great day! Let’s sing!” And immediately they began to sing together:

“The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want,
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green;
He leadeth me The quiet waters by.

“Yea, though I walk in death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear none ill;
For Thou art with me; and Thy rod
And staff me comfort still.”

And as they stood pinioned upon the fatal platform, they concluded their touching duet:

“Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house for evermore
My dwelling-place shall be.”

Theirs was genuine composure, confidence, and courage — for their Companion to the end was the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd — the very same One who is ready and waiting to accompany each of His own through the valley and upward to our heavenly home.